JD Vance Rides Momentum to Ohio Senate Race Victory Over Tim Ryan

JD Vance Rides Momentum to Ohio Senate Race Victory Over Tim Ryan
JD Vance speaks to a crowd of supporters at an election watch party at the Renaissance Hotel in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov.8, 2022. (Everitt Townsend)
Jeff Louderback
Zachary Stieber

JD Vance beat Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) for an open U.S. Senate seat representing Ohio.

Decision Desk and The Associated Press called Vance’s win based on vote totals, which have Vance with 53.6 percent of the vote with 92 percent of precincts reporting late Nov. 8.

“I am overwhelmed with gratitude,” Vance told supporters in Columbus. “I cannot express possibly in words how grateful I am.”

“We need better leadership in Washington, D.C., and that’s exactly what I promise to fight for every single day,” he added.

Ryan had 46.4 percent, or 1.8 million votes.

“I have the privilege to concede this race to J.D. Vance,” Ryan told supporters in Boardman. “Because the way this country operates, when you lose an election, you concede.”

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) speaks at the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, in Philadelphia, Pa. on July 28, 2016. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) speaks at the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, in Philadelphia, Pa. on July 28, 2016. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Calling himself a “conservative outsider,” Vance announced his candidacy at a steel tube factory in his hometown of Middletown, which is located between Cincinnati and Dayton in southwest Ohio.

The 38-year-old is a venture capitalist and author of The New York Times best-seller “Hillbilly Elegy” who served in the U.S. Marine Corps and earned a law degree from Yale University.

Ryan, 49, first took office as a congressman in 2003. He worked for former Rep. James Traficant (D-Ohio). When Traficant was convicted of criminal charges in 2002, Ryan declared his candidacy to replace his boss.

The candidates were vying to replace retiring Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

For several months, the race was tightly contested, but Vance gained momentum after the two October debates with Ryan.

As of Nov. 5, the Real Clear Politics average of polls showed Vance with a 7.5-point lead.

The most recent poll, conducted by The Trafalgar Group and released on Nov. 5, indicated that Vance had coasted to a 10-point advantage over Ryan, who is in his 10th term as a congressman in the Youngstown, Ohio, area.

Catapulted by an endorsement from Trump, Vance prevailed in a contentious Republican primary in early May that featured seven candidates.

Consistently criticized by his opponents for comments he made about Trump in 2016, Vance on April 15 received the sought-after stamp of approval—an endorsement from the former president for the GOP primary.

“I’ve studied this race closely and I think JD is the most likely to take out the weak, but dangerous, Democrat opponent—dangerous because they will have so much money to spend. However, JD will destroy him in the debates and will fight for the MAGA Movement in the Senate,” Trump wrote in a statement in mid-April.

“It’s time for the entire MAGA movement, the greatest in the history of our Country, to unite behind JD’s campaign because, unlike so many other pretenders and wannabes, he will put America first,” Trump added. “In other words, JD Vance has my Complete and Total Endorsement.”

Ohio and Indiana kicked off the 2022 primary election cycle. Vance won with 32.2 percent of the vote followed by Josh Mandel at 23.9 percent. Mandel and Cleveland businessman Mike Gibbons were the frontrunners until they went face-to-face in a debate stage altercation. That moment, followed by Trump’s endorsement, propelled Vance to a primary victory.

During a “Save America” rally in suburban Dayton on Election Day eve, Trump reminisced about what Vance once felt about him, and how the relationship evolved.

“He didn’t used to like me too much, but he likes me now, and I like him,” Trump said. “He gets it. He’s smart. J.D. will fight for Ohio.”

Former President Donald Trump and Republican candidate for U.S. Senate J.D. Vance during the rally at the Dayton International Airport in Vandalia, Ohio, on Nov. 7, 2022. (Angerer/Getty Images)
Former President Donald Trump and Republican candidate for U.S. Senate J.D. Vance during the rally at the Dayton International Airport in Vandalia, Ohio, on Nov. 7, 2022. (Angerer/Getty Images)

Trump said that “JD will never be owned by the establishment. He won’t be owned by me either. I’d love to own the guy, but I don’t think he’ll be there for me. But that’s okay. You know what? I’m doing the right thing for the country. He’s a very independent guy.

“When JD wins tomorrow night, you are going to hear the wailing and shrieking of the fake news all the way from New York to Washington because the media will know that Ohio just elected a truly MAGA all-star,” Trump added.

While Vance faced a contentious Republican primary that featured seven candidates, Ryan decisively won the Democrat primary. The 10-term congressman who represents the Youngstown area briefly ran for president in 2019 before dropping out. It appeared his chances to defeat Vance were promising last summer when he led in the polls.

Some Ohio-based and national Republican organizations expressed concern when Ryan was highly visible with his advertising and public appearances while Vance took a more measured approach.

Ad spending from GOP-aligned groups, and Vance’s performances in the two debates, gradually shifted the outlook for the race.

Ryan last held a lead in a poll on Sept. 22 when Spectrum News/Siena College gave the former Democrat presidential candidate a three-point edge.

Trump won Ohio by eight points in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. Ohio has a Republican-controlled state legislature and incumbent Republican Gov. Mike DeWine holds a double-digit lead in the polls over his Democrat challenger, former Dayton mayor Nan Whaley.

After winning the primary, Ryan positioned himself as an everyman who says he doesn’t even always agree with his wife and opposes extremes on the left and the right.

He distanced himself from President Joe Biden and has avoided him in all but one of his visits to Ohio.

Recognizing Ohio’s support for Trump and the GOP, Ryan adopted a campaign strategy to gain crossover voters, including moderate Republicans and independents. In TV ads and campaign speeches, he has portrayed himself as a populist who will stand up against his own party and can effectively work with colleagues from both parties.

Congressional voting records tell a different story. Ryan has voted with Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) 100 percent of the time.

Vance’s campaign became more aggressive after Labor Day. His TV ads and campaign speeches tied Ryan to Biden, record-high inflation, and a rapidly increasing cost of living.

Vance’s poll numbers increased after the candidates took the stage in their two scheduled debates in October followed by a town hall.

Ryan drew criticism from conservatives when he encouraged people to “kill and confront” the MAGA movement. His words echoed what Biden said on Sept. 1 during a combative speech in front of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall where he said, “What we’re seeing now is either the beginning or the death knell of an extreme MAGA philosophy. It’s not just Trump. It’s the entire philosophy that undermines the—I’m going to say something—it’s like semi-fascism.”

Later in the address, Biden added, “MAGA forces are determined to take this country backwards—backwards to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry who you love,” Biden continued.

“They promote authoritarian leaders, and they fan the flames of political violence.”

On Sept. 13, around two weeks after Biden’s speech, Ryan reiterated the president’s stance about MAGA supporters.

“How do we fix all of these broken systems? Some of those answers will come from Republicans, not the extremists that we are dealing with every single day.

“We’ve got to kill and confront that movement, but working with normal mainstream Republicans, that’s going to be really, really important,” Ryan said on MSNBC.

“I’m saying [the] exhausted majority—Democrats, Republicans, Independents—against the extremists, leading an era of reform around reconciliation so we can heal this country and move into the future,” Ryan added.

At the Nov. 1 town hall event, Ryan said that “this extremist movement absolutely needs to be confronted” but that saying to kill the movement maybe “wasn’t a great choice of words.”

Jeff Louderback covers news and features on the White House and executive agencies for The Epoch Times. He also reports on Senate and House elections. A professional journalist since 1990, Jeff has a versatile background that includes covering news and politics, business, professional and college sports, and lifestyle topics for regional and national media outlets.
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