The Republican race for Ohio’s Senate seat is shaping up to be a battle over who can show the most affinity for former President Donald Trump and the most antipathy toward former Gov. John Kasich.
The dynamic was on display Thursday when former Ohio GOP Chairwoman Jane Timken entered the race, painting herself as a warrior for Trumpism and a thorn in Mr. Kasich’s side.
“I’m running for the United States Senate to stand up for you just like when I stood next to President Trump and supported his America First agenda that created jobs and brought manufacturing back to our shores,” she said. “As Ohio Republican Party chairman, I cleaned house of the Kasich establishment who tried to elect Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.
“I unified the party and delivered a second decisive Ohio win for President Trump,” she said. “As your senator, I would advance the Trump agenda without fear or hesitation.”
The race will provide insight into Mr. Trump’s lasting impact in Rust Belt states and the ability of Democrats to regain some footing with voters in that part of the country.
It also could give Mr. Kasich a chance to push back against the tide of Trumpism that he had criticized.
Mr. Kasich carried his home state over Mr. Trump in his failed 2016 GOP presidential campaign but failed to find much footing outside Ohio, where the base of the party eschewed his moderate brand of politics and flocked to Mr. Trump’s brash style.
In 2020, Mr. Trump carried the state by 8 points over Mr. Biden, matching his margin of victory from 2016.
Hoping to mimic that success, former State Treasurer Josh Mandel planted his pro-Trump flag last week when he entered the race.
Mr. Mandel, who lost his bid for the Senate in 2012, promised to “fight for President Trump’s America First Agenda and to pulverize the Uniparty — that cabal of Democrats and Republicans who sound the same, stand for nothing and are more interested in cocktail party invites than defending the Constitution.”
He welcomed Ms. Timken to the race Thursday by posting a picture of her smiling and locked in a warm embrace with Mr. Kasich, who endorsed President Biden’s successful bid.
Mr. Kasich jumped into the fray, blasting out an old photograph of Mr. Mandel gazing at him adoringly. The post included a confused-looking emoji.
Mr. Mandel slapped back.
“Thx for the shoutout … was a bit unexpected but appreciate it and I will always work with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle,” he tweeted.
The Ohio seat opened after Sen. Rob Portman decided against running for another term, signaling the end of a career on Capitol Hill that included 24 years split between the House and Senate.
Mr. Portman also served as U.S. trade representative and director of the Office of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush.
Mr. Portman’s exit has set off a mad scramble to replace him and has fueled all sorts of speculation over who might get into the race.
Rep. Tim Ryan, who mounted a longshot bid for president in 2020, is among the Democrats expected to run and warned Thursday that Ms. Timken is bad news for Ohio.
“Jane Timken is anti-worker and anti-choice. She’s too extreme and out of touch to be Ohio’s next U.S. senator,” he said.