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National Democrats Ignore Ohio Senate Race, Leaving Tim Ryan ‘All Lonely’

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CLEVELAND — Democrats increasingly fear they’re wasting a chance to turn over a Senate seat in Ohio — a state that once seemed off the map, but polls say is persisting close to four weeks from Election Day.

Although Republican author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” JD Vance, has struggled to raise money, national groups have supported his campaign by pumping in more than $30 million in ads.

Rep. Tim Ryan, the Democratic nominee, is a more productive fundraiser. But because national Democratic groups have offered relatively little help on the air, Ryan had to spend money ASAP to keep up with the GOP’s onslaught.

According to interviews with a dozen party leaders and agents, the lopsided funding has made Democrats nervous in Ohio and nationwide. Many worry that Democrats will regret not doing more to pull Ryan for Vance, a right-wing ally of former President Donald Trump.

“Tim Ryan is running the best Senate race in the country and has to do it all alone,” said Irene Lin, an Ohio-based Democratic strategist who led this year’s Tom Nelson Senate primaries in Wisconsin. “If we lose this race by a few points, and the majority of the Senate, the blame should fall entirely on the DC troops who have unfairly written off Ohio.”

In an interview with NBC News after a campaign appearance Saturday in Cleveland, Ryan sounded resigned to going it alone.

“The National Democrats…they try to talk a working class candidate down, it’s like pulling teeth sometimes,” Ryan said as he threw a football with his 8-year-old son in a parking lot behind an Irish pub. “We’re in Ohio and there’s a candidate walking around wearing a tin foil hat. We fight here alone. I mean, it’s David versus Goliath.’

Ryan and Vance want to succeed Senator Rob Portman, a Republican who is not running for re-election. Independent polls suggest the race is a shot, with both candidates falling within the margin of error by a narrow margin. The candidates meet Monday night in Cleveland for the first of two televised debates.

After losing two presidential campaigns and a race for governor in the state since 2016, national Democrats are wary of spending in Ohio, once a quintessential battleground. Republicans treat it like a state they can’t afford to lose.

Trump’s super PAC was the last group to jump into the race, set aside more than $1 million in ads last week. The barrage includes a place Ryan, who has portrayed himself as a moderate, as a party voter indebted to Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. But even the Schumer-aligned Senate majority PAC, a major presence in other states that is key to determining partisan control of the chamber, has been largely absent in Ohio.

Through Monday, Republicans had spent or set aside at least $37.9 million on ads, according to AdImpact, an ad tracking company. Only $3.7 million of that came directly from Vance’s campaign, with another $1.6 million split between the campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee through coordinated advertising.

On the Democratic side, Ryan’s campaign accounted for $24 million of the more than $29 million spent or set aside on Election Day and distributed another $835,000 with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Other outside Democratic groups had pledged only $4.5 million to the race — about 14% of what the GOP groups spend.

Ryan said the lack of national spending hasn’t frustrated him and that, because of the generosity behind him, Vance would owe more favors if he wins.

“The perspectives on it,” Ryan added, “are in my favor.”

Others are more willing to file complaints on Ryan’s behalf.

When campaign manager Dave Chase tweeted on tight polls last week, he noted how Ryan has “defended his lead without outside spending from national Dem groups.”

Justin Barasky, the campaign’s media strategist, claimed Ryan would lock the race if he weren’t for the heavy investment of National Republicans.

“JD Vance is benefiting from an unprecedented amount of outside spending in Ohio,” said Barasky, who led Senator Sherrod Brown’s 2018 re-election campaign in the state. “Without it, the race would be over.”

Another Democratic agent closely watching the race was blunt when asked about the lack of Democratic funding.

“It’s malpractice,” the officer said, asking for anonymity to speak candidly.

This year’s Senate map presents tough decisions for leaders of both parties. Democrats, who control the 50-50 chamber with the casting vote of Vice President Kamala Harris, are playing defense in Arizona, Georgia and Nevada — exciting games, all of them.

“I think the Democrats have a lot of incumbents they need to try to protect, and that’s always the #1 priority,” former Senator Doug Jones, D-Ala., said in an interview Saturday while helping Ryan with recruiting efforts in Cleveland. .

At the same time, Democrats have treated Pennsylvania and Wisconsin as more attractive pick-up options. And Schumer’s Senate Majority PAC reserved more airtime last week in North Carolina, a state where Democrats haven’t won a Senate seat since 2008. Brown, on the other hand, has since been re-elected twice to Ohio, a data point Ryan’s allies dutifully cite.

The state is not completely off the national radar for Democrats. Guy Cecil, the chairman of Priorities USA, a major Democratic super PAC, tweeted a plea late last month on “Give What You Can” to Ryan. A spokesperson for the group said Priorities is monitoring the race but had no announcements about plans to get financially involved. Cecil’s tweet irritated some Ryan allies who saw it as condescending.

Other National Democrats have tipped their hats to Ryan, noting how his moderate message has put the seat within striking distance, if not higher, on the party’s priority list.

“Tim Ryan is on a strong race that has put Republicans on the defensive,” said David Bergstein, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. He emphasized the organization’s support “through coordinated television spending.”

Both candidates spent the week leading up to their first debate storming the state — Vance with Donald Trump Jr., Ryan in a newly debuted tour bus.

After campaigning Wednesday at a police association near Columbus, Vance questioned the veracity of the polls, while also arguing that the reason Ryan is doing well in them is because voters mistakenly identify the Democrat as a moderate. ‘diet version of me’.

“What polls consistently do is it keeps the working-class white voters below the poll, who are an important part of my base in my campaign, an important part of who I’m trying to appeal to,” Vance added.

Ryan spent Saturday at two Cleveland events, making Vance too extreme for Ohio.

“We’re not going to send someone sitting in the Senate with a tinfoil hat on, waiting for the black helicopters to come,” Ryan said at one stop, keeping his comments brief as guests secretly watched the TVs above the bar as the Cleveland Guardians went into extra innings of a playoff game, they would eventually win.

The event was hosted by Cleveland City Council President Blaine Griffin, a local Democrat. In an interview, Griffin said he understood Democrats’ focus on the Southwest and Southeast, but urged them not to sleep with Ryan.

“The National Democrats have run away from Ohio prematurely,” Griffin said. “We need to make sure they recognize that this is still a state that is at stake.”


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