Sen. Rob Portman says former President Donald Trump is still the top dog in the Republican ranks.
“He’s definitely the leader of the party in the sense that he has high popularity with the Republican base,” Mr. Portman, Ohio Republican, said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Mr. Trump showcased his star power over the weekend in Mr. Portman’s political backyard, drawing thousands to the Lorain County fairgrounds for his first campaign style event of the 2022 election cycle.
Mr. Trump was there to sing his praises for Max Miller, who has launched a primary challenge against Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, one of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Mr. Trump criticized President Biden, touted his own administration’s achievements and spent a lot of time repeating his stolen election claims.
Mr. Portman said Sunday the party should be focused on its vision for the nation and flipping control of the House and Senate in 2022.
“Let’s focus on the policies that worked and also on what is not working now,” he said.
Mr. Portman’s decision to not seek re-election has set off a scramble to replace him and a battle over the mantle of Trump in the GOP nomination race.
The contest features former GOP Chair Jane Timken, former state treasurer Josh Mandel, businessman Mike Gibbons and Bernie Moreno, a car dealership owner.
The Timken campaign hired a plane to fly over the fairgrounds with a banner reading “Ohio is Trump Country! JaneTimkenforOhio.com.”
Mr. Trump has not endorsed anyone in the race.
Mr. Trump conducted an informal poll of the crowd on Saturday that gave the impression that Mr. Mandel has a sight edge over Ms. Timken, and Mr. Gibbons. Mr. Trump did not ask the crowd about Mr. Moreno or J.D. Vance, who also is expected to enter the race.
Rep. Tim Ryan appears to be the front-runner for the Democratic nomination in the race.
At Saturday’s rally, Mr. Trump called Mr. Ryan a “stiff.”
Mr. Portman was among the top Ohio Republicans who were not in attendance. Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted also skipped the event for different reasons.