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Vance and Ryan will face off in Ohio's U.S. Senate race in November

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

In Ohio, the November ballot is set for what will be one of the most closely watched U.S. Senate races in the country. Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan will face off against venture capitalist and author J.D. Vance. NPR's national political correspondent Don Gonyea is in Cincinnati watching this race.

So, Don, how did J.D. Vance emerge on top of a crowded field of Republican candidates, each vying to be more pro-Trump than the other?

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Yeah, the GOP primary was just a slugfest, a race full of personal attacks. But you have to give credit to the fact that Vance ultimately got that Trump endorsement. It's something that seemed unlikely early on, given Vance's very strong criticism of Trump back in 2016. But he became a major fan of Trump's over the years. And by the time he entered this race, he was really all in, and Trump gave him his blessing. Here's Vance with supporters last night.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

J D VANCE: I have absolutely got to thank the 45th - the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, ladies and gentlemen.

(APPLAUSE)

VANCE: One, for giving us an example of what could be in this country. Ladies and gentlemen, remember 2019, when wages were going up and not down? Remember 2019, when workers were doing well in this country, not struggling terribly? Thanks to the president for everything.

GONYEA: So look for Trump to be very much front and center in the fall campaign.

FADEL: OK. So let's talk about the Democrats. What's next for Tim Ryan? He's seen as a moderate congressman.

GONYEA: Ryan has essentially been running his general election race for many months now. He boasts of going to all 88 counties, including the deepest red, most hardcore Trump counties in the state. He says he wants to listen to everybody, but he also wants people to see him and hear him. And he talks about bringing Ohio back as a leader in manufacturing. Again, the economy took up a chunk of his victory speech last night.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TIM RYAN: I want us to be builders again. I want us to dominate the electric car industry. I want us to dominate the battery industry. I want us to dominate the electric truck industry. I want us to dominate the chip industry, glass industry, energy in southeast Ohio, aerospace in southwest Ohio. I want us to be the manufacturing powerhouse of the world.

FADEL: Now, Ohio was previously a major swing state and a bellwether for the presidential pick, but it's made a shift to the right. And Trump easily won the state in 2016 and 2020. What does that mean for this race?

GONYEA: It means it's something Ryan has to overcome. Again, Trump won the state big twice. And this economic uncertainty we're looking at now doesn't help Ryan at all. Vance, last night, accused him of trying to be a Trump Democrat. He's got a lot to overcome, but people do expect it to be a race.

FADEL: NPR's Don Gonyea. Thanks, Don.

GONYEA: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOUSE ON THE KEYS' "PHASES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.