The near brawl
It became an iconic moment of the 2022 midterm elections: Two candidates, after months of desperate attempts to get former President Donald Trump to notice and endorse them, standing chest-to-chest on a stage seemingly on the brink of throwing punches.
As they traded schoolyard insults, a debate moderator had to step in between Mike Gibbons, a 70-year-old investment banker, and Josh Mandel, a 44-year-old former state treasurer, before anyone could take a swing.
The March skirmish resembled a scene from the Jerry Springer Show – or a skit before a WWE match.
“You’ve never been in the private sector in your entire life,” said Mike Gibbons, a 70-year-old investment banker, to Josh Mandel, a 44-year-old former state treasurer, state representative, city council member and Marine.
“I’ve worked, sir,” Mandel said, jumping to his feet to confront Gibbons, who was standing as he spoke. “Two tours in Iraq. Don’t tell me I haven’t worked. “
“You. Don’t. Know. Squat, ”Gibbons said.
The debate moderator hustled across the stage to try to calm the men down, placing a hand on each of their backs. He slowly guided Mandel back to his chair.
“You do not know squat!” Gibbons repeated, for good measure.
Before Mandel’s backside could reach the chair, he shot up again. A transcript from the debate details what happened next.
“Two tours in Iraq. Don’t tell me I haven’t worked, ”Mandel fired back.
Gibbons: “Back off, buddy, you’re gonna end up…”
Mandel: “You back off!”
Gibbons: “Never. That’ll happen – never. ”
Mandel: “Watch. Watch. ”
Moderator: “We’ll square it away…”
Gibbons: “You’re dealing with the wrong dude.”
Mandel: “No. No, you’re dealing with the wrong guy. You watch what happens. ”
Gibbons: “P —-!”
Mandel: “You watch what happens.”
Both men subsequently denied calling the other a “p —-.” While attendees in the room initially reported that it seemed like Mandel had used the term, extensive review of multiple video angles by POLITICO revealed it appeared to be Gibbons.
The ‘inadequacies’ of Timken’s male opponents
Former state party chair Jane Timken leaned into the fact she was the only woman in the race, frequently starting her answers during debates and interviews with “As a mother…” and adopting the campaign slogan of “mom on a mission.”
In February, she went further. In an adTimken talked about her male opponents’ “inadequacies,” something that was widely understood to be a veiled reference to the size of their genitalia, invoking memories of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) Insulting Trump’s “small hands” in 2016.
“We all know guys who overcompensate for their inadequacies, and that description fits the guys in the Senate race to a T,” Timken said with a slight smirk, standing next to photos on easels of Gibbons, Vance and Mandel.
Standing in a cornfield, warning of the Gestapo
While driving between campaign stops in western Ohio in September, Mandel became so incensed about President Joe Biden’s mandate that large employers require vaccines or COVID-19 testing, he pulled over in the dark and filmed a video in a cornfield about how Biden was trampling freedoms.
“When the Gestapo show up at your door, you know what to do,” Mandel said into the phone camera.
He explained that he was inspired to stop and make a video when he saw a large Trump sign next to the cornfield near Logansville.
“As I was driving through this cornfield, I literally came across this sign, this Trump sign,” Mandel said in the video. “He is my president.”
Man says women were never oppressed
“I do not think women have been oppressed,” Gibbons told NBC 4 In Columbus in August, when asked in an interview about his crusade against “wokeism.”
“I think they were just subject to the lack of technology and their place in the world, because physical labor was so important to making a living.”
Later in the interview, Gibbons criticized his only female opponent, Timken, as someone who had “barely worked,” suggesting she merely married into money. Timken was previously employed as a lawyer and magistrate, and later became chair of the Ohio Republican Party.
Timken spent months accusing Gibbons of sexism, first calling on him to apologize for perpetuating an “offensive stereotype” and suggesting he “may be living in the 1950s.”
Months later, at a debate in March, Gibbons clarified that women were “probably oppressed” when they did not have a right to vote.
‘But he’s Jewish’
Mark Pukita, a candidate who was rarely included in primary polling – he ultimately won 2.1 percent of the vote – bought radio advertisements last fall alerting voters to the fact that Mandel is Jewish.
