JD Vance and Tim Ryan battle populists in race for open Ohio Senate seat

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In the showdown for the open seat of the Ohio Senate, the gloves quickly came off between Republican JD Vance and Democratic Representative Tim Ryan minutes after the two candidates who preach populist politics won their parties’ nominations .

“Vance is an out-of-touch millionaire who has made a career of denigrating the working class and is the worst possible choice to represent Ohio,” said Ryan, the longtime congressman from a heavily working-class northeast district of Ohio in a tweet.

VANCE, BACKED BY TRUMP, WINS TUMULOUS GOP SENATE PRIMARY IN OHIO

Ryan, who championed the working class during his years in Congress and during his unsuccessful run for the White House in 2020, easily beat two lesser-known rivals to win Tuesday’s Democratic Senate primary in Ohio.

Vance had a much tougher road to victory in a brutal and crowded GOP showdown for the party’s nomination in the battle to succeed retired Republican Sen. Rob Portman, one of the few races across the country that could determine whether the GOP regains the Senate Majority in November’s midterm elections.

Senate candidate JD Vance, left, greets former President Trump during a rally at the Delaware County Fairgrounds April 23, 2022, in Delaware, Ohio.
(AP Photo/Joe Maiorana, File)

Less than three weeks ago, former President Trump’s former hedge fund executive and best-selling author catapulted him to victory over rivals who have also sought the former president’s backing. Vance ran a populist primary campaign that highlighted his support for Trump’s America First agenda.

Urging his party to come together after a hard-fought primary, Vance said during his Tuesday night celebration that “we have to come together to fight Tim Ryan. This is our Republican Party, ladies and gentlemen. This is the party of the workers across the state of Ohio, and he’s got to fight, and he’s got to win.”

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Vance claimed that “Ryan says he cares about us here in Ohio…but he refuses to fight his own party when they have flooded the state of Ohio with illegal drugs and sex traffickers.”

Ryan, in a video he posted on social media shortly after Vance was tipped as the GOP nominee, claimed that “Vance left Ohio for San Francisco to make millions, investing in companies that profit from globalization and free trade. He became a celebrity – CNN analyst – and a big hit at Washington cocktail parties.”

It’s no surprise that both candidates immediately attacked each other’s working-class credentials.

Ohio, once a major battleground in the general election that gave then-President George W. Bush his re-election in 2004, has seen a redder trend in recent cycles, thanks in part to the Trump’s major gains with working-class voters. Former President Barack Obama, re-elected in 2012, and populist Senator Sherrod Brown, re-elected in 2018, were the last two Democrats to win statewide in Ohio.

Voters, by a nearly two-to-one margin in Tuesday’s Republican primary, outnumbered voters in the Democratic primary.

Paul Beck, a longtime Ohio-based political scientist and emeritus professor of political science at Ohio State University, said Ryan and Vance “are going to be courting a lot of the same voters.”

JD Vance, co-founder of Narya Capital Management LLC and Republican U.S. Senate candidate for Ohio, speaks during a campaign event in Huber Heights, Ohio on February 17, 2022.
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JD Vance, co-founder of Narya Capital Management LLC and Republican U.S. Senate candidate for Ohio, speaks during a campaign event in Huber Heights, Ohio on February 17, 2022.
(Gaelen Morse/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

He noted that the Senate race was navigating “uncharted waters” as Republicans were “more traditional in the past.”

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Portman, the retiring GOP incumbent, comes from the more traditional wing of the GOP establishment.

While Trump’s influence has dramatically changed the GOP in recent years, another old-school Republican — former senator and first governor Mike DeWine — has easily dispatched two main challengers from the right.

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