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With three months to go until Election Day, Ohio Republican Senate nominee JD Vance said he’s “very confident about where we are.”

Vance, a former hedge fund executive and best-selling author who won a bruising GOP Senate primary in early May, trailed Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan in Ohio’s Senate race in the latest opinion polls, one of the few nationwide. Whether or not Republicans win back the chamber majority in November’s midterm elections.

“I think the polls are obviously a big joke,” Vance said Friday in a Fox News interview before speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas.

Vance pointed to polls before the 2016 presidential election that indicated a tight race in the Buckeye State between former President Donald Trump and then-Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Ohio, at the time, was a top general election battleground state, but Trump won by eight points in both his 2016 White House victory and his 2020 re-election loss to President Biden, turning the state from purple to red.

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Ohio Senate GOP nominee JD Vance takes the stage to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Friday, Aug. 5, 2022, in Dallas.

Ohio Senate GOP nominee JD Vance takes the stage to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Friday, Aug. 5, 2022, in Dallas.
(AP Photo/LM Otero)

Retired GOP Sen. Vance was also dramatically upstaged by Ryan in a crucial battle for campaign cash in the race to succeed Rob Portman. “Certainly fundraising is something that Democrats have always done better than Republicans,” he acknowledged.

But he stressed that “we started our TV ads two days ago, fundraising is going well and we definitely have the money to tell the story that Ohioans deserve to hear.”

Vance’s campaign, along with the National Republican Senatorial Committee, launched what they say was a $1 million ad buy. Ryan has been running spots on TV since the May 3 primary, spending about $6 million so far.

JD Vance and Rep. Tim Ryan wages populists’ battle in Ohio Senate showdown

Vance, taking aim at his general election opponent, said, “Tim Ryan is running a gaslighting campaign. Even though he’s a moderate, he’s trying to convince people when he’s with Joe Biden 100% of the time. When the people of Ohio realize they’ve been lied to, and we’re going to make sure they realize they’ve been lied to, business in the Senate.” They will not vote for this non-political politician.”

Ryan, a longtime congressman from Northeast Ohio who championed the working class during his years in Congress and failed 2020 White House run, handily edged out two lesser-known opponents to win the Democratic Senate nomination.

Now-Senate Democratic nominee Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio answers a question during a Democratic primary debate.

Now-Senate Democratic nominee Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio answers a question during a Democratic primary debate.
(Joshua A. Bickel/The Columbus Dispatch via AP)

Izzy Levy, a spokeswoman for Ryan’s campaign, responded to Vance’s comments, arguing in a statement to Fox News, “It’s ridiculous that JD Vance is talking about lying to the people of Ohio, that he committed fraud in San Francisco, that it’s a non-profit. It does nothing to solve the opioid epidemic and help JD Vance launch his political career.” Not everything. JD is campaigning in Texas right now because he couldn’t find Ohio on a map if he tried.”

Former President Donald Trump’s endorsement of Vance less than three weeks before the primary led the first-time candidate to victory over some Republican opponents who sought the former president’s support. Vance ran a populist primary campaign, noting his support for Trump’s America First agenda.

But during the general election showdown, he faced a lot of criticism from Democrats, as well as some Republicans, who described his absence from the campaign trail in Ohio.

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Asked about the jabs from fellow Republicans, Vance said, “It’s a very small number of voices that generally didn’t support me in the Republican primary. My argument to them is, look, I understand you’re not going to like everything. The primary campaign. It’s time to unite the party. Complaining.” It’s time to stop and work hard to beat Tim Ryan in November.”

And Vance emphasized, “For every loud voice criticizing our campaign, there are 100 people in the state of Ohio working hard to make sure we get the message out. Those people are ultimately responsible for us winning this race.”