A group aligned with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is buying $28 million worth of airtime to boost Senate hopeful J.D. Vance in Ohio - the latest spending spree for the "Hillbilly Elegy" author amid concerns about his strength in a GOP-leaning state.
TV and radio ads from the Senate Leadership Fund will begin Sept. 6 and run statewide through Election Day, a spokesperson said. Cleveland.com was first to report the investment.
Vance's campaign has drawn criticism from Republicans at the local and national levels since he won a nasty and crowded primary in May. His Democratic opponent, Rep. Tim Ryan, has spent the summer saturating airwaves with a GOP-friendly message. Meanwhile, other Republican Senate candidates in battlegrounds that ordinarily would be more competitive than Ohio - Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania and Herschel Walker in Georgia - have struggled with their own campaigns, raising questions about how thin the party's resources might be spread this fall.
"Every dollar spent on his race is a dollar not spent in a more competitive state," one national Republican operative with deep Ohio experience recently told NBC News, referencing plans by outside spending groups to prop up Vance that began surfacing earlier this month. The operative requested anonymity to speak candidly about intraparty frustrations.
Up until a recent burst of activity that will include a Friday appearance in Youngstown with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Vance had been keeping a low profile. His campaign ended the last fundraising quarter owing more money than it had on hand. And a poll released Thursday by Emerson College found the race in a statistical dead heat, with Vance at 45% and Ryan at 42% after a survey of likely voters. Former President Donald Trump won Ohio by 8 percentage points in 2016 and 2020, and Sen. Rob Portman, the Republican whose retirement has opened the seat for which Vance and Ryan are battling, was re-elected by more than 20 points in 2016.
"Tim Ryan has been living a lie, spending millions unopposed to sell voters on a version of himself that doesn't square with reality," Steven Law, the Senate Leadership Fund's president, said in an emailed statement. "That's about to change as Ohioans get a clear picture of the real Ryan who votes down the line with Pelosi and Biden in Washington."
The Senate Leadership Fund's $28 million play in Ohio ranks the state third - behind Georgia and Pennsylvania - in the group's advertising commitments between Labor Day and Election Day, though such figures often reflect the cost of certain media markets more than the actual competitiveness of a state. The ad blitz also follows a $3.8 million effort announced by another McConnell-aligned group earlier this month. Vance himself has relied on the National Republican Senatorial Committee to help fund a separate $1 million ad buy that includes an introductory spot featuring Vance's wife Usha speaking straight-to-camera.
"I've been a fan of Vance from the beginning because a poor kid from Middletown uniquely understands the needs of our state," said the GOP operative with Ohio ties, noting Vance's southwest Ohio upbringing, which was documented in his bestselling memoir-turned-movie. "But if he can't raise money, he can't get to the Senate."
A representative from Vance's campaign declined to comment on the assist.
Ryan's aides and allies - who have spent the last week trying to characterize Vance as an interloper who is more comfortable in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, where his venture capital work has taken him - responded with glee.
"There's no amount of money in this world that will convince voters here that Vance is anything but an out-of-touch phony who already sold out Ohioans once for his own gain and would do it again in a heartbeat," Ryan spokesperson Izzi Levy said. "Even Republicans admit Vance is a terrible candidate running a terrible race, and McConnell's multimillion-dollar bailout isn't going to change that."