Ohio’s former state treasurer goes full MAGA extremist in brutal US Senate primary

Ohio’s former state treasurer goes full MAGA extremist in brutal US Senate primary
Image of Josh Mandel via screengrab

Because “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance comes across as such a cynical, opportunistic, insincere flip-flopper — he went from vehement Donald Trump critic to strident MAGA extremist — his detractors would love to see him lose in Ohio’s 2022 GOP U.S. Senate primary. But former Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel, Vance’s main opponent in that primary, is very much a MAGA extremist himself. And Mandel's campaign is the focus of an article by Politico reporter Michael Kruse.

The bitter, ugly, hateful mudslinging between Vance and Mandel comes down to: I’m more MAGA than you. Mandel and Vance have both focused heavily on culture war themes. And Mandel, Kruse notes, showed how far-right he is at an event in a Baptist church in January.

Kruse says of Mandel, “He called Black Lives Matter activists ‘thugs.’ He called ‘the transgender movement…. insane.’ He called COVID-19 ‘a bioweapon manufactured by the Chinese Communist Party’ to defeat Donald Trump. He talked about the ‘seep’ of ‘illegals’ at the border, describing the emigration of Haitians, Hondurans, Mexicans and Guatemalans as an ‘invasion funded’ by George Soros, ‘orchestrated’ by Barack Obama and ‘enabled’ by Joe Biden. He said he didn’t believe in the separation of church and state because ‘there’s no such thing.’”

Vance’s critics have slammed him as a shameless flip-flopper, and he was brutally mocked in a goofy Republican ad:

Bizarre jingle in an anti-JD Vance ad www.youtube.com

The Vance of 2016 predicted that Donald Trump would be a terrible president — an accurate prediction — whereas the Vance of 2022 is stridently MAGA all the way. But Mandel’s tone is also much different from what it was in the past.

“(Mandel) doesn’t act the way he used to act, and he doesn’t talk the way he used to talk, say so many Democrats and Republicans alike. And they’re right,” Kruse observes in Politico. “He used to present as more moderate, used to preach bipartisanship and diversity and civility, and no longer does. Perhaps most importantly, he once was conspicuously unsupportive of Trump, and now, he has publicly pivoted to full-fledged MAGA. Who, they wonder, is he really?”

Ohio-based Democratic strategist Dennis Eckart views Mandel’s MAGA posturing as motivated by self-serving opportunism.

Eckart told Politico, “I don’t think he’s ever really changed. He’s an opportunity-seeking opportunist.”

In addition to Mandel and Vance, Republicans competing in that U.S. Senate primary include Ohio State Sen. Matt Dolan and former Ohio Republican Party Chair Jane Timken. Trump has yet to make an endorsement in the primary, which will be held on May 3. But so far, polls are showing Mandel to be the frontrunner.

“For now, this election is Mandel’s to lose, and he absolutely could,” Kruse observes. “But in a primary with no runoff, decided by not a majority, but merely the most votes, he just as surely could win.”

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