J.D. Vance's big win in the Ohio Republican Senate primary could signal the formerly swing state's rightward shift, and his Democratic opponents are taking a few pages out of Vance's anti-elitist playbook as he gears up for the fight.
Voter turnout in Tuesday's primary was almost double for Republicans than Democrats, with over a million people voting for one of the candidates in the crowded GOP contest, which Vance won by a commanding 10-point margin, according to the Associated Press's projection. The Democrat primary, albeit lower-profile, only drew about 510,000 voters.
Republicans have touted that they have an enthusiastic base due to President Joe Biden's unpopularity, and Vance's victory showed that, at least in Ohio, the Trump-backed new Right coalition has steam behind it. Vance framed himself as anti-establishment and a voice for the underrepresented working class of Appalachia.
APPALACHIA GETS A VOICE IN JD VANCE'S WIN IN OHIO
"[Vance's] victory in the [Ohio Senate] primary is a big moment for the Republican Party," Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) said in a congratulatory tweet. "JD represents the future of the conservative movement, as a coalition of working people, families, and people of faith, welcoming every American who believes in this nation."
The Democratic strategy against Vance in the general election is to paint him as a hypocrite.
"J.D. Vance left Ohio for San Francisco to make millions and invest in companies that invest in globalization and free trade. He became a celebrity, CNN analyst, and a big hit at Washington cocktail parties," Democratic nominee Tim Ryan (D-OH) said in an attack ad released minutes after Vance won the Republican nomination. "Now, Vance says he feels out of place in Ohio, and he wants to represent you in the Senate? What a joke."
JD Vance doesn’t care about Ohioans and he thinks our country is a joke.— Tim Ryan (@TimRyan) May 4, 2022
Now he wants to represent us in the Senate? You’ve got to be kidding. pic.twitter.com/UM7A5nL3al
The Ohio Democratic Party released a statement using the same talking points, dubbing him "California Vance."
"California Vance is an elitist and a fraud who blamed Ohio workers for their own hardships while absolving unfair trade deals and giant corporations of their role in outsourcing jobs and devastating Ohio communities," said Chairwoman Elizabeth Walters. "Now, this Silicon Valley elitist is looking for another ticket out of Ohio so he can move back to Washington D.C. to become California’s third Senator. We look forward to holding California Vance accountable so every voter knows he’s an out-of-touch elitist who left Ohio behind and does not have Ohio values.”
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Some analysts have already concluded that the race is Vance's to lose, as Ohio has been trending more Republican in statewide elections.
"Ohio was 12.5 points more Republican than America in 2020, and 2022 looks more likely to be a GOP-leaning year," said Inside Elections analyst Ryan Matsumoto. "Tim Ryan would need to massively outperform the fundamentals."
Vance is the author of the bestselling memoir Hillbilly Elegy, in which he chronicled his upbringing in lower-class Appalachia. He graduated from Yale Law School and worked in venture capitalism before returning to his home state. Ryan was first elected to the House in 2002.