Ohio GOP Senate Candidate J.D. Vance Bets His Election on Illegal Immigration

J.D. Vance is relying on illegal immigration to save his Ohio Senate campaign and win the Republican nomination. He’s doing this in a red state primary that is very important for the party.

Vance has been trapped in the center of a crowded Republican race, despite recent polling for his super PAC showing him in a three-way split for first.

In the last few weeks until the May 3 primary, Vance focuses almost completely on illegal immigration along the southern border, with a personal touch.

Focus on Immigration

“Nearly every poll in Ohio and nationwide shows immigration as one of the two leading topics that Republican voters worry about,” said Andy Surabian, senior advisor to the Vance campaign.

“J.D. stands out because he doesn’t merely rehash talking points.”


This week, a new politically heated television commercial revealed Vance’s immigration plan.

For suggesting that the federal government complete the development of a security fence along the southern border, started by former President Trump and suspended by President Biden, Vance dismissed allegations of bigotry.

Toward the end of the video, Vance deems the wall critical to halting illegal immigration and the drug trafficking from Mexico that it enables, destroying Ohio families like his.

Protect Ohio Values, Vance’s super PAC, is airing television commercials to reinforce this point. Earlier last year, the organization advised Vance to focus on illegal immigration.

An adviser to Vance’s Senate campaign said illegal immigration is the perfect topic for the first-time candidate. It aligns with his populist message and taps into Republican resistance to Biden’s plan.

On that front, Biden’s move to lift Title 42 immigration limitations in reaction to the coronavirus outbreak couldn’t have come at a better time for Vance.

A Pivot

Vance’s late-season messaging pivot was also a subtle admission that his biography-focused campaign wasn’t working.

He became a national name when sales of his best-selling novel, Hillbilly Elegy, skyrocketed, amid the attention given to white working-class people who supported Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

In a contest dominated by rich entrepreneur Mike Gibbons and former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, linking illegal immigration to the horrors of the illicit drug trade may resonate with GOP voters.

However, Vance hasn’t won over all the Republican elites in Ohio. It is being questioned whether the Republican chose to personalize it with his family’s background.

“He’s attempting to get back into the race by using a proven strategy, a good issue. Part of it is because Americans don’t know who he is,” a GOP source said, seeking anonymity to talk frankly.

Trump has yet to support a contender in the primary, but recently said he will. Former Trump critic Vance is now a Trump fan, a change his Republican opponents believe would wreck him.

Early voting in Ohio has begun. Sen. Rob Portman backed former Ohio GOP Chairperson Jane Timken.