Thiel's group responded with new advertisements that rebranded Vance as a Trump loyalist, a maneuver that seems to have at least kept him in contention. Vance was also able to keep going because none of his four major rivals were able to establish a meaningful lead—either in the polls or in the contest to win Trump's endorsement. (Only state Sen. Matt Dolan, who criticized Trump as recently as last year, didn't seek it.) The financier also had a powerful ally in Fox News host Tucker Carlson, whom Rolling Stone reported played a key role in winning Trump over to Vance's side.
Carlson reportedly not only made the case that Vance's anti-Trump days were long behind him, he also argued that Mandel's main benefactor, Club president David McIntosh, was untrustworthy because of what the story calls an "an embarrassing and 'chronic' personal sexual habit." The magazine refused to provide any details about this salacious claim, but it relayed that Trump "spent a notable amount of time gossiping and laughing about the prominent Republican's penis." (Can't believe you just had to read that sentence? We can't believe we had to write it, either.)
No matter what ultimately convinced Trump, though, he went on to give his stamp of approval to Vance less than three weeks ahead of the primary. Trump excused Vance's past disloyalty at a recent rally, saying that while his new favorite had indeed "said some bad shit about me," each of his rivals "did also."
The Club hoped that voters wouldn't be so forgiving, and it even ran a commercial questioning Trump's judgment—a shocking gambit given the GOP's obeisance to its supreme master. Even Trump himself managed to give Vance a humiliating round of headlines just two days before Election Day when he told an audience, "We've endorsed—JP, right? JD Mandel, and he's doing great." But while Trump couldn't remember Vance's name, enough Republican primary voters could.
We'll be recapping all of Tuesday's results in Ohio and Indiana the next Morning Digest, though if you don't want to wait that long, join us on Wednesday at Daily Kos Elections and follow along as we provide updates in our Live Digest.