COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Ohio’s U.S. Senate candidates are virtually tied in the polls, but one contender’s mountain of campaign cash towers over the other.
Less than a week remains until Nov. 8, which is Election Day, and Democrat Tim Ryan’s campaign committee has raised more than $48 million in donations – a stark financial advantage to the nearly $13 million for Republican J.D. Vance, according to data with the Federal Election Commission.
Collecting the most money isn’t a guaranteed propeller to victory, University of Cincinnati political science professor David Niven said. But without enough cash in the coffers, a successful campaign is virtually impossible.
“What’s important for Ryan and Vance is – either individually as candidates or through all the outside money that’s being spent – both of them have a campaign that is funded well beyond their basic needs,” Niven said.
The race between Ryan, 49, and Vance, 38, is one of a few that could determine whether Democrats maintain control of a Senate that’s split 50-50 down party lines.
Ryan’s campaign committee Tim for Ohio outraised Vance’s team at every reporting deadline this year, including during the first two-and-a-half weeks of October, when Ryan accepted more than four times the amount of money as his opponent.
The 10-term congressman also took in a larger swath of donors who opted to write smaller checks for $15 or $20, FEC data indicates.
Vance, a venture capitalist who authored the 2016 bestselling memoir “Hillbilly Elegy,” may lack direct donations to his campaign committee relative to his Democratic opponent, Niven said. But his committee, JD Vance for Senate Inc., makes up for it in financial and material support from national Republican groups and political action committees.
“In terms of like, regular people being invested in these campaigns, Ryan has done a vastly better job at reaching them,” Niven said. “The flip side of that, of course, is that the massive write-a-million-dollar-check kinds of outside spending that we’ve seen in this race has favored J.D. Vance tremendously.”
For instance, the Mitch McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund announced a $28 million advertisement buy on behalf of Vance in August – a series of TV and radio ads that hit the airwaves without spending a penny of Vance’s campaign committee cash.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee also pitched in $1 million to cover Vance’s first 30-second TV ad broadcast across Ohio, NBC News reported in August.
“Vance didn’t put the effort into raising money that you would assume because he knew there were outside funders who would do the work for him, and that’s a fairly unusual dynamic,” Niven said.
To the dismay of Ryan backers, Niven said the Democratic nominee has been a “victim of the Republican trend in Ohio.”
While GOP groups saw something to be gained in dishing out dollars to Vance, who is seeking to replace a Republican in Rob Portman, national Democratic committees – with the exception of the Democratic-funded WelcomePAC – have been less inclined to offer the same level of financial support to Ryan, Niven said.
“They don’t see the Ryan campaign as being in a position to win this thing, which sounds really, really cold,” Niven said. “It’s like one of those, you know, nature shows where the mother abandons the kid at birth – but that’s the way parties work.”
Since late April, Ryan’s campaign has spent about $45 million. Expenditures made by Vance’s team totaled just under $10 million, according to the FEC. Both committees are sitting on about $3 million in available cash on hand.
The election is gearing up to be a close race, as the majority of independent polling conducted in Ohio since the May primary placed Vance and Ryan in a statistical dead heat.