YOUNGSTOWN — Former President Donald Trump took aim at U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate, calling him a “militant left winger who is lying to your faces” during a Youngstown rally for J.D. Vance, the Republican candidate for the seat.
Ryan is “pretending to be a moderate so he can get elected and betray everything that you believe in,” Trump said Saturday at the Covelli Centre. “He is not a moderate. He’s radical left.”
Trump spent most of his speech airing past grievances, including falsely claiming the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” from him.
Trump was in Youngstown primarily as part of a rally to support Vance while also backing Republicans running for House seats throughout Ohio.
Trump said when he was president, “I was always fighting (Ryan). I never liked him that much.”
Trump said Ryan’s moderate approach during this Senate campaign is a lie as the congressman has voted 100 percent of the time with President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Trump said when he was president, Ryan voted with him only 16 percent of the time.
Trump urged those in attendance to back Vance, calling him a “tough cookie.”
Trump said of Vance: “This is a very important race. This is a great person who’ve I’ve really gotten to know. Yeah, he said some bad things about me, but that was before he knew me and then he fell in love.”
He criticized Ryan for saying he’d end the filibuster, for supporting abortions and for “being an energy extremist.”
Trump spent much of his speech complaining about the 2020 election falsely contending he didn’t lose to Biden and that the election was “rigged and stolen.”
He also went after Biden, saying he was a terrible president who doesn’t know what he’s doing and if Trump was running the country, there wouldn’t have been a Russian invasion of Ukraine, high gas prices and inflation.
The only reason gas prices are going down, Trump said, is that Biden and other Democrats are doing that to win the Nov. 8 election and that those prices will rise after that.
There were about 5,500 people at Saturday’s rally with most of the back section of the Covelli Centre empty though there was a full crowd at the front of the facility. The last time Trump campaigned at the arena, on July 25, 2017, there were about 7,000 people in attendance. During his Saturday speech, Vance said: “We need to get back to the policies of the real Donald Trump, not fake Tim Ryan pretending he’s someone he’s not.”
Vance said Ryan tries to come across as a moderate in his “nonstop fraudulent television commercials,” but it’s a lie.
Vance said there’s “two Tims out there. A D.C. Tim that votes 100 percent of the time with Joe Biden, and there’s campaign Tim who pretends he’s a moderate.”
He added: “We need to take D.C. Tim to the curb and make him get a real job.”
Polls indicate a close race between Vance, a venture capitalist and author of “Hillbilly Elegy” and Ryan, a 10-term House member who represents much of Mahoning and Trumbull counties.
In a campaign fundraising email after the rally, Ryan wrote: “Republicans are panicking about losing here. And Trump knows how important winning Ohio is. Him wading into our race means more attack ads, more dark money and a tougher environment in an already competitive race.”
At a Youngstown event Friday, Ryan criticized Vance for having a rally Saturday at the same time as the Ohio State-University of Toledo football game, saying it shows his opponent is out of touch with Ohioans. As for the rally in the heart of his congressional district, Ryan said: “They’re trying to cut into my vote, which is a political tactic. The fact is J.D. Vance can’t carry his own political message.”
In addition to the Saturday rally with Trump, Vance had Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a leading potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate, campaign Aug. 19 at the Metroplex Expo Center in Liberty, also in Ryan’s district.
“He needs Ron DeSantis, he needs Donald Trump and he needs everybody else to come in and make the case for him because he can’t make the case for himself,” Ryan said.
Ryan added: “Ohioans don’t want someone who’s got to rely on someone else to carry their message for him or to buttress or support them in some way I’m out here. I’m scrapping. I’m clearly the underdog here with all this money coming at us.”
Asked to comment after Saturday’s rally, Jordan Fuja, a campaign spokeswoman, said: “I was too busy watching football, but I’m sure whatever San Francisco phony J.D. Vance and his out-of-state allies tried to talk about in a half-empty stadium would’ve rang hollow with all the Ohioans who were also busy turning into the Ohio State-Toledo game.”
Though Trump failed to win re-election in 2020, he was only the third Republican presidential candidate since 1936 to win Mahoning County. He beat Democrat Joe Biden by 1.9 percent.
Trump did even better in Trumbull County.
He was the first Republican candidate to win that county in two consecutive presidential elections since Herbert Hoover in 1928 and 1932 before Trumbull and Mahoning counties started consistently voting for Democrats in 1936.
He beat Biden by 10.56 percent in Trumbull two years ago and beat Democrat Hillary Clinton by 6.22 percent.
Trump’s victories were key parts of a changing political trend in Mahoning and Trumbull counties. His success helped some Valley Republicans win elections and made a number of other races a lot more competitive than they had been in previous years.