As JD Vance moves towards a Senate bid for 2022, Ohio’s top Republicans cast doubts on the prospects of the best-selling author, whose memoirs epitomized the white working-class community that drove Donald Trump to the presidency.
The 36-year-old Vance has never aspired to political office. Ohio Republicans who fought this fight are skeptical that the polemicist and venture capitalist can take a blow and withstand the intense scrutiny that comes with a Senate campaign. Seasoned Republican strategists of the state also question whether GOP primary voters will buy Vance’s convenient conversion of Trump critic to “MAGA” cheerleader, without whom his bid for the nomination for the successful resignation of Senator Rob Portman is dead upon his arrival .
“Some may focus on that and wonder if Vance is ready to rise to the big political leagues,” said Nick Everhart, a Republican strategist in Columbus. “The more obvious and dangerous obstacle to his running is that it is him [taken] too many direct shots at Donald Trump. ”
Ohio is the heart of Trump Land; The former president won the Midwest battlefield by 8 percentage points in November. With Portman’s departure, the 2022 GOP Senate area code is developing downright brutally. Vance is already under attack despite not having announced his candidacy. Potential opponents examine Vance’s well-known opposition to Trump before undergoing an “evolution” that allies describe in relation to his view of the 45th president.
In tweets from 2016 and 2017, Vance described himself as “never Trump”. called Trump “an idiot”; said in a tweet that he “did not support” Trump; described himself as “not a Trump guy” in another; and said, “I loved @ MittRomney’s anti-Trump screed.” The posts have since been removed from Vance’s Twitter feed, although it is unclear whether there was a political motive. Vance seems to regularly delete his tweets en masse.
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Vance’s alleged Republican opponents have much more material to work with from testimonies and interviews he gave during the 2016 campaign and at the start of Trump’s presidency. That could be problematic. The popularity of Vance’s memoir, Hillbilly Elegy, made him a public figure. But he’s relatively unknown among the Ohio grassroots Republicans. To be marked as anti-Trump would be a death penalty, both from primary voters and from the former president, whose approval could decide the race.
“JD Vance has a formidable background but has not actually run for office. Like other new candidates, he must educate voters about his formidable background,” said Alex Triantafilou, Republican chairman of the Hamilton County GOP in Hamilton. Triantafilou supports Senate candidate Jane Timken, an ally of Trump and former leader of the Ohio Republican Party.
Vance declined to comment on the story.
However, the political allies insist that his change in his view of Trump was heartfelt and based on a gradual observation of the 45th President’s agenda and leadership compared to his impression of the campaign. The evidence, they say, lies in the group of friends and admirers Vance has gathered from the Trump Wing of the GOP: Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri; conservative activists Charlie Kirk and Ned Ryun; and Fox News host Tucker Carlson among others.
“JD really took the time to understand what happened in the White House and the Trump administration. So I don’t know how it is inauthentic,” said a Republican ally of Vance in Ohio. “It was an evolution; It wasn’t a light switch. “
Vance said in an interview with conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday that he expected a final decision on running a Senate campaign by “early summer” in 2022. Perhaps to encourage him, supporters started a super PAC, Protect Ohio Values. The group received $ 10 million from wealthy Republican donor Peter Thiel, a venture capitalist, and received additional funding from GOP financiers Robert Mercer and daughter Rebekah Mercer.
Super PACs cannot be coordinated with a candidate’s campaign.
But the Vance Super PAC could help him counter his opponent’s attempt to poke holes in the compelling personal story he detailed in the autobiographical Hillbilly Elegy, adapted in a Netflix feature film released last year. He was raised poor in working class Ohio; joined the Marines and fought in Iraq; Graduated from Ohio State University and Yale Law School; and now runs a venture capital firm in Cincinnati.
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Before Vance returned to Ohio, he lived in California for several years, where he worked for Thiel. This is the part of Vance’s personal history that his opponents claim is the soft political underbelly of Vance’s all-American history. One Republican agent supporting a Vance rival sums up his uplifting story: “You have an anti-Trump Californian trying to run for a MAGA supporter in Ohio. It’s a big leap. “
Dave Myhal, an Ohio Republican strategist and neutral on the Senate primary, said Vance’s super-PAC made him “an obvious factor” in the race. “But the jury isn’t sure if that means contender or spoiler.”