What are the takeaways from the J.D. Vance and Tim Ryan Senate debate?
The Ohio Senate race has pitted two very different characters against each other in the Republican-leaning state.
As we approach the midterm elections on 8 November there are a number of races heating up across the country. The Democrats were expected to suffer at the ballot box this fall as economic pressures cause major concerns for Americans, but the situation has changed in recent weeks after President Biden was able to pass some pieces of major legislation.
The Ohio Senate race to replace Republican Sen. Rob Portman was expected to be a comfortable win for the GOP’s Trump-approved candidate J.D. Vance, but Democrat Rep. Tim Ryan is mounting a considerable challenge.
In one of the most memorable exchanges from the evening, Ryan evoked a comment made by former President Trump in which he told a crowd in Youngstown last month: “J.D. is kissing my ass, he wants my support so much.”
Ryan has pounced on this comment during campaigning and did so again during the debate, saying: “I’m from Ohio. I don’t kiss anyone’s ass like him. Ohio needs an ass-kicker, not an ass-kisser.”
Monday evening was the first of two televised debates. Here’s three key takeaways from a heated contest between the two candidates.
Ryan distances himself from the party hierarchy
Although Biden has regained ground, the Republican Party is still expected to increase its share in Congress during the midterms as voters kick back after a rocky two years for the economy.
In a bid to win undecided voters in a Republican-leaning state, Ryan has sought to distance himself from elements of the Democratic Party and was not afraid to break from President Biden on key issues.
He was at pains to point out that he had actually sided with former President Trump on matters of trade and said that Vice President Kamala Harris was “absolutely wrong” to claim that the southern border was secure.
During the debate he even reiterated his belief that Biden should not stand again in 2024, insisting that America is in need of “generational change.”
Vance comes down hard on crime
Controversy surrounding policing has been a common theme of the midterms debates and candidates from both parties have made repeated references to the Capitol Hill riots and the Black Lives Matter movement. It was an issue that Vance clearly believed was a strong suit of his and he claimed that Ryan had “attacked” the police.
Vance said that Ryan had called the police “systemically racist,” and had “voted for legislation that would have stripped funding from them and redirected it toward litigation defense.”
In response, Ryan was unequivocal on the need for more police officers and pointed to the $500 million in federal funds that he secured for Ohio police from a pandemic relief bill.
The Democrat said: “We need more cops. We need better paid cops. And, yeah, we have to get rid of bad cops.”
Ryan even launched a counter-attack, linking the Trump-endorsed Vance to the rioters who stormed the Capitol buildings on 6 January 2021 and caused at least five deaths. Vance has previously sought to raise money for the legal defence of Trump supporters charged in relation to the attack on Congress.
Businessman vs politician
What was perhaps most obvious from Monday’s debate was the difference in personality between the two men, something that both were keen to emphasis.
Vance is an investor who has emphasised his business background and real-world experience, painting himself as an entrepreneur in the mould of Trump. In contrast he claimed that Ryan was a creature of Washington who had failed to deliver after two decades in office.
“He has been failing at his basic job for 20 years,” Vance said of Ryan, who first won election in 2002. “Talks a big game but the record of accomplishment just isn’t there.”
However Ryan pointed to his credentials as a public servant and linked it to his family’s history in the church. He warned that Vance’s business ventures could be a distraction in diplomatic disputes with China and pitched himself as a defender of the working class.
“I’m not going to apologize for spending 20 years slogging away to try to help one of the hardest economically hit regions of Ohio,” he said.