Tim Ryan didn’t hold back during a debate against J.D. Vance in the Ohio Senate race. The congressman called his opponent an “ass-kisser” — a callback to when the former president said at a rally that Vance was “in love with me” and “kissing my ass.”
“I’m from Ohio,” Ryan said during a Monday night debate. “I don’t kiss anyone’s ass like him. Ohio needs an ass kicker not an ass-kisser.”
“After Trump took J.D. Vance’s dignity from him on stage in Youngstown,” Ryan said, referring to a September rally featuring Trump and Vance. “J.D. Vance got back on stage, shook his hand, started taking pictures, saying, ‘Hey, aren’t we having a great time here tonight?’ I don’t know anybody … that would allow somebody to take their dignity like that and then get back up on stage.”
Trump made the comment about Vance while trying to refute a New York Times story from earlier in the month that pointed out Trump decided to hold the rally in the state without first receiving an invitation from Vance. According to The Times, Vance and other candidates endorsed by Trump had been keeping their distance from the former president in an attempt to avoid alienating independent voters.
“J.D. is kissing my ass. Of course he wants my support,” Trump told the crowd. “The entire MAGA movement is for J.D. Vance.”
Vance hasn’t always been a fan of Trump. He once said in 2016 that Trump could possibly be “America’s Hitler” and repeatedly said racism was the reason he became popular. Also that year, he told Charlie Rose, “I’m a Never Trump guy. I never liked him.” Since then, Vance has publicly pivoted to embracing Trump and his lies about the 2020 election, and now Trump has endorsed his Senate run (thanks in part to Tucker Carlson).
During the debate, Ryan also went after Vance for his role in Our Ohio Renewal, a charity Vance promoted as helping treat opioid addiction, an issue he highlighted in his book Hillbilly Elegy. Ryan has attacked Vance for his affiliation with the now-closed organization. Per The Times, the non-profit “wasn’t a sham but it was unsuccessful.”
“You know what I haven’t done?” Ryan said. “I didn’t start a fake non-profit pretending I was gonna help people with addition, like J.D. Vance did. Literally started a non-profit and didn’t spend one nickel on anybody. In fact, he brought in somebody from Purdue Pharma to be the spokesperson for the non-profit. The same drug company … that had all the pill mills going, got everybody addicted. One million people died, J.D. One million people died.”
The race is extremely close, with FiveThirtyEight’s polling average showing Ryan and Vance practically tied. With the Democrats’ razor thin majority in the Senate, this race could decide which party will have control of the chamber in 2023.