All Fun And Games Until Ohio GOP Senate Candidate Starts Calling Opponent A 'Pussy'
Ohio Republicans Josh Mandel and Mike Gibbons are locked in a tight race for the GOP Senate nomination, and while we relish J.D. Vance’s upcoming defeat and humiliation, the eventual GOP primary winner will still the favorite to replace retiring incumbent Rob Portman. God help us all.
During a debate Friday night, a fight almost broke out between Mandel and Gibbons when they whipped out their credentials and got into each other’s faces. The spectacle lacked the dignity of professional wrestling.
Mike Gibbons and Josh Mandel get in each other\u2019s faces at tonight\u2019s GOP #OHSen forum hosted by FreedomWorks.\n\n\u201cYou watch what happens,\u201d Mandel says.pic.twitter.com/fQuqfHxXHT— Heartland Signal (@Heartland Signal) 1647644328
Mandel challenged Gibbons, an investment banker, over his supposed “Chinese assets,” and Gibbons questioned whether Mandel was a true working class hero because he had no real private sector experience. That seemingly triggered Mandel, who leapt from his seat and shouted, “I have worked, sir ... two tours in Iraq … two tours in Iraq… don’t tell me I haven’t worked!”
Mandel, 44, was now facing off against Gibbons, who’s 69 — a whippersnapper by Democratic leadership standards.
GIBBONS: You don’t know squat. You back off.
MANDEL: You’re dealing with the wrong guy. You watch what happens, pussy. You watch what happens.
If this were a high school student council debate, both candidates would’ve been suspended and prevented from running. But this is the big bad real world, where adults call each other homophobic, gendered slurs. The moderator fulfilled his impromptu referee duties and sent Mandel and Gibbons back to their corners. The other primary candidates reportedly looked on awkwardly, perhaps wondering if they needed to break a chair over someone so they could seize the news cycle.
Although the word is clearly stated, Gibbons’s team denies that Mandel called him a “pussy.” It’s OK, sir, no one believes you have cooties. Gibbons’s spokesperson, Samantha Cotten, later released this scathing statement:
“Josh Mandel is unhinged, unfit and flailing — because he’s losing. He is only a professional at one thing: running for office,” said [Cotten]. “He is hellbent on lying because he is failing. He doesn’t have the temperament, experience, or fortitude to be a U.S. senator and Ohio voters got a firsthand look at just how unprepared Josh Mandel is to be a leader and that will be reflected at the ballot on May 3.”
This is all true, but we also imagine Cotten will twist herself into knots justifying Gibbons’s inevitable endorsement of Mandel if he wins the nomination. Democrat Tim Ryan is both emotionally stable and has never, to our knowledge, called Gibbons a “pussy,” at least not publicly, but he’s still a socialist or whatever lies Republicans tell themselves to rationalize their continued support for the absolute worst people.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump hasn’t endorsed anyone yet in the GOP Senate primary, likely creating much agita in Mitch McConnell. He probably lies awake in his coffin during the day and wonders when Trump will lob a grenade into this race that’s otherwise a slam dunk for the GOP. (Trump himself carried the state by eight points in 2020, which is how you know there was no voter fraud.)
Scott Guthrie, who willingly manages Mandel’s campaign, tried to spin Friday night’s smackdown into a relevant policy discussion:
“Mike Gibbons got upset tonight that he was called out for his investments in Chinese oil,” said [Guthrie]. “He claims not to remember the investment, but it’s part of a pattern of Gibbons’ entire career making money by taking American companies and selling them to foreign interests. While Ohioans are struggling to make ends meet in Joe Biden’s America, Mike Gibbons spent his entire career profiting by shipping jobs overseas and investing in places like China and Russia.”
That’s at least on message if you’re appealing to Trump’s America First isolationism. However, Trump reportedly considers Mandel a “charisma-free weirdo and dork.” (Factcheck: True) Maybe Mandel’s best pitch to the literal "the grab 'em by the pussy" guy is to just call everyone he meets a “pussy.” He’ll either earn Trump’s endorsement or get knocked on his ass. One of those outcomes is good for the nation.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."