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GOP candidates embrace Trump

The Republican race for the U.S. Senate nomination can be summed up like this: Donald Trump is great; John Kasich is bad.

With Republicans controlling Ohio government and Trump’s strong 2016 and 2020 Ohio victories, it’s a sound strategy.

When ex-state Treasurer Josh Mandel and former Ohio Republican Party Chairwoman Jane Timken announced their candidacies for Senate, they did so as strong pro-Trump supporters.

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, also is strongly considering seeking the job and is also a solid Trump ally.

The Republican nominee won’t have to run as a moderate in the 2022 general election if Trump remains popular in Ohio.

Mike Gibbons, who lost the 2018 Republican primary for a Senate seat, is likely to get in the race and says he’ll put $5 million of his own money into his campaign. We should expect other Republicans to seek the seat.

The spot will be open in 2022 after U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Terrace Park, announced Jan. 25 he wouldn’t seek another six-year term.

Mandel, elected treasurer in 2010 and re-elected four years later, has long been eyeing the Senate seat.

He lost the election for a Senate position in 2012 to Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland, and pulled out of a 2018 rematch, citing his then-wife’s undisclosed illness. Some Republicans question where Mandel has been for the past few years and several Democrats despise him.

But Mandel has shown an ability to raise a lot of campaign money and connect with conservatives.

Since reactivating his Twitter account Feb. 10, Mandel has mentioned his undying support for the “Trump America First agenda.”

Mandel said, “Watching this sham impeachment has made my blood boil and motivated me to run.”

He also claims, without providing evidence, the election was “stolen” from Trump, adding it might be decades before it’s discovered.

In her Senate announcement, Timken said she was “a conservative disruptor. With the support of President Trump, I built a party that delivered conservative, America First victories at every level. Now I’m taking that same work ethic to Washington.”

The Republican Party enjoyed great success during Timken’s four years as its leader. It also had great success before she was chairwoman.

Timken said: “As your senator, I will advance the Trump agenda without fear or hesitation: fighting for American manufacturing and Ohio workers, defending the unborn and our Second Amendment, standing up for law enforcement and strong borders.”

She also took a shot at former Ohio Gov. Kasich who opposes Trump, saying she “cleaned house of the Kasich establishment” when she was elected chairwoman. She beat former Chairman Matt Borges for Republican leadership in 2017. Borges is a Kasich ally under federal indictment related to the House Bill 6 scandal.

That led Mandel to post a picture on Twitter of Timken with Kasich. In turn, Kasich tweeted a picture of himself with Mandel. The reality is if you’re a Republican official, there’s a picture of you with Kasich.

Timken has never before sought public office, but likely will get support from established Republicans because of her time as party chairwoman. Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs of Holmes County endorsed her this week.

But there is a big difference between state party chairwoman and Senate candidate.

As for Johnson, don’t look for him to make an announcement for a few more months. He’s got a safe Republican House seat to give up if he runs for Senate.

Still, he’s been busy calling county Republican chairmen, donors and prominent GOP leaders. He has a solid base in his district, which could prove helpful in a crowded Republican primary.

Johnson also has been a Trump ally and Kasich critic.

He’s been running commercials contending Kasich is “privately plotting to determine who the Republican candidate should be” with “Wall Street and Silicon Valley elites.” His campaign cited a CNBC story that “a group of power brokers in Ohio” close to Kasich are trying to recruit business leaders to run for Senate.

Johnson also sent an email that starts: “I’m sorry to do this, but I’m going to say a bad word. Ready? Kasich. There I said it. I’m sorry, but believe it or not, John Kasich is trying to play a role in picking a Republican to run for the U.S. Senate.”

Kasich took a swipe at Johnson, tweeting: “I took a survey of my ‘Silicon Valley’ friends, and they think you’re a real class act and would make a great U.S. senator.”

Johnson then wrote: “Since you’re surveying — interested in what your Democrat friends think too. BTW — How’s Hillary?”

Kasich spoke at last year’s Democratic National Convention.

All this could end quickly if Trump endorses a candidate. But don’t expect that soon.

Skolnick covers politics for the Tribune Chronicle and The Vindicator.

dskolnick@tribtoday.com

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