Who Is Ohio’s Biggest Clown?

Photo: Jeffrey Dean/AP/Shutterstock

We all have dreams. Small dreams, big dreams. I, for example, would like to live in a small forest hut, like a millennial Baba Yaga. For J.D. Vance, it’s to become senator, and his friends are trying to help him out. How nice.

At this price point, Peter Thiel may even allow you to sup from his youth-replenishing blood bag. As tempting as that may be for some people, Vance might need more than Thiel’s money and support to win the Republican nomination for Senate. He’s facing off against five other candidates, and each one is determined to leave their mark on the race. They’re campaigning for more than Republican primary voters: They want Donald Trump’s endorsement, too, and that honor will only go to a clown of the highest caliber. Vance is in the competition of his life. To win, he must pretend to be a man of the common folk. He managed to persuade Hollywood’s Ron Howard, who made a laughably bad movie based on Vance’s laughably bad memoir, but can he persuade voters of the same?

Republicans have high expectations for their candidates. To gain their hearts, Vance must prove he is the biggest clown in the state. Let’s examine his chances.

J.D. Vance

We’ll begin with our protagonist. Originally from Middletown, in the state’s Appalachian region, he became famous for attending Yale Law School as a person of limited means. A lot of people attend Yale Law but Vance decided to turn his experiences into a best-selling book, Hillbilly Elegy. This allowed him the opportunity to brand himself an expert on America’s beleaguered white working class just in time for national soul-searching after Trump’s 2016 victory. Vance has since repaid his liberal fans by reneging on all former criticisms of Trump, raging against “the childless left,” and generally making a racist ass out of himself on Twitter.

But does Vance really have what it takes? Probably not. It’s difficult to convince voters you’re one of them when your path to fame wound through Yale and Peter Thiel’s venture-capital firms. Despite all his effort, Vance resembles a child playing dress-up in Trump’s suits. This makes Vance a tragic clown to be sure, but he is not the biggest clown in this race. Sorry, J.D.

Matt Dolan

Dolan is a current Republican state senator whose family owns the Cleveland Guardians. Trump, furious that the Dolans changed the team’s name from its previous, more racist Native American theme, has said that he will not endorse Dolan. For this reason alone I must deny Dolan the title. He is not Ohio’s biggest clown, and he won’t be Ohio’s next senator, either.

Jane Timken

Once the chair of the Ohio Republican Party, Timken has a nearly impeccable record of support for Trump. In most circumstances she’d be a powerful contender for our title. Only witness her grandstand on the alleged teaching of critical race theory in public schools. Republican candidates are by now expected to pretend that schoolchildren are learning that whiteness is evil. Here, Timken has executed this turn beautifully:

However, Timken failed in one respect. As Politico reported in May, she once defended a Republican congressman, Anthony Gonzalez, for voting to impeach Trump. “I think he’s been a very effective legislator. I don’t know if I would have voted the way he did. I think he’s spending some time explaining to folks his vote, and I think he’s got a rational reason why he voted that way. I think he’s an effective legislator, and he’s a very good person,” she said. Ooops! Alas for Timken, she is not Ohio’s biggest clown. Better luck next time.

Bernie Moreno

Moreno once sold luxury cars, is from the Cleveland area, and tweets a lot about socialism and wokeness.

He’s also a blockchain guy, which does make him a major clown. He nevertheless does not appear to be the biggest clown in the race, and while he has a lot of money, money isn’t always enough to buy a Senate seat. Oh well. Work on your game, Bernie.

Mike Gibbons

Gibbons is also a businessman who touts on his website that he “served as Ohio Finance Co-Chair for Donald J. Trump for President in 2016 and gave even more money to the Trump re-election campaign in 2020.” He also previously ran for Senate, and lost. He probably won’t win this time, either, He also likes to ramble about “woke leftists” ruining the country. These are the noises one has to make while running. But Gibbons hasn’t made the kind of splash that would grant him greater recognition for his efforts. He is not the biggest clown in this race.

Josh Mandel

Mandel, the former state treasurer, once compared vaccine passports to Nazi Germany and filmed himself burning a mask. Then there’s his Twitter account, for which he reserves his most bizarre proclamations:

This is a master at work. Vance can only aspire to such heights — and indeed, Mandel is thrashing him over his former life as a “Never Trump” Republican. On his website, he says he is “taking on squishy Establishment RINOs” and “fighting against CRT, wokeism, and cancel culture.” And I believe him! Vance is a facsimile of a Trumper; Mandel is the real deal. He’s polling well, and he’s leading the race to be Ohio’s biggest clown. Congratulations, Josh Mandel. Ron Howard didn’t make a movie about your life, but unfortunately for all of us, you have a good chance of entering the U.S. Senate.

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