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Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance defeated Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan for an open U.S. Senate seat in Ohio on Tuesday in a blow to Democrats who viewed it as one of their best chances nationally to flip a seat.
Vance, 38, a venture capitalist and newcomer to politics, benefited from a last-minute push by Donald Trump. The former Republican president had endorsed Vance in a crowded, ugly Republican primary — despite Vance having once declared himself a “never-Trumper” — and then rallied for him twice, most recently on election eve.
Vance and Trump successfully linked Ryan to the national economic climate he blamed on President Joe Biden, while Ryan failed to make stick his narrative that Vance’s Ivy League education and time in the San Francisco tech industry meant he was out of touch with Ohio values.
Vance’s victory was a devastating turn for Ryan, a 10-term congressman whose well-executed, well-funded campaign had buoyed his party by remaining within the margin of error of most polls since summer. That, despite Trump having twice won Ohio by 8 percentage points.
Ryan, 49, claimed to represent the “exhausted majority” of America, and sought to cast himself in the mold of moderate incumbent Republican Rob Portman, who decided to retire due to the dysfunction he has experienced in Washington.
But Portman — and a long list of prominent conservatives, including Sens. Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham and Donald Trump Jr. — got behind Vance to bring out a GOP coalition in the one-time bellwether state that’s looking increasingly invincible.
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