COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Democrats across Ohio are calling for help in the state’s Senate election, fearing they could lose a winable election unless national party leaders make major investments in the coming days.
So far, the most powerful groups in Democratic politics have prioritized Senate pick-ups in North Carolina, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania over Ohio, once a perpetual swing state that turned right in the Trump era. But on the eve of the 2022 midterms, some public polls suggest Ohio is as competitive as the other swing states, leaving many Democrats wondering why their party doesn’t support the Senate candidate. Tim Ryan more powerful.
“Ohio just isn’t a priority anymore. It’s a daunting task that we have to go through,” said State Representative Dontavius Jarrells, an ally of Ryan. “The reality is that without federal investment, he may not win.”
Ryan, a ten-term congressman, said in an interview that party leaders who believe he can’t win “have no idea what’s going on here.”
“I’ve come to terms with the fact that we probably won’t get any help. I play with the team we have on the pitch,” said Ryan. “I can’t think of anything more Ohio than us taking over the entire political establishment right now.”
The tension is a reflection of the difficult decisions Democratic leaders must make about how to invest limited financial resources in the final weeks before the election. November 8 elections. With a wafer-thin Senate majority, every step could have long-term consequences. If Republicans get even one seat, they’d take control of the Senate — and thereby gain the power to control judicial nominations and president Joe Biden’s legislative agenda.
And if Ryan falls just a few points short, there will likely be an intense round of questions after the election about whether the party could have done more to win.
The financial differences in the race are large. Republican JD Vance, a venture capitalist and author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” is the beneficiary of more than $30 million from outside Republican groups. They include organizations affiliated with the former president Donald Trump and Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell. In contrast, Ryan has benefited from less than $4 million in outside spending to date.
US Senator Sherrod Brown, who has built a reputation as a progressive Democrat who can still win working-class voters in places like Ohio, said the party should do more.
“If we want to win in Ohio, we have to invest in Ohio,” he said. “Tim Ryan is running a great campaign because he shows voters that he is the candidate on their side. That’s how you win elections.”
David Bergstein, the spokesperson for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the official campaign arm of the Senate Democrats, said the organization was “proud” to support Ryan’s campaign with a coordinated investment of approximately $1 million in television spending. which allowed the campaign to succeed. benefit of lower ad rates for candidates.
There’s still a chance the Democrats will find some extra money to help Ryan.
The Senate Majority PAC, by far the most influential super PAC in Senate Democratic politics, is not ruling out significant investment in Ohio in the final days of the election, though the group has spent little there so far compared to other major states. On Thursday, the group announced an additional $4 million investment in television advertising in North Carolina, bringing total spending in the state to $15 million.
“Tim Ryan is conducting a remarkably strong campaign that resonates with Ohio voters of every political persuasion and puts Republicans in defense, while Vance’s weak candidacy has become a grave responsibility for the GOP,” said JB Poersch, PAC Majority Chairman. of the Senate. “We will continue to make strategic, effective decisions that put us in the best position possible to accomplish our mission of defending our Democratic Senate majority.”
Another pro-democracy group, the Save America Fund, has spent $2.5 million since August on television commercials designed to help Ryan. The group has discussed major purchases with other PACs.
“We’re having a lot of conversations about how Tim Ryan can win this race,” said Eric Hyers, a former colleague of Ryan’s campaign manager who heads the Save America Fund. “We are all working on this.”
But there are no easy options for democratic groups to decide where to spend their last round of funds.
Democrats defend vulnerable sitting senators in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire. They have also invested heavily in flipping Republican seats in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Wisconsin.
Democratic officials personally note that Trump has twice won Ohio by 8 points, reflecting the Republican leanings of the state. In comparison, Trump won North Carolina by less than 1 percentage point and lost Wisconsin by just over 1 percentage point.
National Democratic strategists also note that Ohio’s large working-class population has diverged sharply from Democrats in recent years, despite Ryan’s best efforts to appeal to such voters.
That sentiment has led Ohio Democrats to feel that their national party is failing them.
“There’s a lot of frustration,” said Ohio-based Democratic strategist Cliff Schefter, admitting that Democratic national leaders have a difficult task. “Tim Ryan doesn’t need much, just something. Do what you have to do. Find a little extra cash. This race is unbelievable to win.”
Some Republicans personally view Vance as a disappointing candidate, though most expect him to win because of the recent Republican shift of the state. He’s followed Ryan poorly in fundraising, usually an important gauge of a candidate’s strength. Ryan single-handedly raised more than $21.5 million, compared to Vance’s $3.6 million.
As the race enters its final weeks, Vance is leaning on Trump’s continued popularity in the state to maintain momentum, especially among undecided white working-class voters. Donald Trump Jr., one of Vance’s strongest supporters, campaigned alongside the Republican from Ohio last week.
But Vance’s relationship with Trump is complicated.
Vance was initially a so-called “Never Trumper” before Trump won the president. The former president then screwed up Vance’s name at a rally during the spring primaries. And at Trump’s most recent meeting for Vance in Ohio, the former president joked that Vance “kissed my a” for political support.
Ryan echoed that comment during a debate this week, calling Vance an “a-kisser.” In the interview, Ryan said he is considering calling his campaign bus “The A—Kicker Express.”
He also made it clear that while he would welcome Democratic national dollars, he does not want Biden to campaign on his behalf.
“It’s not personal. It’s like running in Ohio. I know Ohio. I know the message,” Ryan said. up against their enemies, they may not say things the way you want them to be said, and we’ve had a very disciplined campaign for the past year and a half I just want to make sure I’m the face, I’m the voice .”
Ryan added, “And I want Ohioans to know I’m on my own.”
Yet many Ryan allies continue to call for help from the national party.
Former Ohio Democratic Party chairman David Pepper said the DSCC must act now and support Ryan, who is “fighting as effectively as anyone can” with no national money.
“It’s so much like what happened in ’16, it’s hard to see,” Pepper said, referring to former Democratic chief executive Ted Strickland’s loss to Republican Senator Rob Portman in that year’s Senate race. “It’s when the polls are even, our candidate has more money and is a stronger candidate, and when the Republicans pack a punch, we walk away. It’s a terrible signal to send.”
In 2016, Strickland eventually lost to Portman by 21 points. Next door in Pennsylvania, Republican Senator Pat Toomey won by less than 2.
Peoples reported from New York.
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