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J.D. Vance works the Fourth of July parade in Lancaster, Ohio, on Monday. Photo via J.D. Vance/Twitter

Culture wars, Big Tech and economic populism — including inflation, gas prices, immigration and jobs to China. For a preview of many of the themes that'll drive American politics in next year's midterms and even beyond, watch J.D. Vance, the "Hillbilly Elegy" author who's running for U.S. Senate in Ohio.

Why he matters: Vance, 36, last week joined a crowded GOP primary field to succeed retiring Sen. Rob Portman. If Vance won the primary (no sure thing), he'd be the favorite to win the seat — and instantly would be talked about as a presidential possibility.

Vance told me in a phone interview from Cincinnati that so-called cancel culture was a big part of conservatives' conversation as he worked Fourth of July parades over the holiday weekend.

  • "People are terrified that if they speak their minds about what's going on in the country, they're going to lose their job," he said. "'If I say that I voted for Trump on Facebook, somebody's going to try to get me fired."
  • "You can basically give people the right to sue companies that they're fired for their political views," he added. "I think that would benefit a lot of Republican voters in Ohio quite a bit."

On Big Tech, Vance said his "least radical option" would be to protect political expression "so you can't censor people based on their political viewpoint," including banning them from platforms.

  • Vance said antitrust remedies "effectively recognize that, so long as these companies are too powerful, there's no real way to control them. ... You break them up, and you make them less powerful actors."
  • Vance said he'd consider a "strike at the heart of the entire digital technology business model," by banning the collection of certain data or even banning the sale of advertising targeted at individuals.

On bringing jobs to Ohio from California and elsewhere, Vance said the Buckeye State should lean into cheap energy for manufacturing:

  • "If Ohio is allowed to flourish as an energy capital of the country, it won't just benefit oil and natural gas providers, it won't just mean lower gasoline at the pump. It will also mean better margins for our manufacturers, which will create a lot of jobs."

Vance was against Donald Trump in 2016 but strongly for him in 2020. "[I]f I actually care about these people and the things I say I care about, I need to just suck it up and support him," Vance told TIME's Molly Ball.

  • The Vance camp points out the warm words the candidate has gotten from Fox News' Tucker Carlson and top MAGA personality Charlie Kirk, founder and president of Turning Point USA.

I asked Vance how campaigning differs from a book tour. "It's different to sell a set of problems than it is to sell a set of solutions," he said. "In a book, you can just talk about the problems. That's much easier."

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Go deeper

J.D. Vance addresses tweets slamming Trump: "I regret being wrong"

J.D. Vance, venture capitalist and author of "Hillbilly Elegy." Photo: Astrid Riecken for the Washington Post via Getty Images

Author J.D. Vance, who's running in the Ohio Republican race for a U.S. Senate seat, addressed on Fox News Monday his since-deleted tweets criticizing former President Trump.

Why it matters: The venture capitalist and now-vocal Trump supporter has been accused of hypocrisy and "flip-flopping" after CNN's Andrew Kaczynski last week shared screenshots of the 2016 tweets in which Vance said the then-presidential candidate's comments on "Immigrants, Muslims, etc." were "reprehensible."

51 mins ago - World

Zelensky questions U.S. warnings of "imminent" invasion in Biden call

Biden and Zelensky at the White House last October. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty

President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had a back-and-forth in their call this evening about just how "imminent" the threat of a Russian invasion might be, according to three sources briefed on the call.

Why it matters: Biden has said previously that he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin will probably "move in" to Ukraine, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday afternoon that "an invasion could come at any time."

Democrats stiff Biden as poll numbers hit low point

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Democrats in swing states and vulnerable districts in this year's pivotal midterms are distancing themselves from President Biden on social media as his poll numbers hit their lowest point.

Why it matters: The digital distance is one sign of the concern candidates feel about a person they'd normally embrace. Incumbent presidents — including one who believes he needs to come to their hometowns to sell his message — would normally be political gold for candidates from the same party.