Why Ohio Republicans are getting behind one of the worst candidates of 2022

Sen. J.D. Vance on Monday endorsed JR Majewski, a QAnon ally who was one of his party’s very worst nominees for any office in 2022, in his second campaign to take on Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur in a red-leaning Ohio seat. Vance’s move comes at a time when hard-right critics are trashing former state Rep. Craig Riedel, the party’s ostensible frontrunner in the March Republican primary for Ohio’s 9th District, for appearing to attack Donald Trump days before.

Majewski beat Riedel 36-31 last year before losing to Kaptur in a 57-43 landslide, and Republicans like then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy and 7th District Rep. Max Miller backed Riedel’s second try for this seat. However, far-right personality Charlie Kirk shared audio last week where Riedel ostensibly agreed when an unidentified person asked if he was “making it a point that you don’t want Trump’s endorsement.”

“Donald Trump, he’s a different person than me,” Riedel is heard saying. “I don’t like the way he communicates. I think he is arrogant. I don’t like the way he calls people names. I just don’t think that’s very becoming of a president.” When Riedel’s questioner responded, “So it’s safe to say you’re not looking to support the guy’s primary run,” Riedel responded, “I’m with ya. We gotta … we need to go in a different direction.” He also said he wasn’t sure why Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wasn’t doing better in his primary bid against Trump.

Miller, a former White House aide who was so close to Trump that a source told Politico in 2021, “They had … kind of a unique ‘bro’ relationship,” declared Friday he was revoking his support for Riedel. Miller’s father-in-law, Senate candidate Bernie Moreno, went even further by switching his endorsement from Riedel to Majewski.

Riedel defended himself Friday with a statement declaring, “It’s very simple … I endorse Donald Trump for president.” The candidate went on to blame Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz and an unnamed “social media trickster” for having “pulled a stunt yesterday to try and convince President Trump to get involved in my congressional primary for proven loser JR Majewski.” He continued, “Yesterday, a so-called donor called me, making numerous anti-Trump statements.”

However, this declaration of loyalty didn’t make his problem go away. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who is competing with Moreno for the right to take on Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, said Monday that he was for Majewski, while Vance followed later in the day.

The Republicans who are tasked with beating Kaptur, however, still do not want Majewski as their standard bearer in a northwestern Ohio constituency that Trump carried only 51-48 in 2020. “Majewski underperformed Trump by 16 points―he’s a proven loser,” an unnamed GOP operative told Cleveland.com’s Andrew Tobias. “Republicans will take down Marcy Kaptur with a strong candidate who can win.”

The NRCC, by contrast, stopped spending money to help Majewski last year after the Associated Press reported that the self-described Afghanistan “combat veteran” actually spent six months in 2002 loading planes at an Air Force base in Qatar. Majewski has insisted he really did serve in Afghanistan, and he claimed he was vindicated this year when the Air Force corrected its records to reflect that he’d received the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. The AP, however, said in October that this medal “is awarded to all those who served abroad after 9/11, including in Qatar.”

Vance declared his support for Majewski by tweeting, “In 2022, national Democrats lied about @JRMajewski and his service record.” CNN’s Andy Kaczynski responded, “But [Majewski] notably did not lie that he called for Trump states to secede from the Union and believed in Qanon.”

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