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J.D. Vance's Senate campaign is back on air with ad emphasizing his Ohio roots

Vance, who is facing a tough challenge from Democrat Tim Ryan, puts his wife, Usha, and his "Hillbilly Elegy" story front and center in the spot.
JD Vance speaks at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus, Ohio, on Aug. 2, 2022.
J.D. Vance speaks at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday.Gaelen Morse / Bloomberg via Getty Images

J.D. Vance, whose Ohio Senate campaign has been absent from the airwaves since he won the Republican primary in May, will soon be back on TV with his first ad of the general election.

The 30-second spot, shared first with NBC News, launches Wednesday and features Vance’s wife, Usha, speaking straight-to-camera and makes no mention of the Democratic nominee, Rep. Tim Ryan.

“My husband J.D. grew up in Middletown, and things weren’t easy,” Usha Vance says in the ad as old family photos appear on screen. “His mom struggled with addiction. And his dad wasn’t there. But J.D. was lucky. He was raised by his loving grandmother, and he served his country as a Marine in Iraq. He’s an incredible father, and he’s my best friend.”

“He wants for Ohio what Ohio gave him,” she adds. “A fighting chance.”

Titled "Ohio Story," the ad is part of a $1 million TV buy and paid for by the National Republican Senatorial Committee in coordination with Vance's campaign. It will air on broadcast and cable networks in Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland and Dayton, according to Vance's campaign.

The ad lands as Ryan and Ohio Democrats aim to characterize Vance — the bestselling author of “Hillbilly Elegy” and a venture capitalist with Silicon Valley ties — as an outsider with little connection to the Buckeye State. The messaging is similar to a strategy playing out in Pennsylvania, where Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman has been roasting Republican rival Mehmet Oz over his recent New Jersey residency.

Vance’s childhood in Ohio and undergraduate days at Ohio State University are chronicled in his book, which was adapted into a feature film for Netflix and is referenced in the new ad. His work has taken him to California and Washington, D.C., but Vance and his family now live in Cincinnati.

Ryan and Vance are competing for the seat that became available when Republican Sen. Rob Portman announced he would not seek re-election this year. 

Vance has been dogged by recent criticism from within his own party that he has been outworked by Ryan since the May primary, which he won with former President Donald Trump's endorsement despite an onslaught of negative ads against him.

The most recent fundraising reports showed Ryan, a 10-term House member from the Youngstown area, with a substantial cash advantage and Vance’s campaign owing more money than it had on hand. Ryan has spent the summer running hard with a GOP-friendly message, including an ad produced specifically for Fox News

But independent polling has been scarce, and Vance and his closest allies have expressed confidence that he’s well positioned for the fall in a Republican-leaning state.