Of all the Senate races in 2022, one that looked like it may be lost to the GOP, but then came back in spectacular fashion was Ohio. Political newcomer JD Vance (R) faced Representative Tim Ryan (D) in a battle in the Buckeye State, which has trended more Republican in recent years. In Spectator World, Amber Athey explains how Vance won the race when other GOP Senate candidates lost theirs. She writes:
Republican J.D. Vance wiped the floor with Democrat Tim Ryan on Tuesday night. It was a surprise for all the professional pundits only because the Ohio Senate race had been obscured by all kinds of white noise. The mainstream media worked overtime to paint the contest as a toss-up and the Democrats insisted they were going to flip the seat. Just a couple of weeks ahead of the election, multiple polls had the race at a statistical tie.
Vance ended up winning by seven points.
Several Republican consultants told me that they never believed the race would be close. Ohio, they pointed out, was ground zero for the working-class realignment that propelled Donald Trump to victory in 2016. Trump won the state again by eight points in the 2020 presidential election. Vance, naturally, received Trump’s endorsement in the primary. But Vance also did something that gave him cover from Trump’s recent toxicity outside of the Republican base: he campaigned on his commitment to America First ideology as opposed to Trump himself.
Vance spoke about being at odds with the political establishment, bringing manufacturing back to Ohio, opposing illegal immigration, being skeptical of the massive amounts of aid being sent to Ukraine and fighting opioid addiction and the flood of fentanyl coming across the southern border. These are exactly the issues that moved disaffected conservative Democrats to Trump, and Vance’s messaging ensured that they wouldn’t swing back to his opponent. He was consistent and emphatic about his values, like Representative Ted Budd, who was similarly disciplined and won North Carolina by about three points. Compare this to other unsuccessful Senate candidates like Dr. Mehmet Oz, who was never really able to create a political identity separate from Trump and failed to properly connect with the voters he sought to represent.
University of Cincinnati political analyst David Niven told local Ohio news outlet WLWT5, “[Democrats] can clean up in Cincinnati, they can clean up in the biggest cities across Ohio, but they lost that Northeastern, blue-collar voter who used to be a key component of their coalition.”
It’s also worth pointing out that Vance has a unique credibility with blue collar voters. He rose to fame after his book Hillbilly Elegy, which was about his experience growing up poor in Appalachia, became a bestseller. Leftists accused Vance of being a fraud because he received an elite education and got rich. But Vance promised voters that he would never forget where he came from, and he spoke with genuine care for the people of Ohio and the issues affecting the state.
It didn’t help that Ryan was endorsed by Republican Liz Cheney, who became persona non grata in the GOP after becoming a member of the January 6 committee investigating Trump and being a part of the elite political establishment that Vance railed against on the trail. Ryan tried to paint himself as a blue-collar Democrat, but his political record told a different story. In 2015, Ryan, who was once pro-life, announced he would no longer support any limits on abortion. Even though he once challenged Pelosi for a leadership position, he still voted with her and Biden 100 percent of the time.
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