PERRYSBURG, Ohio — In the final stretch of Ohio’s competitive U.S. Senate race, Republican JD Vance brought Donald Trump Jr. into town to tour the state with him.

What You Need To Know

  • Ohio U.S. Senate candidate JD Vance campaigned with Donald Trump Jr. last week

  • With less than a month to go until Election Day, Vance is continuing to pitch himself to voters as a pro-Trump candidate

  • Early voting starts Wednesday, Oct. 12

  • Spectrum News spent a day on the trail with Vance and his opponent, Democrat Tim Ryan

At campaign stops in Perrysburg, Caledonia and Columbus, the two wasted no time going after Vance’s opponent, Democrat Tim Ryan. 

“On issue after issue after issue, he says in his well-produced TV commercials that he’s one thing, but in D.C., Tim Ryan is a rubber stamp radical for Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden,” Vance told the crowd gathered in Caledonia. 

During a “Back the Blue” rally in Columbus, Trump Jr. emphasized to the crowd that Ryan “has voted 100% with Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden.”

Ahead of Election Day on Nov. 8, early voting starts in Ohio on Oct. 12. 

Independent polling showed the Senate race is statistically tied, as Vance and Ryan compete to succeed retiring Sen. Rob Portman (R).

Ryan has spent tens of millions of dollars on an aggressive TV ad campaign that bills him as a moderate Democrat.

“Patriotism means supporting the American worker, which is why I voted with Trump on trade,” he says in one.

It has helped Ryan break fundraising records and keep the race tight, in a state former President Donald Trump won twice by eight points.

But Vance is quick to remind voters that Ryan has fully supported President Joe Biden’s agenda. 

While speaking with reporters after his event in Perrysburg, Vance told Spectrum News he doesn’t think polls can be trusted after they under counted Trump’s support in the Buckeye State.

“I don’t think this race is that close,” Vance said. “I think that Tim Ryan has sold a false bill of goods that he’s a moderate. He’s tried to keep it close by lying to the people of Ohio. Unfortunately for him, I think the people of Ohio are much smarter than he bet on.”

Across the country, some Republican candidates have made a shift. They ran to the far right in their primary elections, but are now running more toward the center in the general.

But Vance never made a change. He’s still campaigning closely with the Trump family and on a pro-Trump platform. He’s made clear that he thinks it will appeal to an array of voters.

During his tour with Trump Jr. last week, Vance stuck to core Republican talking points like closing the border, supporting law enforcement and bashing the media.

He accused Ryan of being two-faced, even though Vance has faced similar accusations for evolving from a self-described “Never Trumper” in 2016 to fully embracing the former president as Vance entered politics.

“One of those things is a change of heart. Another of those things is, you’re clearly just presenting yourself as a fraudulent moderate, as Don said, so you can win votes,” Vance told Spectrum News after his event in Caledonia.

Trump Jr. added: “In 2016, don’t forget, I’d say just about everyone in the Republican Party was skeptical of Donald Trump. JD is honest enough to come out and be like, ‘Hey, I was wrong. I didn’t know that he’d be able to actually get those things done.’ And he did.”

The former president held a rally for Vance in northeast Ohio last month and described Vance’s evolution in blunt language.

“JD is kissing my a**, he wants my support so bad!” Trump said.

Leaning heavily on Trump can be a double-edged sword. While the strategy can excite Republican voters, it also can repel Democrats and some Independents.

Vance appears willing to take that risk in a state Trump carried twice.

Perhaps not surprisingly, voters who came out to see Vance and Trump Jr. think Vance is smart to tie himself to the former president.

“I’m a big Trump fan, so being aligned with the Trump family doesn’t bother me,” said Laurie Lucas, who lives in Defiance and came to Vance’s event in Perrysburg.

Patricia Jameson, of Perrysburg, felt similarly. 

“I’m so glad he now turned around, and I will vote for him no matter what,” she said of Vance.

Though Ryan has been raising more money than Vance, a new Trump-backed super PAC has launched ads to help Vance; and a group close to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is spending close to $30 million on advertising so Vance can keep up.

Vance insists that running on a pro-Trump platform will be enough to win.

“I think at the end of the day, my argument—whether you love Donald Trump or don’t like Donald Trump—is there are issues unacceptably going on in this country right now,” Vance told Spectrum News after his event in Columbus. “We have a wide open border, we have a terrible crime problem, a terrible inflation problem. We don’t have to live like this, but we need better leadership to prevent these issues.”

Spectrum News also spent time on the trail last week with Ryan, Vance’s Democratic opponent. That report will be published Oct. 11.