While J.D. Vance is basking in the benefits of an endorsement from Donald Trump and campaigning alongside Donald Trump Jr., a GOP group that disapproves of the former president’s decision is encouraging voters to boycott Trump’s Save America rally on April 23.
The event will be held at the Delaware County Fairgrounds in central Ohio and feature Trump as the keynote speaker at 7 p.m. Vance will also address the crowd.
Though he has faced consistent criticism from his opponents about comments he made about Trump in 2016, Vance gained the former president’s endorsement on April 15 ahead of the May 3 primary.
Ohio Value Voters, a conservative group that endorsed former Ohio state treasurer and state representative Josh Mandel, sent a message to supporters urging them to skip the rally in protest of Trump’s backing of Vance.
The endorsement was a “terrible decision” and “can only be attributed to very poor advice from people around the former president,” according to the message.
“However, if you decide to attend, when President Trump introduces J.D. Vance, make your voices heard by letting Trump know, J.D. Vance is Wrong for Ohio,” the message read. “Booing is entirely appropriate!”
Trump Jr. joined Mandel at campaign events leading to the April 23 rally and has publicly supported Vance for several weeks, even before the elder Trump gave his stamp of approval.
"The MAGA Movement is strongly united behind my father's endorsement of J.D. Vance, which you can see by the surge he's seen in the polls since the endorsement,” Trump Jr. said.
“It's unfortunate that career politician Josh Mandel is pushing his supporters, some of whom are on the dole, to boycott a Trump Rally. Very not MAGA of him!” he added.
Vance has seen a rapid rise in the polls in April.
A Trafalgar Poll released on April 15 showed Mandel leading the Republican field with 28 percent, followed by Vance (22.6 percent), Mike Gibbons (14.3 percent), Matt Dolan (11.6 percent), Jane Timken (7.5 percent), Mark Pukita (2.1 percent), Neil Patel (0.8 percent), and 13.1 percent undecided.
The poll also found that 54.9 percent of respondents, who are likely GOP primary voters, are either “more likely” or “much more likely” to vote for a candidate endorsed by Trump.
Fabrizio, Lee & Associates conducted a survey for the pro-Vance super PAC Protect Ohio Values that was released on April 6 and showed Vance, Gibbons, and Mandel in a tie for the lead at 18 percent each.
Earlier this week, Protect Ohio Values released a poll of 800 Republican voters showing that Vance sat atop the crowded field vying to replace retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman with 25 percent followed by Mandel (18 percent), Cleveland investment banker Mike Gibbons (13 percent), former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken (11 percent), and Ohio State Sen. Matt Dolan (9 percent) with 23 percent undecided.
“We found that President Trump's recent endorsement of J.D. Vance in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate has significantly improved Mr. Vance's position in the race after only a few days putting him into first place overall,” said the polling memo, which was written by Fabrizio, Lee & Associates for Protect Ohio Values.
“There is further room to grow that lead as awareness of Trump's endorsement is far from ubiquitous among the GOP electorate,” according to the memo.
When it announced its recommendation to boycott the April 23 Save America rally, Ohio Value Voters included a video that highlighted several quotes where Vance disparages Trump.
“Vance cannot be trusted to stand upon principals when he practices 'situational politics,'" Ohio Value Voters President John Stover said. “In 2016 and 2017, Vance led all others with his derogatory comments against Trump.
“Now, he claims to be 100 percent behind our former president,” Stover added.
Ohio Value Voters reinforced its support for Mandel and urged Ohioans to vote for the U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served two tours in Iraq.
Since announcing his intention to run for Portman’s seat last year, Mandel has centered his campaign on churches by hosting Faith & Freedom rallies across Ohio.
“The mantra of our campaign is pastors over politicians,” Mandel said. “I’m more interested in earning the support and endorsements of pastors, Christian activists, and citizens who are Christians than getting approval from politicians.”
Mandel was endorsed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R – Texas), who will appear at a “Faith and Freedom” on April 29 in southwest Ohio.
At a campaign event after learning that Trump decided to back Vance, Mandel would not speculate why the former president made that decision and said, “I’m more confident than ever I’m going to win.”
Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who served as Trump’s national security adviser, has joined Mandel on the campaign trail multiple times.
“I think he made a huge mistake,” Flynn said about Trump’s endorsement of Vance. “He’s got people around him that are advising him and I think they advised him poorly.”
Trump says he is clearly aware of what Vance said about him in 2016.
“Like some others, J.D. Vance may have said some not-so-great things about me in the past, but he gets it now, and I have seen that in spades,” Trump said in the April 15 statement announcing his endorsement of Vance. “He is our best chance for victory in what could be a very tough race.”
At a campaign stop with Vance earlier this week, Trump Jr. told reporters that his father was disgusted with the on-stage altercation between Gibbons and Mandel at a March 18 debate.
“You know, he makes up his own decisions, as you've seen over the years. He is a sort of a professional contrarian and I think that's served him very well,” Trump Jr. said. “On the policies, this was a no-brainer.”
Regarding the moment when Gibbons and Mandel went nose to nose at the debate, Trump Jr. recalled a conversation with his father.
“I go, you saw those things, he goes, 'Yeah, that was pretty ugly.”