Does a political endorsement really count when the endorser doesn't know the name of the endorsee?
During a rally in Nebraska on May 1, former U.S. President Donald Trump reminded his admirers about the candidates he's recently endorsed for various offices, including Ohio's U.S. Senate seat that Sen. Rob Portman will soon vacate. The problem? One of the people Trump mentioned does not exist.
Things started out in typical fashion.
"You know, we've endorsed Dr. Oz," Trump told the crowd, to a smattering of applause, mentioning Dr. Mehmet Oz, who became a television personality after being featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show over the years. Despite promoting COVID-19 falsehoods and routinely being debunked by physicians again and again and again, Oz is running as a Republican for the U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania.
But then Trump blanked on the name of J.D. Vance, the Middletown native he recently began hailing as Ohio's MAGA candidate despite Vance converting to far-right Trumpism only about a year ago.
"We've endorsed J.P. – right?" Trump began, looking off to the side to verify the candidate's first name, which he still got wrong. But things became worse as Trump continued. "J.D. Mandel! And he's doing great."
Yes, Trump smashed up the names of J.D. Vance, his new darling, with Josh Mandel, Ohio's former treasurer and far-right conservative who has been trying hard to snag Trump's attention and until a couple of weeks ago had assumed to be a lock for the former president's endorsement.
Unlike the way they reacted to Oz, the audience did not applaud –presumably because "J.P. Mandel" does not exist.
Polling shows that conservative voters in Ohio still don't know which candidate for U.S. Senate they'll choose in the May 3 primary. A recent poll from Fox News surveyed 906 people on landlines and cell phones over four days — one quarter of respondents counted themselves undecided. Another, from Blueprint Polling, spoke with 634 people during a similar timeframe and found a third of respondents hadn’t made up their mind. The smallest recent share of undecideds — 13% in a Trafalgar Group poll — still outstripped all but three candidates, and the undecided share was within the margin of error for the third-place finisher.
Trump: "We've endorsed Dr. Oz. We've endorsed J.P., right—J.D. Mandel. And he's doing great. They're all doing good. They're all doing good. And let's see what happens."— Vaughn Hillyard (@VaughnHillyard) May 1, 2022
(He's endorsed J.D. Vance in Ohio) pic.twitter.com/41OM0AyXfc
Watch Trump's May 1 rally on C-SPAN.