Asked about it at a November debate, Pukita defended the ad.
In terms of antisemitism, all I did in an ad was pointed out that Josh is going around saying he’s got the Bible in one hand and the constitution in the other. But he’s Jewish, “Pukita said. “Everybody should know that though, right?”
The Cleveland Guardians
Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team figured prominently in this race, but for the wrong reasons. Trump repeatedly criticized Matt Dolan, the state senator whose family owns the franchise, for the decision to change the team name last year from the Cleveland Indians to the Guardians.
Then there was the subplot involving Bernie Moreno, the former luxury car salesman who dropped out of the race in early February. Moreno said last year he had offered to buy the Indians from the Dolans for $ 1 billion to keep the team from changing its name. Dolan said that never happened. The two wealthy men went back and forth about whether Moreno had actually tried to buy the Indians.
“It’s not true, so I do not know why Bernie would decide to say that,” Dolan told Fox 8 in Cleveland. “You’re going to have to talk to Bernie as to why he thinks he made an offer.”
As part of his efforts to focus attention on the revealed name change – which rubbed many local fans the wrong way – Moreno also told the television station he had an idea to issue a digital currency called “Tribecoin” to allow people in Northeast Ohio to own part of the team. ”
‘Twitter is not a website’
Moreno went through a phase last summer when he kept going on Twitter to troll Rep. Tim Ryan, the now-Democratic nominee for Senate.
Except the trolling was not over ideological differences or policy disagreements. Rather it was Moreno lamely attempting to poke fun at the Ohio Democrat. It was often some sort of insult that was difficult to follow, like when Moreno went off on Ryan for referring to Twitter as a website.
“Some people on this website think the most important thing about a candidate is their party label,” Ryan tweeted in July.
“Who is going to tell Tim Ryan that Twitter is not a website?” Moreno responded in a quote tweet. “Imagine not knowing the difference. This is what happens when you spend your entire adult life in a public office. Out of touch politicians deliver predictably bad results! ”
Moreno followed up by insisting Twitter “is a microblogging and social networking service on which users post and interact with messages known as ‘tweets’… Users access Twitter * through * its website interface,” he explained.
In another tweet, Moreno mocked Ryan for sitting in the back seat of a car. Ryan had posted a photo of himself sitting in the vehicle while speaking on a Zoom call to a gathering of young Democrats.
“Also, never trust a guy who sits in the back seat of a car,” Moreno wrote in a quote tweet.
That one did not age well: Minutes later, another user replied to Moreno with a selfie that Moreno had previously posted to Twitter of himself sitting in the backseat of a car.
‘Childless cat ladies’
Vance, whom Trump ultimately endorsed in the primary, for a solid week in July kept using the term “Childless” in an effort to insult his foes on the left.
“We’re effectively run in this country, through the Democrats, through our corporate oligarchs, by a bunch of childless cat ladies who are miserable at their own lives and the choices that they’ve made, and so they want to make the rest of the country miserable too, ”Vance told Tucker Carlson at the time.
As examples of childless cat ladies, Vance pointed to Vice President Kamala Harris (who has stepchildren); progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.), the youngest woman in Congress; and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who announced a month later he and her husband had adopted infant twins.
Vance has been clear on his position that the American government should incentivize its citizens to have children, and that having kids is the ultimate calling in life.
In a speech during his week of bashing Democrats without children, Vance proposed giving people with kids additional votes at the ballot box, arguing they have a greater stake in the future of the country because they’ve reproduced. When American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten tweeted that week in support of requiring masks in schools, Vance jumped in to slam her, too, as part of a group of “miserable, childless lefties.”
JP, er, JD Mandel
By the end of the primary, voters had been inundated with $ 70 million in Republican advertisements, a dozen debates and, of course, a steady stream of news cycles about what the eight candidates running had said on a given day.
The primary din became so overwhelming, even Trump himself became confused about the name of the man he had recently endorsed, JD Vance.
“We’ve endorsed JP, right? JD Mandel, ”Trump said at a rally in Nebraska on Sunday. “He’s doing great.”