“National Democrats are notorious for not making very good policy decisions over the years,” Ryan said in an interview with The Washington Post. “There’s frustration among rank-and-file Democrats that the leadership doesn’t quite understand where we want this party to be.”
In the final weeks of the midterms, super PACs and other bipartisan-aligned outside groups are forced to make tough decisions about where to spend their money on TV ads and other advocacy to boost preferred candidates. The considerations are particularly complex this fall, with Democrats defending a narrow Senate majority in a landscape that features several close races in expensive states.
Ryan said his campaign has shown Democrats can still appeal to working-class voters who turned away from the party in recent elections, and questioned why Democratic leaders “don’t smell of blood” and come in the state to help defeat Vance.
“We have 350,000 donors,” Ryan said. “It’s the people who are frustrated.”
Vance and Ryan won their respective nominations on May 3, and since then Ryan-aligned groups have been spent significantly more than Vance-aligned groups, according to data from AdImpact, which tracks such spending. The Senate Majority PAC, the main outside Democratic spending group for Senate races, hasn’t spent any money in Ohio, though several other organizations have collectively spent seven figures on Ryan’s behalf, the data shows. .
But a flood of outside Republican money has brought the two sides into a roughly even overall spending fight, with the campaign’s own advertising investments taken into account. Ryan’s campaign, which significantly outpaced Vance’s in fundraising, spent or booked far more than Vance, according to AdImpact data.
The majority of outside GOP spending comes from the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), which has spent or earmarked about $30 million so far of the ballot, according to data from AdImpact. For Republicans who can ill afford to give up a seat they control as they seek a Senate majority, there is a party-wide agreement they must win in Ohio.
As races funded by major Democratic groups tighten, Ryan and his allies said the race in Ohio presented a real opportunity to overthrow a Senate seat held by Republicans. They expressed concern that the party’s recent history of losses in the state is preventing the national party from seizing a chance of overthrow.
Ryan’s allies pointed to Senate contests in North Carolina and Wisconsin where the Senate Majority PAC spent $15 million and $17 million respectfully. These races are also pick-up opportunities with polls showing equally competitive competitions. Another pick-up opportunity for Democrats is Pennsylvania, where the Senate Majority PAC has contributed $42 million. The polls show the Democratic candidate in the lead.
Ryan’s campaign manager David Chase recently voiced his concern on social media. “@TimRyan defended his lead,” Chase wrote. “PA is now the only D to pick up the polls better than us.”
JB Poersch, who leads the Senate Majority PAC, said in a statement that Ryan was “running a remarkably strong campaign” and “putting Republicans on the defense.”
He added that the committee’s spending plan remains fluid. “We will continue to make strategic and effective decisions that put us in the best possible position to accomplish our mission: to defend our Democratic majority in the Senate.”
For many Democrats, Ohio represents something of a trap, a state of Lucy and football where the party has tried time and again to win in recent years, only to fail. Hillary Clinton lost about eight percentage points there in 2016. Joe Biden lost Ohio by a similar margin in 2020, despite a last-minute push that included a whistle-stop train tour that started in the state.
Although Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) released what the party considers an impressive streak of victories in the state, other Democrats were unable to replicate his formula. Making matters more complicated for Ryan, this year’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee Nan Whaley is voting far behind – suggesting that to win Ryan would need GOP voters to split their vote.
“Ohio is the battleground of the past,” said North Carolina-based Democratic strategist Morgan Jackson. He argued that North Carolina shows a better trend line for Democrats as the electorate grows and adds more college-educated voters who tend to support Democrats. “Every year, North Carolina gets a little bluer.”
Beasley’s campaign noted that Donald Trump won North Carolina by less than two points, a display that marked his narrowest margin of victory of any state he wore, and pointed to Beasley’s previous victories at statewide in court races. Barnes’ campaign pointed to some public polls showing his race is tied there and argued he has the ability to excite voters who typically don’t show up midterm.
Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who chairs the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, called Ryan an “absolutely phenomenal candidate” who “needs the resources,” in a recent interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who told him. pushed to explain why the national party is not putting more money into the race.
Greg Schultz, an Ohio native who led Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign, said Ohio has “broken many people’s hearts many, many times.” Still, he argued there was an opportunity for Democrats in the race. Schultz said it would be helpful if a Democratic group “saturation redeemed” Ohio TV ads with contrast points. This would allow Ryan to redirect his resources to all the positive publicity.
Vance won Trump’s endorsement in a crowded GOP field in the spring. But he struggled over the summer to consolidate support and remained bruised by ads funded by GOP rivals in the primary that showed him making negative comments about Trump in the past. Before moving on to the former president, Vance had described himself as a “never Trump” and said Trump’s plans ranged “from the immoral to the absurd.” Vance’s team said they had repaired the cracks in the primary and were confident Trump supporters would come out.
Not helping Ryan sends a broader message that Democrats are abandoning the state, some party members say. “I’m afraid the Democrats in Washington are sending a signal to the Republicans, that if they come in droves and attack a Democrat, the Democrats leave,” said David Pepper, former chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party. .
Ryan’s not-so-subtle demands for more outside help from Democrats could threaten to undermine one of his candidacy’s key strengths: his independence from the Democratic Party.
Monday night, during the second and final Ohio Senate debate, Vance attacked him for his pleas. “The guy who’s subordinate to the national party is Tim Ryan, who begged these guys to get into this race and save him from the campaign he’s running,” Vance said during the debate.
Ryan later countered that Republicans had put millions behind Vance. “JD, what do you think they want for this?” They want your loyalty.