EXCLUSIVE - A well-financed outside group supporting J.D. Vance’s Republican campaign for the Senate in Ohio is going up with a statewide ad a day before the venture capitalist and the author of the best-selling memoir "Hillbilly Elegy" is expected to announce his candidacy in the 2022 race to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman.
The digital spot by the Super PAC Protect Ohio Values, shared first with Fox News on Wednesday, showcases Vance as a "veteran" and a "conservative." And the ad includes a clip of a Vance speech in which he showcases his populist message.
"I’m worried that we’re increasingly becoming the type of country where stories like mine don’t happen as often – where the American dream seems to be in crisis," Vance says in the commercial.
"We have for the first time in our history a ruling class, an elite, who don’t actually care about the American nation and the people who live in it," he charges. "It’s why they’re so willing to ship our manufacturing jobs and our industrial base to China. It’s why their immigration policies have created an incredible crisis at our southern border…Somebody’s gotta criticize it and somebody’s got to fight against it."
The ad appears to be an appetizer for the kind of culture issues the 36-year old Vance is expected to spotlight in the months ahead – such as cancel culture, big tech, and critical race theory – as well as economic populism and immigration. Vance has used his social media feeds of late to stir the pot - to rally conservatives as he takes aim at the left.
Protect Ohio Values tells Fox News that the spot kicks off a six-figure state-wide digital spend over the next month.
PayPal co-founder and billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel made headlines in March by contributing $10 million of his own money to finance the newly formed Super PAC. The group also received what they described as a "significant" donation from the conservative megadonor Mercer family.
Vance, who grew up in Middletown, Ohio, and currently lives in Cincinnati, worked as a principal in a venture capital firm owned by Thiel after attending law school. He grabbed national attention after "Hillbilly Elegy" became a New York Times bestseller and was made into a Netflix film. This is Vance’s first political campaign, although he considered a 2018 GOP challenge to Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown before deciding against running.
Vance’s political team has advised reporters that he’ll make a "special announcement" Thursday evening at a factory in Middletown, where sources close the candidate say he’ll formally declare his candidacy.
The GOP Senate nomination race in Ohio is shaping up to be a wide-open and likely expensive battle. The field of Republican candidates includes former Ohio treasurer and former two-time Senate candidate Josh Mandel, former Ohio GOP chair Jane Timken, Cleveland businessman and luxury auto dealership giant Bernie Moreno, and Cleveland entrepreneur, real estate developer and investment banker, and 2018 Ohio Republican Senate candidate Mike Gibbons. And Rep. Mike Turner – a Republican from Dayton – has launched a listening tour to talk with voters about a Senate bid.
Longtime Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan of northeastern Ohio, who declared his candidacy for the Senate in April, is considered the favorite for the Democratic nomination, in a primary field likely to be much smaller than the large GOP roster of contenders.
The U.S. Senate is split 50-50 between the two parties, but the Democrats hold a razor-thin majority due to the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris, who serves as president of the Senate. That means the GOP only needs a one-seat pickup to regain the majority.
But Republicans are defending 20 of the 34 seats up for grabs in 2022. Besides Ohio, the GOP is also defending open seats in the key battlegrounds of North Carolina and Pennsylvania as well as in Missouri and Alabama.