Campaign notebook: Ohio U.S. Senate nominees stump in Columbus
With early voting already underway and Election Day less than three weeks off, Ohio’s U.S. Senate campaigns are making every effort to get their message out to voters. Republican J.D. Vance and Democrat Tim Ryan passed through Columbus Wednesday a few hours apart.
Those visits say something about their approach in the final few weeks. Both are stacking up packed itineraries that blanket every corner of the state. While national Republican figures are flying in to bolster Vance’s campaign, Ryan is largely going it alone.
He’s still finding ways to signal voters through his associates, though. Thursday, Ryan is visiting Piketon — more than 100 miles outside his congressional district — with perhaps the most conservative U.S. Senator in the Democratic caucus, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin.
Ryan is quick to note it’s an official event — not a campaign stop. But considering that the company one keeps is one of Ryan’s primary attack lines against Vance, it’s a notable visit.
Vance with Scott and Cotton
Early Wednesday afternoon, almost 100 people crowded into the Franklin County GOP headquarters in downtown Columbus. Framed photos of the state party’s leading lights lined one of the walls. Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor’s was flipped so that her photo faced the wall.
Vance gave his stump speech, hammering Ryan and President Joe Biden on inflation, energy policy, and immigration. With a constitutional amendment on the ballot likely to expand the use of cash bail, Vance has made more of a point in recent weeks to highlight the issue. But Wednesday, he went on to add chronic homelessness to that argument.
“Five years ago, Findlay, Ohio had a chronic homeless population of zero,” Vance said. “Today, Findlay, Ohio, thanks to the policies of Joe Biden and Tim Ryan has a chronic homeless population of 400. This is not how we have to live, ladies and gentlemen. We can get back to common decency and basic law and order.”
Questioned afterward, Vance stood by his connection of homelessness and lack of safety or security.
“I think chronically homeless populations absolutely increase crime in a particular community,” he said. “We know that the chronically homeless are more likely to commit crimes both against other chronically homeless people, but also against people who live in the community.”
While studies do show a higher level of criminality among the homeless population, the Urban Institute notes people without homes have far more interactions with police. One study demonstrated that the elevated share of crimes are primarily charges like loitering or camping related to being unhoused.
Vance criticized Ryan for getting just five bills passed during his 20-year tenure in Congress before turning the floor over to U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, and Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, who he noted “get things done.” According to GovTrack, Cotton has passed five bills in eight years in the House and Senate. Scott has passed 13 measures across ten years in the both chambers.
Cotton quipped that he knew Ryan as a “backbench rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi” when he and Scott were serving in the U.S. House.
“I’m not sure I even knew he was from Ohio,” Cotton went on. “I thought he might have been Nancy Pelosi’s neighbor in San Francisco. And out here on the campaign trail, all of the sudden he wants to sound just like J.D. Vance or just like another Republican.”
Cotton hit the same themes Vance did before making an explicit appeal for the audience to urge their friends to back Vance.
“If you’ll be J.D.’s voice for the next 20 days of his campaign. He will be your voice for the next six years in the United States Senate,” Cotton said.
Scott was quick to get echo that point. “Text your friends. Email your friends. If you don’t have a friend, find a friend,” he said.
“It starts right here. Ground zero. Ohio,” Scott said. “(If) we’re not ruby red here, we cannot win back the majority.”
One woman in the crowd piped up — “Don’t worry.”
Ryan at Ohio State
At the Ohio Union, roughly 50 students sat in neat rows in a small window-lined meeting room. Campaign swag and three big pizzas covered a table along one of the walls.
For the most part, Ryan stuck to a hopeful message emphasizing climate change and political moderation. “We got to heal, we got to reconcile. We got to understand and appreciate our differences.”
Still, he couldn’t resist getting a few digs in on Vance. As he has repeatedly, Ryan criticized Vance’s choice of allies. In a bid for relatability, Ryan compared it to a kid asking their parents if they can go out.
“What’s the first thing your parents say? Who you going with?” Ryan said.
“So J.D. Vance is like, ‘Hey Dad, I’m going out.’” Ryan continued. “J.D. — who you going with? ‘Well, you know, we’re going with Marjorie Taylor Greene and Ted Cruz. There’s a party.’ Who’s driving? ‘Lindsey Graham.’ You’re not going, stay home, you’re grounded, right?”
Ryan insisted people are the “sum total” of the five people they spend their time with, and he added other Vance surrogates like Sens. Cotton and Scott as well as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to the list.
“Who’s the sum total of that crew?” he asked. “Bad for America. Bad for Ohio. Bad for young people.”
Pressed afterward about his trip to Piketon with Sen. Joe Manchin, he acknowledged it’s likely to raise eyebrows.
“Yeah, I mean, there’s going to be a lot of things to read into this, but my reasoning is, I think there’s a chance here in the next few weeks to get something done,” Ryan said.
Their visit focuses on Zahn’s Corner Middle School, which local officials closed in 2019 amid concerns about radioactive contamination from a nearby nuclear plant.
This story was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.