J.D. Vance, the Republican senatorial candidate in Ohio seeking to succeed Rob Portman, said Wednesday that he regrets being a Never Trump in the past, clearly fearing that his past stance on the former President will hurt his chances in his Senate race.
The “Hillbilly Elegy” author’s comments came in a Monday interview on Fox News.
“Like a lot of people, I criticized Trump back in 2016,” Vance said. “And I ask folks not to judge me based on what I said in 2016, because I’ve been very open about the fact that I did say those critical things and I regret them, and I regret being wrong about the guy. I think he was a good president, I think he made a lot of good decisions for people, and I think he took a lot of flak.
“And as you probably appreciate I’ve taken a lot of flak myself over the last few years for standing up for the president’s voters, but for all standing up for the agenda.
“And I think that’s the most important thing. It’s not what you said five years ago, but whether you’re willing to stand up and take the heat and take the hits for actually defending the interests of the American people because that’s what this business of politics should be all about.”
Vance had lambasted Trump in Twitter messages that have since been deleted, according to Politico. In a Thursday Twitter post, CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski noted: “Vance also removed a tweet from 2016 saying he thought Trump abhorrent because of his views on “immigrants, Muslims, etc.”
The Hill noted Vance has taken a pro-Trump stance in recent years. And Politico noted he recently visited Trump in Florida in an effort to secure his endorsement.
His book was seen in 2016 as helping explain Trump’s appeal to struggling white, working-class voters. Vance, a venture capitalist who became a popular TV political commentator, was dubbed “the Trump whisperer” for his ability to explain the Republican’s rise to the presidency. His book became a Ron Howard-directed movie.
Vance is not expected to have trouble raising money. Billionaire entrepreneur Peter Thiel, an early mentor and employer of Vance, gave $10 million to a super PAC formed to encourage his Senate candidacy.
Here’s a bit more from DC Examiner on the tweets Vance deleted and who he’s fighting in the primary battle:
Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy, asked not to be judged based on years-old comments. Vance described himself as “never Trump”; called Trump “an idiot”; said he “didn’t support” Trump; described himself as “not a Trump guy”; and said: “I loved @MittRomney’s anti-Trump screed” in since-deleted tweets from 2016 and 2017.
Vance entered a pro-Trump field in the Republican primary with all contenders hoping to take over for retiring Sen. Rob Portman. He’s fighting Josh Mandel, a Marine Corps veteran and two-time treasurer of Ohio; Jane Timken, the former Ohio GOP chairwoman; and businessmen Bernie Moreno and Mike Gibbons.
Trump has not endorsed any of the Senate GOP candidates, and he might not before voters go to the polls for the primary. He mentioned some by name during his first post-presidency rally in Ohio on June 26.
As you well know, 2016 was a difficult year for many grappling with Trump. We went all in on Ted Cruz and did not support Trump until it was clear it was him and Hillary. And even then, it was still difficult. But as I’ve said before, a lot changed in the years after Trump got elected, and we saw that he was a far better president than we’d ever imagined. He also had the biggest target on his back from a media that despised him, and that also made us more empathetic to the man.
I say all that to say that we can’t criticize Vance for hating Trump in 2016. But whether he’ll get the much-desired Trump endorsement remains to be seen.