COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Sen. Rob Portman touted Saturday what he said was an unmatched running game for Ohio GOP Senate candidate Jane Timken days before the primary, arguing that the undecided could reverse the course of the race.
“She’s got a secret weapon that nobody talks about much in the media, which is that she does a lot of grassroots stuff,” Portman, R-Ohio, told Fox News. “She knocked on more doors – not personally, but her volunteers did, she knocked on many herself – and made more phone calls than all the other…campaigns combined.”
That grassroots enthusiasm was evident at the Friday event Portman attended at Timken’s campaign headquarters in Columbus. About 50 close supporters, campaign members and volunteers gathered for what looked like a pep rally, with enthusiastic speeches from Portman and Timken.
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“What time is it?” Portman shouted to the crowd.
“Timken time,” they replied.
The event contrasts with rallies other candidates are holding across the state, where many voters in attendance are undecided, seeking to hear from a candidate before making their decision.
But according to Timken, it’s the voters her campaign reaches at their doorsteps and on the phone who can put her above.
“We don’t stop and I was at the door today,” Timken told Fox News. “We’re all over Ohio. We’ve spoken to nearly 1.5 million Republican primary voters knocking on doors and making phone calls…We’ll be walking the strip until the polls close on May 3. .”
The numbers support the idea that there are still many persuaded voters, according to Portman.
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“If you look at early voting in Ohio and mail-in voting, it’s extremely low this year, which to me is an indication of two things. One, we have relatively low turnout overall. But second, a lot of people are still wondering, you know, whose should they be,” he said. “I haven’t seen a poll indicating that there weren’t at least 25% undecided.”
A recent Fox News poll found exactly a quarter of undecided voters — more than even the percentage of voters who favored Vance, who conducted that survey.
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Also going for it, Timken is backed by more than 200 Ohio elected officials and has high-level national GOP endorsements in House GOP Speaker Elise Stefanik, RN.Y., and Deputy Speaker of the Senate GOP conference Joni Ernst, R-Iowa
Nevertheless, Timken faces a difficult task if it wants to win in this race.
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She has struggled to crack the top three in most polls in the GOP race, with investment banker Mike Gibbons and former state treasurer Josh Mandel leading in recent months, with the recent arrival of State Senator Matt Dolan. Timken’s campaign also took a serious hit when former President Donald Trump, whose endorsement it aggressively courted, chose his opponent JD Vance instead, catapulting him into the wheel of the race.
Timken and other non-Vance candidates argue that most Ohio voters are still suspicious of Vance, who was highly critical of Trump in 2016, despite the endorsement.
“They’re skeptical. We see it every day. I hear from voters every day,” Timken said of what she hears from voters about Vance. “Clearly, JD Vance not only made derogatory comments about President Trump, but more importantly, he made derogatory comments about Trump’s voter.”
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And with her vast team of volunteers, whose t-shirts feature Trump’s name as well as her own, Timken says she can always come out on top on primary night.
“I played rugby in college. No pads, no helmets and lots of mud. I’m ready for Washington DC, and I’m ready to play the Democrats. So let’s win this and with all your help, we will,” Timken said.
Fox News’ Mark Meredith contributed to this report.