Cover photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore on Flickr
On November 8, Ohio citizens will choose their next United States Senator. Republican JD Vance, author of the national bestseller, Hillbilly Elegy, is running against Democrat Tim Ryan, longtime member of the US House of Representatives. Vance and Ryan are competing for Rob Portman’s (R) Senate seat, as he will not be seeking a third term. Vance is running as a Trump-aligned Republican, while Ryan is running as a moderate, pro-working-class Democrat. The race is very close, as a Suffolk University/USA Today poll put Vance at 46% and Ryan at 47% of the vote with a margin of error of 4.4%, meaning that this race could go either way. This seat will be hotly contested and could be the seat that decides which party will have a majority in the Senate.
Many believe that this race will be indicative of former president Donald Trump’s influence
on the Republican Party, as Vance is a Trump-aligned and endorsed Republican. Vance held multiple rallies with Trump and is making attempts to appeal to his supporters. Others believe that Vance is only appealing to these voters to get into office, citing his past criticism of Trump. In a few now-deleted tweets, Vance previously said that “I’m a never Trump guy”, and even went as far as to call him “reprehensible” and “an idiot”. More recently, in an interview with Fox News, Vance said that “like a lot of people, I criticized Trump back in 2016,” and that “I regret being wrong about the guy. I think he was a good president, I think he made a lot of good decisions for people, and I think he took a lot of flak.” Vance is among many Republicans that criticized Trump during the 2016 election, but after seeing his policies in action, became supporters of his. While Vance’s comments may be problematic for him, many voters still see him as more aligned with conservative values when compared to Ryan.
This specific senate race has also been seen as a referendum on Biden, as Ohio is a swing state. Voters dissatisfied with Biden’s performance because of high inflation, the chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal, his liberal immigration policy, high energy costs, or other issues, will show their opinions through this election. Ryan recognizes this, and this can be observed through his hesitation to campaign with Biden. In an interview with Youngstown’s WFMJ, Ryan said that while he agrees with Biden on infrastructure and the importance of making chips domestically, he said that “he’s not being tough enough on China and we’re not going enough in natural gas” and also that “we’ve got to be firmer on the border.” Later in that interview, when asked if Biden should run again, Ryan said that “we need new leadership across the board,” suggesting that he does not want the president to seek a second term. Although Ryan is working to set himself apart from Biden, this election will still be a reflection of how Ohio voters view President Biden.
As the election nears and advertisement campaigns intensify, voters will make their voices heard in this Trump vs. Biden proxy election, ultimately giving a first glance at where Ohio will lean in the 2024 presidential election.