COLUMBUS, Ohio – A super PAC supporting the GOP nomination of venture capitalist and author J.D. Vance for U.S. senator has released a poll showing the rookie candidate narrowing the gap with the rival campaign of former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel.

The crowded 2022 nomination race to replace retiring U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) remains fluid with more than 40 percent of those polled earlier this week still undecided with a little more than six months to go before the Republican primary election.

The Virginia-based Fabrizio Lee & Associates firm conducting the poll for the Protecting Ohio Values political action committee found Vance support at 16 percent among the 600 likely Republicans surveyed, just 3 percentage points behind Mandel.

The gap has narrowed considerably from an April poll of 500 likely GOP primary voters that had shown Vance at 6 percent to Mandel’s 25 percent at that time, which took place about two months before Vance’s formal entry into the race.

“That 3-point difference between the two men is well within the (4 percent) margin of error,” stated the Fabrizio, Lee memorandum obtained by The Ohio Star. “As more RPV (Republican primary voters) have come to know who J.D. Vance is, they like what they hear and that difference is evident in this dead-heat of a race.”

PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel created the Protect Ohio Values PAC earlier this year with a $10 million donation to support the campaign of Vance, a friend of Thiel’s who also has invested in technology companies in California’s Silicon Valley.

The Protect Ohio Values PAC operates independently of the J.D. Vance For Senate campaign.

The Vance campaign declined to comment on the poll, but the Josh Mandel for U.S. Senate campaign remains confident in its own polling numbers from late September.

“We stand by our poll from 3 weeks ago that has Josh up by 24 points,” said Mandel campaign manager Scott Guthrie in an email to The Star. “Our polls have consistently shown Josh with a large lead.”

Both polls have one thing in common: a lot of Ohio Republican voters have yet to fully engage in the contest or haven’t made up their minds among the seven announced candidates ahead of the early May primary.

The Mandel campaign’s most recent poll found 26 percent of those questioned not favoring any of the six candidates specifically mentioned in that poll while the Vance PAC poll found 43 percent still undecided.

The Vance-affiliated PAC poll includes U.S. Representative Mike Turner (R-OH-10) who has yet to decide whether to join the field for Portman’s seat. His support remained steady at 7 percent during the last five months.

Former Ohio Republican Party Chair Jane Timken’s support went from 8 percent to 4 percent, according to the poll, a decline consistent with the Mandel polling showing her support slipping from 8 percent in late July to 6 percent in late September.

The Fabrizio, Lee poll also found:

  • Vance’s favorable favorable image numbers rose from 16 percent in April to 29 percent in the mid-October survey as Mandel’s favorable edged down 3 points to a still-strong 47 percent;
  • Vance name recognition has risen from 42 percent to 61 percent; and
  • Former President Donald Trump remains popular among Ohio Republicans, with steady 92 percent approval among those polled in April and October.

– – –

Brian R. Ball is a veteran Columbus reporter writing for The Ohio Star and Star News Network. Send him news tips to [email protected]
Photo “Josh Mandel” by Josh Mandel.