JD Vance skated to victory in the Ohio Senate Republican primary earlier this month. Now he faces more skeptical voters in the general election who are weighing his views on abortion, jobs and the economy against a popular and well-funded Democratic opponent.
Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan is the undisputed underdog in the November poll. Pollsters see the Senate seat as less competitive for Democrats this year thanks to an electorate that has leaned heavily toward Republicans.
Former President Donald Trump, who backed Mr Vance, won the state by 8 points in 2020. In the May 3 primary, twice as many Republican voters turned out at the polls as Democrats, which which suggests a gap in enthusiasm ahead of the November election that will benefit Mr. Vance.
Mr. Ryan and the Democrats, however, are hoping to win over the large number of independent voters in the state and are targeting suburban women by portraying Mr. Vance, a venture capitalist and best-selling author, as an extreme anti-abortion conservative with weak ties. and little loyalty to Ohio.
“JD Vance moved from Ohio to San Francisco to make millions and invest in businesses that profit from globalization and free trade,” said Mr. Ryan, 48, who represents the Youngstown area of the Ohio in Congress for nearly two decades, in a recent campaign announcement. “He became a famous CNN analyst and a big hit at Washington cocktail parties. Now Vance says he feels out of place in Ohio and wants to represent you in the Senate. What joke.”
Mr. Vance, 37, told The Washington Times he would oppose Mr. Ryan’s voting record, which he says is aligned with the increasingly leftist agenda of House Democrats. He will also remind voters of Mr. Ryan’s support for the Biden administration’s agenda that many blame for dramatically higher prices at gas stations and grocery stores.
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“He voted 100% with Joe Biden with all his energy and inflationary policies,” said Mr Vance, whose best-selling “Hillbilly Elegy” has been made into a film. “Rhetorically, he tries to run to the center. He tries to pretend to be someone he’s not. But his record speaks for itself.
The Supreme Court’s decision on abortion is emerging as another major issue in the Senate race.
A leaked draft of the High Court’s majority opinion called for the Roe v. Wade of 1973 legalizing abortion and returning the decision to the states.
In Ohio, abortion is legal until 20 weeks of pregnancy. The procedure is allowed at 20 weeks or more only if the life or health of the pregnant woman is in danger. Ohio passed a “heartbeat” abortion bill banning the procedure after about six weeks, but the law has been stalled in court. The stricter abortion ban could be enacted if Roe is overturned.
Mr. Ryan says Mr. Vance takes the most extreme view against abortion, opposing it entirely, even in cases of rape or incest.
The Ryan campaign, with an eye on suburban voters and women in particular, is running an ad citing a September interview in which Mr. Vance said he opposes all abortions except in cases where life or the health of the pregnant woman is in danger.
“JD Vance wants to eliminate abortion without exception for rape or incest. He says rape is ’embarrassing’,” Mr Ryan tweeted.
Mr Vance did not call the rape ’embarrassing’, but told Columbus-based Spectrum News, ‘It’s not if a woman should be forced to bring a child to term, it’s if a child must be allowed to live, even if the circumstances of the birth of that child are in some way an inconvenience or a problem for society.
In an interview with The Times, Mr. Vance said that it is Mr. Ryan who has extreme views on abortion because he supports it until birth.
“I can accept that there are people who are going to vote for me in Ohio who don’t share my views 100%,” Mr. Vance said. “But I think even pro-choice people don’t advocate abortion until 40 weeks. So, actually, Tim Ryan’s views on abortion are really radical. They are completely out of step with Ohio voters.
Mr Ryan’s campaign team did not respond to a request for comment on race and the abortion issue.
In a Fox News interview earlier this month, host Bret Baier asked Mr. Ryan if he supported “all limits on abortion at any time, end of term, whatever? “
Mr Ryan replied: ‘Look, you have to let the woman decide.’
Karen Beckwith, a political science researcher at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, said the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion “could serve to increase participation among those who believe abortion should be legal in all or in most cases”.
A national poll shows most people support abortion early in pregnancy, and many believe the procedure should remain legal later in pregnancy in cases of incest, rape or health emergencies.
A national poll conducted by the Trafalgar Group in May found less than 14% of those polled agreed with Mr Vance, totally opposing abortion except when the pregnant woman’s life is in danger.
The poll found even fewer respondents, 11.6 per cent, agreed with Mr Ryan’s view that abortion should be entirely decided by the pregnant woman until birth.
While the issue of abortion will pit the two candidates against each other, Ohio’s economy and jobs are at the heart of both campaigns.
The state continues to cut thousands of better-paying manufacturing jobs due to plant closures and relocations, although in other sectors job openings are outstripping workers.
In April, an automotive component factory in Kettering announced its closure, partly due to high steel prices. Closing the plant will cut over 600 jobs.
Mr. Ryan, who has the endorsement of 26 unions, said if elected he would support investments that would bring manufacturing back to Ohio, creating thousands of well-paying jobs.
He suggested Mr. Vance backed out of returning manufacturing to Ohio.
One of Mr. Ryan’s campaign ads features audio of Mr. Vance saying that a middle-aged factory worker in Ohio “may not be able to find a well-paying job for the rest of his professional life.
Mr Vance told The Times he believes the United States should have a strong manufacturing base. Mr. Ryan, he said, opposed Mr. Trump’s tariffs on imports from China, which Mr. Vance said “have protected and will continue to protect many manufacturing jobs in this country.” if they are kept in place”.
Mr Vance said he was focused on rising inflation and the push for illegal immigration across the border, which voters say are their biggest concerns “and what appears to be the slow collapse of the American economy”.
Mr. Vance will have the benefit of Mr. Trump’s endorsement to help get GOP voters to the polls in November, but said he expects Mr. Ryan to beat him in fundraising .
Mr. Ryan raised $4.1 million in the first quarter of 2022 and had $6.4 million in cash, according to the campaign. Mr. Vance raised $632,000 but was backed by fellow venture capitalist and billionaire Peter Thiel, who provided about $13.5 million to a political action committee working on Mr. Vance’s behalf.