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Keeping Ohio red, Republican Vance wins US Senate race

The author and venture capitalist backed by former President Donald Trump won the race to replace a retiring Republican senator and further solidified the Buckeye State as a GOP stronghold.

(CN) — Despite favorable polls in the run-up to Election Day, Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan was unable to pull off an upset in Ohio's U.S. Senate race as J.D. Vance kept Republicans' streak of high-profile victories in the Buckeye State alive with a comfortable win.

As of Wednesday morning, Vance held a lead of nearly 7 percentage points with over 97% of precincts reporting in the battle to replace retiring Republican Senator Rob Portman,

In a race characterized by massive spending and vitriolic attack ads from both candidates, Vance struck a more measured tone in his victory speech and said he was "overwhelmed by gratitude."

He mentioned the sweep of wins by the Ohio Republican Party, including the reelection of Governor Mike DeWine, and told the crowd "we just got a great chance to govern and we need to use it."

"I promise to all of my friends who are going to be in the statehouse," Vance continued, "we need better leadership in Washington, D.C., and that's what I'm going to fight for every single day."

Ryan took an early lead when results started to come in – mainly from early voting tallies – but Vance quickly narrowed the gap and established a comfortable lead as the night went on.

The result is not unexpected, given Ohio's trend in recent elections, but Ryan's stance as a moderate, working-class candidate gave Democrats a glimmer of hope.

Courthouse News spoke with David Niven, associate professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati, about Ohio's shift from bellwether to Republican stronghold over the past decade.

"Ohio was competitive because of its economy," he said. "It was never competitive because of its demographics. Ohio was competitive because our economy matched the country. Manufacturing, agriculture, Ohio's economy was a little slice of America that way."

Niven said as the line between rich and poor has softened, the Republican demographics and culture of the state have taken over, giving Democrats hope only with "an absolutely extraordinary campaign."

Speaking in front of a podium with a "Workers First" sign at his concession speech, Ryan, a native of Niles, Ohio, said he was "filled with gratitude" and thanked his team for organizing "the best-run campaign in the entire United States."

"What I said [during the campaign], I meant," he continued. "This country, we have too much hate, we have too much anger, there's way too much fear, there's way too much division. We need more love and we need more compassion. ... We have to leave the age of stupidity behind us."

Ryan highlighted his decision to concede to Vance, and emphasized that "the way this country operates, when you lose an election, you concede, and you respect the will of the people."

Vance acknowledged Ryan's concession in his speech, but spoke at length about getting to work in Washington.

"The people of Ohio have given us a job," he said, "and what we need to do over the next six years ... is to go to work every single day and fight for the people of Ohio."

Notably absent from Vance's speech was any mention of Donald Trump, whose endorsement helped him secure the nomination in the May primary, and the omission was noticed by Niven as well.

"I think it's very interesting that Vance didn't thank Trump when there's absolutely no chance Vance would have been on that stage without Trump," he said.

"But this is politics," Niven continued. "You're either ascending or descending at any given moment. And Donald Trump right now is in descent. He has, on his plate, a lot of losses last night, and a lot of angered Republicans who feel like opportunities were missed in a good midterm pickup year."

Looking forward to the 2024 election cycle, Ohio Republicans will seek to strengthen their grip on the state and oust Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, who has already said he will seek reelection.

Niven pointed to a paradigm shift over the past generation that has seen the number of senators elected from the party opposite of that supported by the state in the presidential election dwindle.

This sea change does not bode well for Brown, according to Niven, given that Ohio voted overwhelmingly for Trump in both 2016 and 2020.

"The realistic scenario is that he could use a couple lucky breaks, [and an opponent] who is not going to run a strong or smart campaign against him," he said. "Bottom line, it is an uphill fight, even for Sherrod Brown."

Republicans in the Buckeye State have a strong stable of candidates as well, according to Niven, many of whom will start to jockey for position in the immediate aftermath of Vance's win on Tuesday.

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