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The Vance-Ryan Senate Race In Ohio Appears Closer Than Once Expected


Less than two months before Election Day, the Ohio Senate race appears tighter than many once expected in a state that former President Donald J. Trump won by eight percentage points in 2020 — even as there are clear reminders of the limitations Democrats face there.

From mid-May until the beginning of August, Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio, the Democratic nominee, had the airwaves to himself, according to AdImpact, the media tracking firm. He has also had a significant cash advantage over his Republican opponent, J.D. Vance, who won a brutal primary with assistance from Mr. Trump, who endorsed him and is set to campaign with him in Youngstown, Ohio, on Saturday.

Mr. Ryan, who had an easier primary season, used those advantages in an effort to define himself early as an independent-minded “fighter” for Ohio, highlighting his differences with the national Democratic Party at every turn.

He and other Democrats have also moved to brand Mr. Vance as an inauthentic San Francisco transplant.

Mr. Vance, the author of the book “Hillbilly Elegy” who once identified as a “Never Trump guy,” grew up in Middletown, Ohio, but later worked as a venture capitalist in San Francisco.

“J.D. was born and raised in Ohio,” Luke Schroeder, a spokesman for the Vance campaign, said in a statement as he sought to tie Mr. Ryan to Washington Democrats.

For all of Mr. Vance’s structural challenges over the summer, much of the available polling suggests a very close race in a state that shifted to the right in the Trump era, and Democrats are bracing for a challenging fall in key races across the country.

Mr. Vance is now on the airwaves, assisted by significant outside spending. He, like other Republican candidates, is seeking to go on offense by emphasizing the issue of crime.

And while Democrats see openings to paint Mr. Vance as extreme on the issue of abortion, they continue to face a difficult national environment defined by concerns about inflation and by President Biden’s approval numbers, which have improved but are still underwater.

“He claims to be an independent voice, but in D.C., he votes with Biden and Pelosi 100 percent of the time,” Mr. Schroeder said in a statement about Mr. Ryan — a reflection of how Republicans are seeking to nationalize the race.


How Times reporters cover politics. We rely on our journalists to be independent observers. So while Times staff members may vote, they are not allowed to endorse or campaign for candidates or political causes. This includes participating in marches or rallies in support of a movement or giving money to, or raising money for, any political candidate or election cause.

Mr. Ryan’s campaign argued that he had spent far more time campaigning in Ohio in recent months than Mr. Vance had.

“This race is one of the most competitive in the country because Tim Ryan has outworked and outcampaigned” Mr. Vance, said Izzi Levy, a spokeswoman for Mr. Ryan. She accused Mr. Vance of spending “the four months since his primary hiding from Ohioans and traveling far from Ohio.”

Some Republicans, too, have voiced concerns over what they saw as a limited campaigning effort from their nominee for much of the summer.

“From that point as he won in May, he seemed to be running a stealth campaign, kind of like a former presidential candidate in 2020 was doing,” said David G. Arredondo, the executive committee chairman of the Lorain County Republican Party, referring to Mr. Biden’s limited in-person campaigning in the last presidential election at the height of the pandemic, which some mocked as a “basement strategy.”

But Mr. Arredondo said he understood the approach.

“Whether J.D. was in the basement or hanging out with his family, who knows, but I was not concerned,” he said, emphasizing that the campaign has accelerated in recent weeks, just as voters traditionally tune in — Mr. Vance is expected in Lorain County on Saturday. “And it was hard for me to convince my fellow Republicans, don’t worry, don’t worry, he’s going to be OK.”

“Their sentiment is now changing,” he added.

His campaign event on Saturday evening with Mr. Trump is at the same time as a football game between Ohio State and the University of Toledo, a point the Ohio Democratic Party has used to cast Mr. Vance as an out-of-stater: “Having a campaign event on a fall Saturday night is a cardinal sin in Ohio,” a statement from the party read.



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