Sources close to Donald Trump are saying that he intends to endorse JD Vance for the Ohio Senate race, NBC News reported Thursday.
According to the report, the former president will pick Vance over Josh Mandel and Michael Gibbons.
"The Mandel people hit the roof," said a Republican with knowledge of the discussions. The same source also said that Rep. Jim Jordan tried to tell Trump to endorse Mandel over Vance.
Vance was critical of Trump when he first ran in 2016.
“I’m a Never Trump guy,” Vance told Charlie Rose in 2016 while promoting his book Hillbilly Elegy. “I never liked him.”
He also tweeted of Trump in Oct. 2016, in which two debates took place: "My god what an idiot." He has since deleted it.
Recent polls showed that Vance was running nearly even with the other two candidates in the race. While most polls show him in the third place in the poll this was the first to show Vance in line. The survey, done by GOP pollster David Lee for the pro-Vance super PAC, Protect Ohio Values. All three candidates were at 18 percent.
Both Gibbons and Mandel's campaign disclosed their own internal polls to the conservative Washington Examiner. According to Gibbons' data, Vance has an unfavorable rating at 33 percent and trending downward.
"Vance’s image has become so polarized as to limit his ability to break out of the second tier of candidates,” Gibbons pollster Brock McCleary explained in the polling memo, according to the Examiner. “Among voters who are undecided on the Senate ballot, J.D. Vance’s image is deep in negative territory (-14 percent).” The Mandel campaign offered a similar assessment, showing Vance at 27 percent favorable/26 percent unfavorable."
Mandel pollster Chris Wilson wrote in his polling memo, “Essentially, as Republican primary voters get to know more about J.D. Vance, the less they like him." In large part, it's due to the more people learn of Vance the more his numbers decline.
Vance's biggest ally is Donald Trump Jr., who has been promoting him.
“Nothing is final until it’s final. So Trump can always change his mind,” said a source who spoke with Trump about the race. “But he already kicked the tires on everyone and he’s ready to go with Vance. It’s either Vance or nobody. And it’s only nobody if somehow the other campaigns can get him to hold off.”
On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) explained to the press that it's still possible for the GOP to lose the Senate in 2022 if they go with candidates he called "unacceptable."