Can the Democrats win back working-class voters? Watch the Senate race in Ohio.

Placeholder while loading article actions

Few issues have irked Democrats more than the longstanding defection of working-class white voters to the Republican Party. The upcoming Ohio Senate race will test whether the Democrats have a formula to win back some of them.

Ohio Republicans have just emerged from one of the most expensive Senate primaries in history, with a fractured field and months-long heated debate. The winner was JD Vance, a Yale-educated Silicon Valley venture capitalist who surged late in the campaign after winning an endorsement from former President Donald Trump. The author of a bestselling book, “Hillbilly Elegy,” Vance pilloried Trump in 2016, but has learned to see Trump in a new light as a Senate candidate.

The Democratic candidate is Rep. Tim Ryan, a 10-term House member who represents a district in northeastern Ohio that has suffered from declining manufacturing in the United States and sending jobs to the stranger. He is a graduate of Bowling Green University and the Franklin Pierce School of Law.

Ryan once challenged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) for House Democratic leader and unsuccessfully sought the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. He is a centrist who has become more progressive, once opposed to abortion rights and now supports it. . He has always opposed free trade agreements that have hurt his district and the entire state and walked out the door speaking out against those in his party who have called for defunding the police.

As the race prepares today, it will feature two candidates who will both try to claim the role of populist ally of the working class voter.

In his victory speech on Tuesday night, Vance said, “People who are caught between the corrupt political class on the left and the right need a voice. They need a representative. And it will be me.

The next morning, Ryan told CBS News, “I just came from outside of Youngstown. And I take on whoever needs to be attacked – China, corporate interests, whoever is going after my people.

The two will be competing to succeed Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who is retiring after two terms in the Senate and a long career in Washington that has included House and executive branch service.

Ohio was once a swing state in presidential campaigns, albeit with a slight Republican slant. Democratic presidential candidates have generally seen their percentage of votes in Ohio fall just a few points below their national percentage. Since Trump arrived on the scene, that has changed dramatically. The former president won Ohio twice by eight percentage point margins, which by state standards is a landslide.

Ryan’s appeal to Ohio voters: Trust the Democrats again.

The shift has occurred in areas outside of major cities, in the northeastern part of the state, in eastern and southeastern Appalachian counties of Ohio, and in rural parts of the western parts of the state. Trump rolled up huge margins in those counties and increased turnout as well. Even as urban and suburban areas turned to Democrats, other parts of the state more than compensated. Some Democrats now consider Ohio a red state.

Unlike neighboring Michigan and Pennsylvania, which share some of its demographics but have been more Democratic-friendly overall, Ohio has emerged out of reach for Democratic candidates running statewide. . The only exception is Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), whose progressive populism has helped him buck trends.

Which brings the story back to the Senate race and the populist rhetoric that will be featured. But if both Vance and Ryan say they best represent working-class voters, they’ll likely do so from different angles and with different accents.

Vance has become a follower of Trump’s anti-elite posturing. From the perspective of his campaign team, the main appeal will go to voters who they believe have lost confidence and faith, who feel not only economically stressed but, more importantly, left behind and despised by the political powers. in power in Washington and the cultural and economic elite — what one Vance adviser called government, the media, big business, academia, and nonprofits.

“The middle class and the working middle class feel like everyone’s turned their backs on them,” said Vance’s adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss campaign strategy. “It’s not just stupid decisions [by government and others]. It’s just, ‘You really don’t care about us.’

Vance’s advisers don’t think the nominee’s conversion from Trump foe to Trump sidekick will be a matter of concern in the general election, though they anticipate the media and Democrats will try to stay the course. Their view is that the media and Democrats are out of touch with these disgruntled voters.

Vance wins Ohio Senate primary, backed by Trump

That’s the challenge for Ryan, to find a way to appeal and connect with voters who have lost faith in the Democratic Party and feel the party no longer reflects their values ​​or interests. “There’s no question these people have walked away,” said an adviser to Ryan who also spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about the campaign. “We have to be there, we have to talk with these people. They have to meet Tim. Its ads must be targeted. People need to feel that he has their interests and their backs. We have to contrast JD Vance.

Ryan has already signaled in his announcements how he hopes to achieve this. He will try to separate himself from those aspects of the Democratic Party that have alienated working-class voters. Beyond the question of delinquency and the funding of the police, it will highlight the problems at the border and the question of immigration. He will be tough on China and free trade pacts in general.

And he will attempt to portray Vance as the elitist of the race, someone who had left Ohio to earn his money and whose candidacy was aided by millions of dollars from billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel. Some Democratic strategists say Ryan will need to make the issue of money and corporate power central to his message against Vance to appeal to disgruntled working-class voters.

Ryan also hopes to sidestep the issue that has been a key reason Democrats have lost support among working-class voters. “You want culture wars? I’m not your man,” he says in one of his ads. But that doesn’t mean cultural issues won’t be part of the campaign and potentially to the Democrat’s detriment.

The only joker will be abortion. Ryan once called himself a pro-lifer, but gradually changed to supporting abortion rights. The possible reversal of Roe vs. Wade will inject the issue into virtually every campaign this fall, and both Vance and Ryan’s teams will have to navigate the new landscape. For Ryan, it’s a potential help in suburban areas of the state.

Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg said Ryan has the potential to both win support from working-class white voters who have drifted away from the Democratic Party and potentially win support from establishment Republicans who have grown disenchanted with a party dominated by Trump. But, like others, Greenberg sees Ohio’s overall landscape as challenging for a Democrat and the national trends this election year as formidable for Ryan’s candidacy.

Given these two factors, Vance begins the overall election campaign as a narrow frontrunner, although both sides expect a tough and competitive race. Ryan seems better positioned than some other members of his party to solicit the voter support the Democratic Party has lost over the years. But he’ll have to collect buckets of cash, find consistency in his campaign message, and hope voters find him personally more appealing than Vance. Even then, he will have to execute everything with precision.

Yet there will be few races that explore in more detail the question of why the Democrats lost ground with voters who were once a vital part of their coalition, and whether there is a way to stop and reverse these trends.


Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
Back to top button