Armed with entrepreneur Peter Thiel's big money and former President Donald Trump's critical endorsement, J.D. Vance coasted to an easier-than-expected victory Tuesday in the Republican primary for U.S. Senator from Ohio.
Having topped four well-funded and better-known Republicans, Vance, a venture capitalist and best-selling author of "Hillbilly Elegy," is now on his way to defeat Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, this fall.
Should he succeed retiring Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Vance will become the first senator from the Buckeye State in more than a century to have neither held nor sought elective office (Democrat Sens. James Huffman, who served from 1945-46, and John Glenn, who served from 1974-98, had both lost bids for office before making it to the Senate).
Beginning the race with near-zero name recognition statewide, Vance rocketed past his opponents following his endorsement by Trump late last month.
More than 60 of 88 Republican county chairmen in the state signed a letter to the former president voicing disagreement with his support for the political newcomer. But Trump ignored them and appeared with Vance at a rally in Delaware, Ohio, on April 23.
Clearly referring to reports a friend of Vance heard him liken Trump to an "American Hitler," the former president simply said: "You know what, he's a guy who said some bad s**t about me. But you know what, every one of the others did also. In fact, if I went by that standard, I don't think I would have ever endorsed anyone in the country."
For his part, Vance underscored his Trump credentials by campaigning as a hard-liner against illegal immigration ("Joe Biden's open border is killing Ohioans"), opposing free trade, and castigating high-tech companies for hiring cheap labor from overseas.
"And he also denounced harmful energy regulations that have hurt consumers on energy pricing and threatened oil and gas jobs and productions in Eastern Ohio," recalled Ohio state Rep. Brett Hillyer, R-Canton.
While denouncing Vladimir Putin as an "evil man," the fledgling candidate tweeted: "What's happening in Ukraine doesn't threaten our national security, but it does distract our leaders from the things that do actually threaten it, like the wide open southern border & all the fentanyl coming across killing American kids."
Coupled with Trump's endorsement and a Monday evening campaign appearance on his behalf by Donald Trump, Jr., Vance ran first in nearly two-thirds of Ohio's counties. In the three most populous counties, his performance was particularly strong.
Vance led the pack in Hamilton County, Cincinnati, and in Cuyahoga County, Cleveland, he drew 26% to 34.66% for state Sen. Matt Dolan (whose family owns the Cleveland Guardians baseball team; Trump vowed never to support Dolan for agreeing to change its name from the Cleveland Indians).
In Franklin County, Columbus, Dolan led with 37% of the vote to Vance's 31%.
"The interesting pattern is that there was almost no pattern," Henry Olsen, Senior Fellow at the Center for Ethics and Public Policy and Washington Post columnist, told Newsmax. "Urban, suburban, or rural counties – he was strong and within a few points of a win everywhere he didn't win."
In claiming victory, Vance thanked Trump as well as other "MAGA Republicans" who backed him such as Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.
"There's a lot of fake news out there," the nominee told supporters. "And they wanted to report the death of the 'America First' [movement]. Well, it ain't the death of 'America First.'"
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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