Trump Squeezes In Endorsement of JD Vance at Ohio Rally - Rolling Stone
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Trump Squeezes In J.D. Vance Endorsement Between Rants About Water Pressure in Ohio

The crowd at Trump’s endorsement of J.D. Vance is sold on Trump, but not quite sure about Vance. “I’m open to him because of Trump,” one resident says.

JD Vance and Trump shake hands at rallyJD Vance and Trump shake hands at rally

Senate candidate J.D. Vance greets former President Donald Trump at a rally at the Delaware County Fairgrounds, Saturday, April 23, 2022, in Delaware, Ohio.

AP Photo/Joe Maiorana

DELAWARE, Ohio The sun was setting behind Donald Trump, a blazing smear of bronze across the sky, piercing through the ethereal wisps of hair on his head and lighting them in brilliant gold. The 45th President was wrapping up a lengthy bit about Whirlpool washing machines and America’s great water pressure crisis when he remembered he needed to talk about J.D. Vance

“We made it so that when you have a sink you can wash your hands normally, and you can take a shower, and you can do that other thing, normally, that third element of the bathroom … and I’m happy to have done it,” Trump said. “Now let me give you the bad news: They’re trying to undo all of those regulations…” — he pauses for boos — “so that when you go into a house you can’t get any water, so we’re going to fight on that and J.D. and everybody is going to be fighting on that.” 

There are cheers, but the crowd is obviously a bit confused because even among this group I don’t think anyone was expecting “the Democrats will turn off your sinks” to be a problem they’d have to grapple with tonight. 

Fortunately for them, everyone’s sink is safe — because Donald Trump says he is going to send J.D. Vance to the Senate. That is supposed to be the point of this rally at the Delaware County fairgrounds, right? The point is to lock up Rob Portman’s vacant seat and give Trump a deep-red legislature when he runs in 2024. (He technically has not said he will do yet, but, come on.) Trump is here for Vance because the people will come to see Trump. It is not a complicated plan. What it isn’t, at least thus far, is tested. Ohio’s primary is the first in a massive election year, and its Senate race could help swing the balance of power back toward Republicans. The question that remains is whether Trump can still pick a winner, in a race that is chaotic, contentious, and still relatively wide open. 

“I’m waiting to hear about Vance, but I’m open to him because of Trump,” Edna Neiser, 76, tells me. She doesn’t think too much of the other candidates — Mike Gibbons and Josh Mandel — who, she says, did not act very gentlemanly when they almost came to blows on a debate stage last month. Trump isn’t the biggest gentleman either, of course, but she says she knows he had America’s best interests in mind. “I trust the president,” Edna says. “If he’s not elected again this country’s going down the tubes. But I’m not afraid. I trust in God to take care of things.”

This is a common sentiment — wait and see. “I think he needs to explain himself a little bit more,” Toni Moore from Pataskala says of Vance, while waiting in line for the lemonade and cajun food cart. She has a J.D. Vance sticker on her purse, which they were giving out to anyone who would take one. 

“What he said in ’16 … well,” she says of Vance’s statements when he criticized Trump during the GOP primary. “But when the one person that you trust, when he endorses, you feel a little better.”

Moore doesn’t have to wait too long: The rally plows through speakers, and Vance comes up to take his swing at the crowd more than two hours before Trump is set to arrive. His stump is a bit broader than prior stops, hitting familiar themes of Jan. 6 and of how law enforcement is persecuting good patriots and not targeting Democrats in power. Vance ended his speech with an emphatic statement, telling the crowd that if they send him to Washington, “I will not serve the donors of the Republican Party, and I will not serve the Big Tech Execs!” which is a very bold thing to say when your campaign’s biggest Super PAC is exclusively bankrolled by a big tech exec. But it scores him some cheers, and then Vance retreats, settling in to wait, like everyone else, for the man that this is all about.  

The vibes at a Trump rally are equal parts music festival and sporting event with a dash of church service thrown in: thousands of garishly-dressed fans tromping through a swampy grass field, standing in massive lines for $16 brisket sandwiches at food trucks, weaving through mazes of metal fencing under the watchful eye of impossibly-buff security guards in inconceivably-tight polo shirts, while a smattering of Vance campaign ads, trailers for Dinesh D’Souza’s new voter fraud documentary, and sizzle reels on traitorous RINOs blast out of speakers at an ear-jostling volume. The sun beats down.

When Trump does take the stage, at around 6:45 p.m., the place goes wild. He starts off slow, breathily winding through the Whirlpool bit and a long anecdote about taking a cognitive test to prove how smart he is. Mostly, though, Trump jumps around between his hits: rigged election, illegal immigration, critical race theory. Most of this is white noise at this point, but there’s a particularly ugly moment when Trump bellows “no teacher should ever be allowed to teach transgender – trans gender – to our children without parental consent,” and the crowd erupts in a “Save Our Kids” chant. Eventually everything comes back around to the man of the hour, which, despite all appearances, is not supposed to be Donald Trump.

“And you know what? He’s a guy that said some bad shit about me,” Trump says, introducing Vance. “But you know what, every one of the others did also. In fact if I went by that standard I don’t think I would have ever endorsed anybody in the country, you know! He was tough — but ultimately, I put that aside. By the way he’s been incredible the last period of time, a long period of time. But I have to do what I have to do, and I have to pick somebody that can win. I want to pick someone who’s going to win, and this man is going to win.”

There you have it. Ohio’s potential next Senator has received his divine mandate: He’s the guy who Trump has decided can win, or rather, the guy who Trump has decided should win. “Most importantly, J.D. is supported by me,” Trump says later in his speech. After the not-exactly-glowing introduction, Vance comes back onstage and stumps again, before handing the mic back to Trump so he can repeat the process with a few Trump-approved House candidates and send the whole rally off with shout outs and thank yous. But before J.D. Vance gives up the mic, he gets one last line. 

“The president is right — I wasn’t always nice, but the simple fact is he’s the best president of my lifetime, and he revealed the corruption in this country like nobody else!”

The latter point, at least, is something no one is likely to contest.

In This Article: 2022 election, Donald Trump, JD Vance, Ohio

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