The List: Ranking the candidates Trump could back for Ohio governor in 2022

Andy Downing
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine walks into a coronavirus news conference on April 16, 2020, at the Statehouse in Columbus wearing a mask his wife, Fran, made him.

Since the coronavirus reached Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine has tried to execute a difficult dance, acknowledging and sometimes following the advice of health experts, particularly departed health director Amy Acton in the early months of the pandemic, while at the same time trying to pacify a Republican president who has repeatedly pushed to open state economies despite the dangers of COVID-19. 

It hasn’t always been pretty, either. Following some early successes in holding back the virus, DeWine shifted toward opening the state for business, and he was slow to issue a mask mandate as the virus took hold and cases climbed. And, in the end, the tip-toeing didn’t even matter. Over the weekend, following an interview in which DeWine acknowledged Joe Biden as president-elect, Trump fired off a tweet aimed squarely at the Ohio co-chair of his re-election campaign, writing, “Who will be running for Governor of the Great State of Ohio? Will be hotly contested!” 

With that in mind, we thought we’d take a crack at ranking the candidates we could see Trump backing in 2022.

12. Josh Mandel

Mandel, Alive’s 2018 pick for worst politician, has been quiet in the two years since he unexpectedly dropped out of a run for the U.S. Senate to attend to a family health issue. A comeback feels inevitable, though, and Mandel’s past use of anti-Muslim campaign ads, his willing embrace of the alt-right and a passive relationship with the truth all feel very Trumpian in nature. Plus, he still has an active federal campaign account.

11. Jim Renacci

The former congressman, who lost his 2018 Senate run, operatesa Twitter account filled with the kind of scare-tactic rhetoric that riles up the base (“If socialism prevails, America will cease to exist”) and his pinned tweet is a photo taken alongside Trump.

10. The Ohio anti-masker who keeps turning up in viral videos where she refuses to comply with public health orders

If a Gadsden flag learned how to operate a smartphone and had a penchant for ginning up faux outrage, this would be the result.

9. Nino Vitale

A member of the Ohio House of Representatives whose inflammatory, questionably sourced social media posts make it clear he badly wants to be a part of the public conversation. 

8. TownHall owner Bobby George

Like Trump, Georgehas a contentious relationship with the media andan apparent aversion to masking up.

7. Larry Householder

The former Speaker of the House won his recent election in a landslidedespite his July arrest on a corruption charge, so the sky’s the limit.

6. Ken Blackwell

The former Ohio State Treasurer and current conservative columnisthas proudly picked up the sad “Stop the Steal” banner, taking to Twitter to share conspiracy theories and outright falsehoods supporting Trump’s continuing refusal to concede.

5. That viral photo of the “open Ohio” protesters

This era-defining image from Dispatch photographer Joshua A. Bickel arguably captures the point at which DeWine softened his stance on COVID, which leaves the photo incredibly well-positioned to outflank the governor from the right.

4. Candice Keller

A run for the office feels sadly inevitable. Fortunately, so does a loss.

3. Any of these 15 breeds of canine ranked as the best lap dogs

Complete fealty is what Trump wants from his followers, which brings us to...

2. Jim Jordan

The Ohio congressman and former OSU wrestling coach, whosix former athletes claim knew about the sexual conduct complaints brought against a team doctor and did nothing to act, has emerged as one of Trump’s most outspoken sycophants. We imagine Trump would repay that loyalty in kind with a full-throated primary endorsement. That is unless...

1. Donald Trump

You know he wants to.