CLEVELAND — J.D. Vance, the Republican Senate candidate in Ohio, has unleashed a new ad that attacks his Democratic opponent, Rep. Tim Ryan, as an immovable creature of Washington, D.C.
“I’ve never run for office before,” Vance, a Marine Corps veteran and venture capitalist best known for his 2016 memoir-turned-movie “Hillbilly Elegy,” says straight to the camera in the 30-second spot, which was shared first with NBC News. “Tim Ryan has run 13 times.”
Vance, 38, goes on to tie Ryan to President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “He pretends he’s a moderate,” Vance says of Ryan, “but votes 100% with Biden and Pelosi for trillions in spending that gave us record inflation — gas, groceries, housing.”
Backed by a seven-figure media buy that begins Wednesday, the ad builds on a theme that Vance and his allies have sharpened in recent weeks. They continue to portray Ryan as staunchly liberal despite the efforts he’s made to appeal to moderate and independent voters in a state that former President Donald Trump — a key Vance backer — won twice. The strategy also involves painting Ryan, 49, as a career politician who has done little to help his Youngstown-area district, which has suffered job losses predating Ryan’s time in office.
“I’m J.D. Vance, and I approve this message, because for 20 years, Tim Ryan had his chance,” Vance says from a sidewalk in Lebanon, Ohio, near Cincinnati. “It’s time we have ours.”
Ryan, while acknowledging his party-line voting record, has pointed to more abstract policy disagreements he has had with Biden on issues such as trade with China — another topic Vance emphasizes in the new ad. Ryan also has pointed to his 2016 challenge to unseat Pelosi as the House Democratic leader as proof that he is not beholden to his party’s elders.
“I’m not going to apologize for spending 20 years of my adult life slogging away to try to help one of the hardest economically hit regions of Ohio,” Ryan said at a debate Monday in Cleveland, responding to Vance’s criticism of his two decades in Congress. “You have to be ashamed of yourself, J.D. You went off to California — you were drinking wine and eating cheese.”
Recent independent polls have shown the race to be a toss-up after a summer in which Ryan dominated Ohio’s airwaves while Vance faced criticism for paltry fundraising and a sparse campaign schedule. Slim leads by both candidates have fallen within the margin of error.
National GOP groups have buoyed the cash-strapped Vance by pouring more than $30 million worth of advertising into the state. National Democratic groups, on the other hand, have largely steered clear of the race, leaving Ryan to spend money almost as fast as he raises it.