A meeting former President TrumpDonald TrumpThe Hill’s Morning Report – Biden tasks Harris on border; news conference today Democrats face questions over agenda Democrats divided on gun control strategy MORE held with four hopefuls vying for Ohio’s open Senate seat during a fundraiser at his golf club in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Wednesday night soon turned tense, according to Politico.
Trump was holding the fundraiser to benefit Max Miller, a candidate he’s supporting in an upcoming Ohio House race in the hopes of ousting a sitting Republican who backed his impeachment.
But he reportedly took the opportunity to convene a group of candidates looking to fill the seat that will be left vacant by Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanDemocrats divided on gun control strategy Trump allies line up ahead of potentially bruising primaries Vivek Murthy confirmed as surgeon general MORE (R), who is not seeking reelection in 2022.
Before the dinner kicked off, according to Politico, Trump met in a backroom with former state Treasurer Josh Mandel; former state GOP Chair Jane Timken; tech executive Bernie Moreno; and investment banker Mike Gibbons to discuss the Senate race.
Mandel and Timken have already announced their bids for the seat, while Moreno and Gibbons are expected to jump in soon.
The meeting, which reportedly lasted 15 minutes, was described to Politico by one source as being like the “Hunger Games,” and a surprise, awkward confrontation for the Senate hopefuls.
According to sources cited by Politico, the huddle covered everything from the candidates’ support of Trump and opposition to his impeachment, previous endorsements and donations, and early polling in the race.
During the meeting, Trump noted that Timken at one point defended Rep. Anthony GonzalezAnthony GonzalezModerate Democrats warn leaders against meddling in Iowa race House Republicans who backed Trump impeachment warn Democrats on Iowa election challenge Club for Growth targets Trump critics Cheney, Anthony Gonzalez MORE (Ohio), the Republican who supported the former president’s impeachment, according to Politico.
A consultant affiliated with one of the campaigns told The Hill that most of the back and forth during the meeting was between Timken and Mandel. The Hill has reached out to representatives for both candidates.
A separate source close to one of the candidates told The Hill that Trump asked Mandel why he abandoned his planned 2018 campaign against Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownAmbitious House lawmakers look for promotions On The Money: IRS chief says unemployment recipients shouldn’t file amended tax returns | GOP senator blocks bill to prevent private debt collectors from seizing stimulus checks OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA reinstates climate webpage taken down under Trump | Senate panel spars over financial regulators’ climate agenda | Environmental group, community activists petition EPA to block Georgia wood pellet plant MORE (D-Ohio). Mandel dropped out in January of that year, citing a need to spend more time with his family.
Trump mentioned Timken in his subsequent speech backing Max Miller, the only Senate candidate who got a mention.
Trump has not yet formally endorsed any candidate in the Senate race, though the reported meeting reflects how valuable his endorsement is for ambitious Republicans looking to win seats in Congress.
One potential candidate not present at the meeting was Rep. Steve StiversSteven (Steve) Ernst StiversMandel gets Club for Growth nod in Ohio Senate primary Republican Ohio Senate candidate calls on GOP rep to resign over impeachment vote House panel spars over GameStop frenzy, trading apps MORE (R-Ohio), who responded to Politico’s article by retweeting it along with a gif of talk show host Stephen ColbertStephen Tyrone ColbertColbert calls out ‘idiot’ Kennedy for Boulder remarks Democrats plan to squeeze GOP over filibuster Meet the Make the Senate Great Again caucus MORE sitting back and eating popcorn.
Reid Wilson contributed reporting.
Updated: 8:31 p.m.