In a midterm year when any single election could tip the balance of power in Washington, primaries can become spectacles in themselves. And on Tuesday, the singular spectacle of the Ohio Senate primary came to an end when voters chose J.D. Vance, former venture capitalist and author of Hillbilly Elegy, as the Republican nominee. Vance will face the Democratic nominee, Rep. Tim Ryan, in November to replace outgoing Sen. Rob Portman (R–Ohio).
Ohio's GOP Senate primary has been a long, bruising fight to the finish. For most of the last year, six of the seven total candidates jockeyed for the public endorsement of former President Donald Trump. In the end, Trump waited so long to endorse that the candidates started to think that he never would. But ultimately, two weeks before the primary, Trump finally threw his support behind Vance, giving his campaign a much-needed shot in the arm after months of middling poll numbers.
Along with his onetime boss and biggest donor, Peter Thiel, Vance represents a more authoritarian and nationalistic wing of conservatism, more open to restrictionist economic policies. He blames free trade and immigration for holding back the middle class. And he has expressed a willingness to use the power of the government to punish nonprofits whose politics he disagrees with.
In the November general election, Vance will face Ryan, who has served for nearly two decades in Congress, and who briefly ran for president in 2020. Ryan's victory Tuesday was not a surprise, as he had consistently led the Democratic primary field.
In April, Ryan received criticism from Asian American groups for an odd campaign ad in which he blames China for America's ills by repeating China over and over again. Earlier this year, Ryan called on President Joe Biden to retain "safeguard tariffs" on certain Chinese-made products, calling them "vital to U.S. competitiveness." When Trump imposed tariffs on Chinese steel in 2018, Ryan defended the move.
Vance supports tariffs on China as well. In fact, in his victory speech, Vance thanked Robert Lighthizer, Trump's top trade adviser and tariff proponent, whom he referred to as "one of the great trade thinkers of the past 30 years of American history."