Former President Donald Trump has endorsed J.D. Vance in Ohio’s Republican Senate race, touting the “Hillbilly Elegy” author and former Marine as “the candidate most qualified and ready to win in November.”
The move caps months of speculation and intense jockeying over who would receive Mr. Trump’s nod ahead of the highly competitive May 3 Republican primary.
“This is not an easy endorsement for me to make because I like and respect some of the other candidates in the race — they’ve said great things about ‘Trump’ and, like me, they love Ohio and love our country,” Mr. Trump said in a statement Friday.
Mr. Vance’s endorsements are a significant blow to the top Republican contenders in the field including former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken, who Mr. Trump reportedly came close to endorsing before deflecting over her apparent defense of Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, Ohio Republican after he voted for Mr. Trump’s impeachment.
Other GOP candidates include former Ohio treasurer Josh Mandel and investment banker Mike Gibbs.
Mr. Trump said the final decision, just weeks before the primary, was not easy, but said Mr. Vance was best positioned to take on the state’s Democratic frontrunner, Rep. Tim Ryan, in the fall.
“I like and respect some of the other candidates in the race—they’ve said great things about ‘Trump’ and, like me, they love Ohio and love our Country,” Mr. Trump said.
He said the final decision was “all about winning.”
Mr. Vance was a staunch critic of Mr. Trump in the lead-up to the 2016 election, describing himself as a “Never Trump guy” and slamming Mr. Trump as an “idiot.” The Yale Law graduate floated the idea of voting for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 runoff against Mr. Trump.