Groveport, Ohio (AFP) – Ruth and Boyd Boone are longtime Ohio Republican voters looking to re-elect their Republican governor. But when it came to the Senate, they weren't so sure.
Both are skeptical of JD Vance, the first venture capitalist and author candidate to win the Republican nomination with the support of former President Donald Trump.
"I didn't like it at all," said Boyd, 80, who owns a farm outside Asheville. “I didn't think I would give him a break in Ohio. I think he just thought he was going to be a senator."
Both he and Roth, 77, said they liked what they heard from Democrat Tim Ryan, a 10-term congressman who opposed Vance as a moderate, although they also have reservations, including support for abortion rights.
“ This will come down to the last minute, ” Roth said of his decision, even as he held up another Republican poster, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, from the pollster in the Kroger parking lot.
The contrast underscores the surprising dynamic in Ohio, where Vance hopes to ride a wave of nationalist discontent with Democrats in Washington. With Election Day less than two weeks away, the race was more competitive than previously thought. Although Vance could still win Trump's doubled state by 8 percentage points, most polls show Vance and Ryan are close to a draw, even with Republican Gov. Mike DeWine leading his Democratic challenger by double digits.
In the latest campaign, sporting a red-and-white jacket and sneakers, Ryan emphasized his working-class roots and described Vance as an outsider and "extremist" more interested in getting a title from Ohio State.
But the Democratic-led working-class campaign has sometimes appeared critical of his party.
"We need to refocus this country on the pressure workers feel every day, " he said in a union hall in El-Nilain, where he grew up, peppering his speech with obscenities. "I don't care who votes," he told Democratic activists and union organizers.
Indeed, at times Ryan sounds more like a Senate candidate than a doomsday prophet, warning national Democrats that if they leave the working class electorate, once America's heartland; The basis of the party.
"We're not going to be patriotic until the working class is on our side, and that's what this election is all about ," Ryan said loudly as he was surrounded by labor leaders at Cleveland's PJ McIntyre Irish Pub. . later on the same day. Afternoon:
The message resonated with voters such as Toledo school board member Kristen Farvig, 54, who said Ryan spoke his "language".
He caught us ,'' Warwig said at a union meeting in Toledo, where Ryan, the former quarterback, was playing football, drinking beer and playing tug of war. (He lost, but won the rematch.) "When he talks about his grandfather, he reminds me of my grandparents so we can relate."
But what Ryan did was clear statewide. At 9 a.m. on a recent weekday, the city's Republican Thirsty Cowboy bar was packed with hundreds of excited and angry Vance supporters with Dunkin' Donuts coffee cups in hand.
"I think people are fed up," Vance said, criticizing high food prices, high gas prices and a lack of border enforcement and blaming failed leadership in Washington for the country's problems.
After causing concern within the Republican Party by largely disappearing from the campaign trail over the summer, Vance has alternated with conservative supporters including Texas Senators Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. His son recounted the events of being raised by his grandparents while his mother struggled with opiate addiction, a story he filmed in the hit film "Hillbill Elegy," which became the highest-grossing film based on his memoir. He encouraged his fans by speaking to Ryan, calling the congressman a "total con man" who tried to pretend to be a moderate but voted for President Joe Biden, a theme that has been viciously attacked by Republicans in advertisements.
"My message is very clear. Tim Ryan has been in office for 20 years, ladies and gentlemen, he's got a chance. Let's get him back to Youngstown and give him a real job, " Vance said during an afternoon campaign. the Spread Eagle Tavern in Hanoverton, Where hundreds of people congregate on cold nights near several large tractors.
Among the crowd was Letty Davis, 63, who works at a local car dealership where customers welcome Trump-sized pieces of cardboard, but where the company struggles with supply chain and tax issues.
"We love him, " he said of Vance. “He is grounded, which I really like. From his past, with his mother and all this he has a lot to offer. So he's just like the rest of us."
"For a first-time candidate, he's done pretty well," said Stephen Clifford, 68, a longtime Republican from Stark County.
Trump's decision to support Vance, despite years of criticism of Vance, helped the new candidate advance in the competitive Republican primaries. That made him one of Trump's early success stories, as he helped a defeated president cement his position as the Republican front-runner. But it has sparked a backlash from supporters of rival candidates, who have called on Trump to reconsider.
Peggy Caratelli, 64, of East Palestine, who initially supported Vance challenger Josh Mandel, said it would take some time to accept Trump's decision. But he is now fully on board.
"So some of us are not very happy (with the approval). But we think Trump is smarter than us. So there's a reason." "You know, (Vance) is against Trump. But he was quick to explain why he felt that way and why he changed his mind."
"I think he has seen the error of his ways. Don Reese, 65, of Winona, who said he saw similarities between Trump and Vance, added :
Ryan said in an interview after a long campaign that he believed he would win in the end, winning against state Republicans and independents who have long championed moderate parties like DeWine and retired Senator Rob Portman. But they are tired of the Trump brand. He hoped some Devine voters would split their tickets and vote for him too.
"They liked the fact that I was running as an independent willing to take part in his party, " he said of the voters.
Vance blatantly underestimated the opponent's chances.
"I think the media keeps trying to tell the story that somehow Team Ryan put this race together. In fact, I think we will win and I think we will win very convincingly."
Through it all, the NDP has largely ignored Ryan as parties focus on protecting vulnerable incumbents and overturning seats held by other Republicans, even as Republicans pump money into Ohio to advertise Ryan's attacks. That includes $28 million from the Mitch McConnell Senate Leadership Fund from Labor Day to the election and $2.4 million from Trump's MAGA Inc. Super PAC, which is expected to continue shopping in the state.
Ryan has raised solid funds and has offered Vance. But the decision of the Democratic caucuses in the Senate not to invest heavily in the race for now has angered some Democrats.
"If he drops a point or two, it's 100% for them," said Chris Monaghan, 51, who works with metalworkers in Toledo.
"Personally, I think it's a shame ," said Warwig, a school board member who also serves as office manager for the Lucas County Democrat . We're very close . He said he was bombarded every day by Republicans who came into the office. And asked for Ryan's signs.
"That says something ," he said. "They were completely shut down by Vance, and they were completely shut down. The Republicans I spoke to were disappointed by Vance's message from Trump."
But nationally, both sides are feeling the momentum shift towards the Republican Party. Republicans are leaning on voters like Kimberly Keel, 61, a software engineer at Groupport who hoped to retire this year but put his plans on hold because of retirement savings.
Kiel has not been involved in local politics or Senate elections, but he plans to vote for the Republican Party because he is angry with Biden.
"The only thing I'm really doing," he said, "is listening to stuff the presidency is choking on." He plans to vote for "all Republicans on the side of the House."