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Democrat Tim Ryan chases after Fox News viewers in Ohio Senate race

A new 30-second spot titled "Fox News Friends" highlights personalities from the cable network — including Tucker Carlson — heralding Ryan's moderate credentials.
Image: 2020 Presidential Candidates Speak At Iowa Democratic Wing Ding
Rep. Tim Ryan in Clear Lake, Iowa, in 2019.Daniel Acker / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Rep. Tim Ryan — a Democrat angling to flip what many believed would be a safe Republican Senate seat in increasingly red Ohio — is unsubtly ratcheting up his efforts to woo GOP voters.

Ryan's latest TV ad, shared first with NBC News, will begin airing this week exclusively on Fox News, although its reach could eventually expand beyond the cable network known for its conservative audience and prime-time programming.

Titled "Fox News Friends," the 30-second spot is stuffed with clips of Fox personalities heralding Ryan's "moderate ideas," including during his brief run for president in 2020. Even Tucker Carlson — a commentator reviled on the left who has frequently hosted Ryan's Republican general election rival, J.D. Vance — makes an appearance via a 2019 segment in which he encouraged his viewers to take note of how Ryan positioned himself to the right of other Democrats on border security. Carlson's on-screen headline: "Not Everyone in the Dem 2020 Field Is a Lunatic."

"Even the most conservative voices on TV agree: Tim Ryan is a voice for commonsense policies who stays focused on the issues that matter most to Ohioans," Ryan spokesperson Izzi Levy said in a statement announcing the commercial, which is part of the campaign's ongoing, eight-figure advertising blitz.

Vance, a venture capitalist and the bestselling author of "Hillbilly Elegy," emerged from Ohio's bruising GOP Senate primary in May, following a campaign that benefited from on-air support from Carlson and an endorsement from former President Donald Trump.

Ryan had a much clearer path to his party's nomination, easily dispatching two lesser-known rivals. Since March, he's been airing ads aimed at growing support beyond the traditional Democratic base. His first ad, which caught attention for its similarities to populist GOP messaging, blamed "Communist China" for U.S. job losses and earned him a rebuke from Asian American groups who said the ad inflamed anti-Asian sentiments. Another ad featured Ryan bemoaning inflation and ended with him asserting that, instead of being Democrats or Republicans, "we have to be Americans first" — an echo to Trump's "America First" slogan.

A robust campaign account has kept Ryan on TV for months and allowed him to vastly outspend Vance since the primary. Last week, Ryan announced he had raised $9.1 million in the year's second quarter, more than double what he raised in the first. Vance has yet to report his latest fundraising numbers.

The Cook Political Report rates the Ohio Senate seat, which is up for grabs because GOP incumbent Rob Portman is not seeking another term, as lean Republican. Trump won the state twice by 8 percentage points, and Democrats there have had little success in statewide races, with the exception of Sen. Sherrod Brown.

Ryan, whose congressional district includes the post-industrial, Trump-friendly areas surrounding Youngstown, has long projected as a moderate Democrat. He was anti-abortion until 2015 and was opposed to "Medicare for All" when it was a defining ideological debate ahead of the 2020 presidential primaries.

Vance and his allies have dismissed Ryan's bipartisan overtures by noting he has voted in lockstep with President Joe Biden's agenda. After seeing the Ryan ad, a Vance spokesperson noted how Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the progressive New York Democrat, has pledged support to Ryan's campaign.

"AOC doesn’t endorse moderates," the Vance spokesperson, Taylor Van Kirk, wrote in an email.