CLEVELAND – Conservative writer and venture capitalist JD Vance has proven himself an “X-Factor” in the Ohio Senate race as he considers adding his name and deep pockets to the already overcrowded Republican primary.
Vance, author of the best-selling book, Hillbilly Elegy, has drawn the attention of Democrats and Republicans alike in the past few weeks after setting up an exploratory committee for a Senate session earlier this month. Meanwhile, the super PAC Protect Ohio Values is pushing Vance for a run. PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, a well-known supporter of the former President TrumpDonald TrumpBill, who would be ordering Asian-American history classes in Illinois schools, walks over to the governor’s desk Five Things to Know About the New UFO Spotlight Biden shows little desire to reverse Trump’s Cuba policy MORE, donated $ 10 million to the PAC in March.
While some in Ohio have been skeptical about his candidacy, others note that should Vance run, he would start with an undeniable lead.
“Any candidate who starts with a $ 10 million Super PAC is someone you can’t ignore,” said Mark Weaver, a veteran Republican strategist from Ohio.
The Democrats are underscoring his potential as a formidable opponent, and the Democrats have also begun to take notice. Ohio Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownJ.D. Vance appears as a wild card in the Ohio GOP Senate area code. McConnell returns as the Senate Grim Reaper. Warren, Jamie Dimon Argue Over Overdraft Fees MORE at Senate Hearing (D), who is not up for re-election, has sent several fundraising emails citing Vance’s potential candidacy.
Vance gained national recognition when Hillbilly Elegy was released in 2016, coinciding with Trump’s successful presidential candidacy. The memoirs, reflecting Vance’s childhood in Ohio and Kentucky, were thought to explain Trump’s victory and appeal to voters in the Rust Belt and the Appalachians.
“Because JD Vance [would be] such an unconventional candidate with a compelling story, I think that can make people nervous, frankly, both Democrats and Republicans, because Donald Trump has clearly shown that unconventional candidates can succeed, especially in the state of Ohio, “Capri said Cafaro, the former Democratic Minority Leader in the Ohio Senate.
In the run-up to Trump’s presidency, Vance appeared on a number of mainstream media outlets, including MSNBC and CNN, explaining the then-presidential nomination, though Vance often criticized him.
“I can’t stand Trump. I think he’s harmful and is leading the white working class to a very dark place,” Vance told NPR in 2016.
But five years later, Vance changed his mind and embraced the pro-Trump wing of the Republican Party. Vance now appears frequently on Fox News and has opposed left-wing political proposals such as universal daycare and the news media.
He turned around earlier this month when he tweeted that he had seen a group of female rowers in Washington, DC outside wearing masks and called it “just totally insane.”
“He’s trying to get noticed by using things that interest and draw attention to primary voters who are Trump voters,” said an Ohio Republican strategist.
Vance would be the latest addition to Buckeye State’s growing Republican Senate area code. Jane Timken, former chair of the Ohio Republican Party; former state treasurer Josh Mandel; Bernie Moreno, executive at the technology company; and investment banker Mike Gibbons have all announced their candidacies. representative Mike TurnerMichael Ray Turner J.D. Vance Turns Out To Be A Joker In Ohio GOP Senate Primary Senate Chairman Of The Armed Forces Supports Changing Role Of Military Commanders In Prosecuting Sexual Assault Gillibrand: “I Definitely Want to Run for President again” (R-Ohio) and Ohio State Senator Matt Dolan (R) are also due to consider offers.
Mandel, who ran for the Senate in 2012 and then for the House of Representatives in 2018, has made a name for himself across the state for his previous races and eight-year tenure. Timken will also be known to the state’s top Republican voters after serving as chairman of the state’s GOP.
While Vance is well known in national media circles, strategists say he will have a lot of work to do to build national brand awareness.
“Nobody knows it, which is a downside because it’s a very expensive state to campaign, but at the same time it’s cheaper to introduce yourself than to re-introduce yourself,” said Nick Everhart, a national GOP media advisor based in Ohio .
Additionally, Vance’s main challenger will have plenty of material criticizing Trump, who could play poorly in first-time voters in the state that won by eight points in 2020.
Last month, reports surfaced of some Republican voters receiving text messages from an unknown number with a Cleveland area code criticizing Vance for his previous anti-Trump comments.
“Trumper JD Vance never called Donald Trump an ‘idiot’. And now he thinks he can represent Ohio in the US Senate ??” Read one of the texts according to the Toledo Blade.
Any effort to tie Vance to the party’s anti-Trump wing, however, could depend on Trump deciding to join the primary.
“He will deal with some negative Trump quotes, but unless Trump engages and supports someone else, I think he is certainly one of the three to four people who could win this primary,” said Everhart.
Whoever wins the GOP primary next year will face a challenge against the likely Democratic candidate Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanJ.D. Vance emerges as a wild card in the nine primary Senate seats of the GOP Senate in Ohio, which will most likely be flipped in 2022. Biden faces a dilemma over Trump steel tariffs MORE (Ohio), facing no major primary candidates.
Ryan has worked to promote his connections to the Mahoning Valley, a largely working-class part of the state with a steel-making history dating back to the 19th century.
While Trump became the first Republican to win the Mahoning district last year since 1956, Ryan won the district’s re-election there last year with almost 14 points.
Unless Ryan faces several well-known main opponents, he will likely emerge from the main battle unscathed.
“Whoever wins the primary, Tim Ryan’s going to be tough for everyone,” said Everhart. “Ryan doesn’t have a bad area code. He will collect a lot of money. “
Some GOP strategists argue that Vance should be careful about cracking down on Trump ahead of the general election if he ultimately decides to get into the race.
The Ohio GOP strategist warned that Vance could lose his image of someone who understands the experience of the working middle class in states like Ohio and is branded another Trump loyalist.
“There’s a middle ground for who he is,” said the strategist. “What worries me is that he is overdoing it, appealing to Trump populism and losing himself and losing who he really is.”