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JD Vance beat Ohio Democrats. Here is their warning about what happened.

Politico -

The only Democrat to face JD Vance has thoughts on how to defeat him.

Vance beat former Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan two years ago in an open-seat Senate race in red-leaning Ohio, though the now-vice presidential nominee ran behind other Republicans in the Buckeye State.

Ryan and Dave Chase, his campaign manager for his losing effort against Vance, still think there are lessons to be learned from that contest. Chase last week began circulating a memo to reporters and Democratic operatives outlining the messaging strategies they used in the midterms. He also reached out to President Joe Biden’s campaign to share insight from the Senate bid, he told POLITICO.

“Outside of Ohio, most folks haven't seen all of these things litigated,” Chase said. “But more importantly, I think we can't let them take the enthusiasm of the MAGA extreme and combine it with the more moderate parts of both the Republican Party and independent swing voters. We can't let them do that. That's how they win.”

POLITICO spoke with Ryan and Chase — in separate conversations — about what Democrats need to know about running against Vance.

These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

What was your initial reaction when it was official that Vance was the VP pick?

Chase: I think in many ways, he's a good pick for Trump. I think JD Vance has proven himself to be an effective salesman, like he sold the book to mostly a liberal audience that said one thing, and then he ran for the Republican primary in Ohio and said the total opposite. … He effectively convinced a lot of people in those two endeavors there. I think he is a messenger who if left untouched can be an envoy to the more moderate parts of the Republican Party who are probably pretty uncomfortable with Trump.

That was my initial reaction, and then I remembered all of the oppo we had on him.

Ryan: [Trump] is not trying to reach out to independent voters, moderate voters, that he's doubling down on the extremism.

Talk to me about some of those lessons learned from the Senate race that you think other Democrats need to know now.

Ryan: You have to be very aggressive in defining these guys. … We were up three points at Labor Day, and [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell came in with [millions], and we didn't get anything from [Senate Majority Leader Chuck] Schumer. So we had him right where we needed to be because we defined him. … He has got very extreme views on women, that they should stay in violent marriages for the sake of the kids, an extreme position on abortion. So we defined him and we had him, we just couldn't get anybody in D.C. to help. So I think that should be the same exact strategy, is to get out there and define these really extreme positions.

[Editors’ note: Vance said at a 2021 event that “this is one of the great tricks that I think the sexual revolution pulled on the American populace, which is the idea that like, ‘well, OK, these marriages were fundamentally, you know, they were maybe even violent, but certainly they were unhappy. And so getting rid of them and making it easier for people to shift spouses like they change their underwear, that’s going to make people happier in the long term.’ And maybe it worked out for the moms and dads, though I’m skeptical. But it really didn’t work out for the kids of those marriages.”

Both during his 2022 Senate run and recently during an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity after being named the running mate, he pushed back against Ryan's characterization, saying “it’s not what I believe, it’s not what I said,” noting that both he and his mother were victims of domestic violence.]

Do you think that the message against Vance needs to be negative right now?

Chase: I would aggressively try to define JD Vance. I think Donald Trump has effectively been painted as an extremist, and you can't give him a vice presidential candidate who can be that envoy to the more moderate parts of the party that they need to build a winning coalition.

Ryan: Well, you’ve got to define them. … I think we need an aspirational message from our side that's putting all of this kind of negative, I call it the ‘Vietnam politics’ that we've been fighting since the war, we’ve gotta let that go and have an aspirational message about what America can be. But part of that is you’ve got to contrast with what these extreme views are, because they are not aligned with the views of the vast majority of the people in the country.

These messages you're talking about, why do you think they translate from an Ohio electorate to a national electorate?

Ryan: Ohio is a microcosm of the country.

Chase: I think the voters who are up for grabs in Ohio — which are fewer than elsewhere — are indicative of voters elsewhere. … We know abortion is a salient topic this cycle. … And then I think there's a good character arc — this guy is a fraud. He has reinvented himself time and time again, for whatever his purposes in that moment. Voters should know that he is not a trustworthy actor, even though he has the ability to seem that way.

What do you think Vance adds to the Trump ticket?

Chase: Trump has pushed himself pretty far to the extreme, and there are parts of the Republican Party, and what is definitely a shrinking but still sizable swing vote, who are uncomfortable with him and don't want to vote for him, who similarly have concerns about President Biden and our ticket. As we fight over those folks, we can't let JD Vance be what they're hoping he'll be, which is a credible messenger to those pieces of the electorate. I'm sure that's what Trump hopes he's gonna be, and he is definitely an effective communicator. So our ability to define him and make sure that those folks simply don't trust him is pretty key in my view.

Ryan: I think it energizes the base and these people with this kind of worldview. I think they're excited about it. … There's still some people that don't trust them within the party, so I think if anything, it's doubling down on MAGA.

Do you think he appeals to swing voters?

Chase: If you take his story on face value, a guy who grew up in poor Appalachia, in a broken home, who went to Harvard and became a self-made man, joined the Marines, that is a compelling narrative. And he talks a big game about taking on the elites and the institutions that are harming particularly white working class voters. The challenge is, he is a lot of that, right? Like he is an elitist who went to Ivy League schools, who left Ohio to go to San Francisco and join a hedge fund. He is sort of the thing he rails against, but if he's left unchecked … that is appealing to swing voters. That is a lot of what the folks who used to vote Democratic and are increasingly voting Republican feel, that there are powerful forces or elitist institutions who are out to get them.

Ryan: I don’t think so. … Mike DeWine ran for governor in Ohio, he ran [around 10 points] behind him. … I don't think he has that kind of crossover appeal at all, and especially when people find out about his record. … Those middle of the road people, we had defined him but then we ran out of money to be able to close the deal, and so people drifted back. This campaign, neither side is going to run out of money, you know?

Are there any mistakes you made during the Senate race that you don't want Democrats making now?

Chase: We definitely would have gone harder on the violent marriages quote from him. We were running this ad track … on his sham nonprofit and him being a fraud, which was the initial research we had. It was a good hit, it was more complicated to explain to voters than just showing a clip of him saying this thing that was pretty outrageous. We would have hammered that harder.

Ryan: There's always little things here or there, but I think for the most part it really was a matter of money. We had him defined, we ran the race that we wanted to run, but yeah, we just ran out of money. So I think if you take that template, … I just think it's a matter of keeping on that track that we were on and then just continuing to fund it in these Rust Belt states, and I think we could be in good shape.

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