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Analysis: Could It Be Timken Vs. Mandel In GOP Primary For Portman's Seat?

Timken files paperwork for President Donald Trump's re-election bid in Ohio at the secretary of state's office in Columbus, Dec. 16, 2019; Mandel before a campaign rally for then-U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., in 2012.
Julie Carr Smyth, Phil Long
Timken files paperwork for President Donald Trump's re-election bid in Ohio at the secretary of state's office in Columbus, Dec. 16, 2019; Mandel before a campaign rally for then-U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., in 2012.

Jane Timken, the Canton conservative who was hand-picked by Donald Trump to become Ohio Republican Party chair in 2017, and Josh Mandel, the former state treasurer from Northeast Ohio who ran unsuccessfully against Democrat Sherrod Brown for the U.S. Senate in 2012.

That, to me, is the most likely 2022 primary match-up on the Republican side for the Senate seat now held by Rob Portman, who is taking a pass on running for a third term.

Those Trump fans who were waiting for Rep. Jim Jordan, the fire-breathing Trump acolyte, to jump into the fray can forget it. Jordan took himself out of the running last week, saying he prefers staying in the House. More on that later.

Timken is a 54-year-old Cincinnati native and Walnut Hills High School graduate, who is married to one of the wealthiest men in Ohio, W.J. Timken, Jr., chairman and CEO of TimkenSteel.

She raised millions for Trump's 2016 campaign. After Trump won Ohio and the presidency in 2016, the then-new president – who is known to hold a grudge – felt it was time to replace Matt Borges, the ORP chair who was an ally of Trump's arch-enemy, former Ohio Governor John Kasich.

The Trump forces in the Ohio party won out; and Timken became chair.

And by all accounts, she has done a good job at it, with her considerable organizing and fundraising skills. The GOP ran the table in Ohio statewide elections in 2018 and, last year, delivered Ohio's electoral votes to Trump once again.

Ohio, by the way, has never had a woman serve as one of its U.S. senators.

I've heard that Trump, ensconced in his Mar-A-Lago retreat, has taken a personal interest in this race. If it comes to a GOP primary, it would not be surprising to see him campaigning for her in certain parts of the state. Or on TV ads. Or radio spots in rural areas of the state – places where Trump took 70, 80 percent of the vote in November.

Mandel says he hasn't made up his mind about running for the Senate, but in a recent interview with Breitbart News Saturdayhe certainly sounds like a candidate. And one who would scratch and claw for the Trump vote in a GOP Senate primary.

A self-described "Trump warrior," Mandel told Breitbart that "the key is keeping the Trump coalition together."

"I feel very strongly that the Trump coalition is made up of working people, not country club Republicans, the establishment Republicans, the Harvard elite. They look down at the people of Ohio."

Perhaps not coincidently, Timken went to Harvard.

There's a chance that Mandel could be scared away by Timken's fundraising prowess and her closeness to Trump, but, for the time being, it would appear he is more in than out.

So what about Jordan, he of the ridiculously gerrymandered district that stretches from Elyria to Sidney and looks like a duck waddling across the map of Ohio?

Well, he may have been spooked by the presence of Timken, and the likelihood that Trump would favor her over him, despite his four years of carrying water for him in the House. 

Jordan harbors ambitions of being speaker of the House some day – a long shot, but theoretically possible.

And he may understand the ultimate truth – that, while he might be a whiz-bang GOP primary candidate, he is much too divisive a figure to be elected statewide.

Timken has the Trump credentials but none of the baggage. Mandel, in a primary, would be the underdog.

Advantage: Timken.

Credit Jim Nolan / WVXU

Read more "Politically Speaking" here.


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Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU News Team after 30 years of covering local and state politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio governor’s race since 1974 as well as 12 presidential nominating conventions. His streak continued by covering both the 2012 Republican and Democratic conventions for 91.7 WVXU. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots; the Lucasville Prison riot in 1993; the Air Canada plane crash at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983; and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. The Cincinnati Reds are his passion. "I've been listening to WVXU and public radio for many years, and I couldn't be more pleased at the opportunity to be part of it,” he says.