Who's in and who's out for Ohio Trump rally

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Jun. 23—Top Ohio Republicans may be absent from Donald Trump's rally when the former president returns to Ohio for the first time since the 2020 election.

Sen. Rob Portman and Gov. Mike DeWine are definitely out for Mr. Trump's northern Ohio rally on Saturday, underscoring the fissures the former president exposes among elected Republicans.

It's Mr. Trump's first trip to Ohio since his 8‑point win here was overshadowed by claims of election fraud in neighboring battleground states he lost.

Mr. Portman, whose retirement has ignited a battle among several Trump‑hugging Republicans vying to replace him, won't be there, a spokesman confirmed definitively on Monday.

A spokesman for Mr. DeWine said a family commitment over the weekend prevents the governor from attending.

Other Republicans are jumping at the chance just to be spotted in the crowd: Mr. DeWine's primary opponent, former U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, and Senate candidates Josh Mandel and Jane Timken each confirmed their attendance, but not in any official capacity. The former president hasn't endorsed in either race.

Rep. Jim Jordan, a staunch Trump ally in Congress, is also a yes.

"Heck yes, Mr. Jordan will be there," a spokesman said.

If past practice is a guide, Mr. DeWine will meet with the former president at some point during his stop here but won't show up at the main event, which is aimed at boosting a northwest Ohio congressional candidate and former Trump aide, Max Miller. During Mr. Trump's last visit here in October, 2020, Mr. DeWine greeted Mr. Trump at the airport but stopped short of attending his rally in Circleville.

The mere mention of Mr. DeWine at a Trump rally in Dayton back in September, when the state's mask mandate and other measures were still on the books, drew boos.

Mr. DeWine and Mr. Portman are the state's top elected Republicans, but both have rocky relationships with the former president and, by extension, the Republican base. Mr. DeWine's coronavirus measures were seen as too harsh compared to other GOP‑controlled states, while Mr. Portman, a pragmatic moderate, has never been a Republican in Mr. Trump's mold.

Mr. Portman has also said he supports Mr. Gonzalez — another complicating factor for elected Republicans, since the rally is meant to tear down Mr. Gonzalez while building up Mr. Trump's choice to replace him, a 28‑year‑old former aide and Cleveland‑area native. With the primary still a year away, many Republicans haven't gotten involved.

"Of course he's going to talk about some of the Republicans he thinks stabbed him in the back, starting with Anthony Gonzalez in Ohio, Liz Cheney (of Wyoming), Adam Kinzinger (of Illinois), and the people who voted against him in the House during the impeachment," said David B. Cohen, a political science professor at the University of Akron's Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics. "I think it's mostly going to be a Donald Trump pity party."

Mr. Gonzalez was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Trump for his role inciting the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6. Despite voting with Mr. Trump and Republicans the vast majority of the time, his single vote attracted a Trump‑backed primary challenger in the 16th congressional district.

The rally is being held just outside the district lines, at the Lorain County Fairgrounds, less than two hours from Toledo.

The Ohio Republican Party on Monday said it didn't know how many supporters were expected at the site.

The lineup is being handled by Mr. Trump's team, with guests speakers preceding Mr. Trump, a party spokesman said.

Shannon Burns, a political consultant who runs the Strongsville GOP in Mr. Gonzalez's district and led a push for the Ohio Republican Party to call on Mr. Gonzalez to resign, said it makes sense why Mr. Trump has endorsed in Mr. Miller's race and not the Senate race.

"I couldn't give you a great estimation as to who is going to pull forward, who are actually going to be the three or four candidates left when the primary rolls around," he said. "That's probably why you haven't seen President Trump endorse anyone either right now."

First Published June 22, 2021, 8:00am

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