Former President Trump on Saturday said Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance is “in love” with him and “kissing my ass” for support, comparing the GOP candidate’s change of heart toward him to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
During a Saturday night rally for Vance in Youngstown, Ohio, Trump refuted a New York Times story that suggested some candidates — including Vance — were not inviting him to rallies over concerns about alienating swing voters.
“JD is kissing my ass, he wants my support,” Trump said, railing against the “fake” news story. “The entire MAGA movement is for J.D. Vance.”
The former president went on to call Vance a “great person who I’ve really gotten to know,” disputing any lingering friction between the two Republicans. Vance was a vocal critic of Trump before he ran for office.
“Yeah, he said some bad things about me, but that was before he knew me and then he fell in love,” Trump said on Saturday. “Remember I said that about Kim Jong Un? He fell in love, and they said, ‘Oh, Trump is saying he fell in love.’ Actually he did, if you want to know the truth.”
Trump has often said he and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un “fell in love” after exchanging a series of “beautiful letters” amid tensions between the U.S. and the pariah state.
Vance, a venture capitalist, former U.S. Marine and author of hit memoir “Hillbilly Elegy,” beat out a crowded field of Republican candidates this year to win Trump’s endorsement for the seat of retiring Sen. Rob Portman (R).
The GOP candidate is 4 points ahead of Democratic challenger and Rep. Tim Ryan (Ohio), according to the latest polling from The Hill and Emerson College.
Last year, Vance said Trump respects candidates who “have their own ideas,” adding that although the former president “gets a certain kick out of people kissing his ass,” he sometimes views those people as “weak.”
“He actually wants to see the race play out a little bit and see who among us is the strongest of the candidates,” Vance told NBC News in July 2021. “He is well aware that I criticized him in 2016. He’s also well aware that I’ve been on TV the last few years defending critical parts of his agenda when other people were not.”
Trump won Ohio by 8 points in both the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, but the Buckeye State is showing signs of returning to a swing state for Democrats.
On Saturday, Trump described Vance as a “brilliant mind” and said the GOP candidate would win the Senate race.
“This is a very important race,” Trump said. “You are going to hear wailing from every corporate newsroom from New York to Washington and you’re going to hear Cryin’ Chuck Schumer howling in rage.”