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Democrats nominate Tim Ryan in Ohio’s key Senate race, NBC News projects

In November he’ll face "Hillbilly Elegy" author J.D. Vance, who secured former President Donald Trump's endorsement in the crowded GOP primary.
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Rep. Tim Ryan has won the Democratic nomination for the Senate in Ohio, NBC News projects, setting the stage for a November showdown with Trump-endorsed J.D. Vance.

A 10-term House member who briefly ran for president in 2020, Ryan fended off two lesser-known primary challengers, Morgan Harper and Traci Johnson.

Ryan had garnered 70.3 percent of the vote, with 54 percent of precincts reporting at 9:59 p.m. ET.

In November he’ll face Vance, the projected winner of the Republican primary. Vance, the author of "Hillbilly Elegy," emerged victorious in what was a far more crowded and expensive race that former President Donald Trump had prioritized. The former president previously won Ohio twice by 8 percentage points.

The winner of the general election will succeed Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican who isn’t seeking a third term.

In remarks following his primary win, Ryan said he wants to make Ohio a driving force for the U.S. economy, with a focus on manufacturing.

“The great American middle class is the source — it’s the source of American power,” Ryan said. “Having people that can go out and create and build, that’s what we do.”

Ryan, 48, is giving up the Youngstown-area congressional seat he’s held for nearly 20 years. His district had been trending more conservative, and Ryan’s politics over the years have often scanned as moderate. He had been anti-abortion rights until 2015, and in his 2020 presidential bid he campaigned against progressive ideas like “Medicare for All.” His positions often have been informed by his working-class constituents in a region that has bled manufacturing jobs since the decline of Big Steel and, more recently, the shuttering of a General Motors plant.

Harper, a former attorney for the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, ran to Ryan’s left in the primary, emphasizing her consistent support for abortion rights and calling for an expanded Supreme Court.

She conceded the race to Ryan on Tuesday night.

“I just spoke with Congressman Ryan and congratulated him on his primary win,” Harper wrote in a statement on Twitter.

Ryan stuck with his comparatively moderate approach and tone, airing TV ads that hit themes that would sound more at home in a GOP primary.

His first ad, singularly focused on China, blamed the country for the loss of U.S. jobs and drew condemnation from Asian American groups that found the commercial inflammatory. His second ad railed against inflation and took aim at both political parties before ending with the phrase “Americans first” — an echo, intentional or not, of Trump’s “America First” slogan.

Since it twice backed Barack Obama for president, Ohio has become a much more reliable state for Republicans. Portman was re-elected by 21 points in 2016. Sen. Sherrod Brown, the only Democrat with sustained electoral success in the state, was re-elected by 7 points in 2018. But Ryan, whose blue-collar message is similar to Brown’s, was a top recruit for Democrats, and national Republicans have signaled that the general election will be a key race this fall.