J.D. Vance’s Senate Run Boosts Ohio GOP Mood

Attorney and author of the bestselling book Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance, on July 1 announced his bid for the U.S. Senate seat up for grabs in 2022, joining a crowded GOP primary field seeking to replace retiring two-term Republican Rob Portman.

Vance has been a critic of President Trump in the past but has recently taken steps to reconcile his positions with Trump and the former president’s supporters. Many liberals looked at Hillbilly Elegy as a prism to view President Trump’s appeal leading to his election in 2016. The New York Times referred to the book as a “compassionate” look at the sources of Trump’s support.

Vance addressed his previous criticism of President Trump on July 5 in an interview with Fox News. “Like a lot of people, I criticized Trump back in 2016, and I ask folks not to judge me based on what I said in 2016, because I’ve been very open that I did say those critical things and I regret them, and I regret being wrong about the guy.”

Vance is likely to tap into the enthusiasm that Trump found in many disaffected Ohio GOP voters. With robust name identification and a reputation as a savvy investor and businessman, he will look to bond with the Republican base that voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020. That Trump base has consistently rejected the liberal cultural positions of the Ohio Democratic Party and never-Trumpers.

The youthful charisma and television appeal that Vance has displayed will also certainly thrust the Ohio Senate race into the national spotlight during what will be a very active midterm election season. Tim Ryan, Representative from Ohio since 2003 and presidential candidate in 2020, is the only Democrat to announce in the race so far.

President Trump has not yet made any official endorsement of a candidate in the race. There are several Republicans in the primary race who will be vying for his attention. Josh Mandel and Jane Timken are among Trump supporters in the race who have displayed fundraising prowess over the years.

Vance recently told Tucker Carlson, “If you think about the entire trajectory of American Life over the last 30-40 years, you have elites and the ruling class that have plundered this country and have made it harder for middle-class Americans to live a normal life. If they dare to complain about the southern border or about jobs getting shipped overseas, they get called racist, bigots, xenophobes, or idiots. They need somebody who’s willing to speak for them, who’s willing to fight for them.”