Jul 20, 2022 - Politics

Tim Ryan's ad strategy: Run to the right

U.S. Senate candidate Tim Ryan at a campaign event.
U.S. Senate candidate Tim Ryan speaks at his Democratic primary election victory event in Columbus on May 3. Photo: Matthew Hatcher/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Democrat Tim Ryan is using his fundraising advantage over Republican J.D. Vance in Ohio's Senate race to define himself as conservative-friendly, Axios' Josh Kraushaar reports.

Driving the news: Ryan's latest TV ad to target GOP audiences, which aired exclusively on Fox News, shows him receiving praise from conservative hosts like Tucker Carlson.

  • Previous ads have highlighted the Democrat's policy agreements with Donald Trump and disagreements with Barack Obama.
  • Vance's campaign, meanwhile, remains silent on the airwaves.

State of play: Ryan, a 10-term congressman from the Youngstown area, once coasted to re-election in a state Obama won in 2008 and 2012.

  • But both Ryan's district and the state have shifted right since then, with Trump winning the state by an eight-point margin in his two times on the ballot.

Zoom in: David Niven, an associate professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati and former Democratic Party speech writer, points to Pike County in southern Ohio as evidence that the unorthodox campaign gambit could be the right strategy.

  • Pike was an evenly split county in 2012, but three-quarters of voters went for Trump in 2020.

What he's saying: High turnout among Democratic voters is not enough to win a statewide campaign anymore, Niven tells Axios Columbus.

  • "Not in 2022. Maybe 10 years ago."

The big picture: Though Ryan's campaign has spent $6.4 million on TV ads since winning the primary in May, Vance hasn't spent a dime.

  • Protect Ohio Values, the pro-Vance super PAC funded by venture capitalist Peter Thiel, has only raised $675,800 since Vance won the bruising, crowded GOP primary, according to Cleveland.com.

The bottom line: Ryan's gambit to attract culturally conservative voters is viewed as his only chance to maintain his fundraising lead and overcome the odds on election day.

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