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AP Photo/Paul Vernon

Just over four weeks before the November midterm elections, JD Vance and Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) met to debate on Monday night as they vie to replace retiring Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). While Ryan was once considered something of a moderate, and likes to think of himself as one still, his debate performance was very much one full of fear-mongering and hypocrisy.


Early on in the debate, moderators asked about China as the enemy, during which Ryan claimed that Vance has been invested in China. Although he kept bringing it up, he was unable to provide evidence.

The moderators also early on asked about abortion, including which limits Ryan would support on abortion, a question he has tried to dance around in the past. While Ryan signaled support for what he said would "codify Roe v. Wade, the legislation in question, the Women's Health Protection Act (WHPA), would actually expand RoeIt will also invalidate pro-life laws passed at the state level.

In seeking to emphasize his claim that Vance does not support exceptions on abortion, Ryan engaged in a particular display of fear-mongering when it comes to the tragedy of rape victims and complications in pregnancy as part of "the chaos that we're having now."

Ryan went on to claim that "we read at least a couple of articles every week, of young people, underage girls who have been raped, or women who have had, uh, significant problems with their pregnancy, not be able to get help in the state. They gotta go to Indiana, they gotta go to Illinois, and that's not good enough for JD Vance, he supports a national abortion ban, in which he wants women to have to get a passport and have to go to Canada." The congressman then called for "some moderation on this issue" before paining his opponent as an "extremist," something he would do throughout the night. 

The legislation in question, which is an abortion ban at 15-weeks, based on how unborn children can feel pain at such a stage, does contain exceptions, including for rape for a woman who receives counseling and treatment and when rape or incest of a minor is reported to the proper authorities.


Vance went on record during the debate, as he has done before, that he's in favor of a 10-year-old rape victim being able to have an abortion, if that's what she and her family decide. He also spoke of how Ryan's view is not the old school Democratic mantra, as it was of his Mamaw who raised him, for abortion to be "safe, legal, and rare." Rather, the congressman has "voted for a piece of legislation that would have overturned Roe and required abortion on demand at 40-weeks for fully elective reasons. He also voted for a piece of legislation that would have prevented doctors from providing medical care to babies who survived botched abortions."

On the legislation, Vance brought up the merits of states deciding their abortion laws, but also mentioned how "some minimum standard is totally fine with me." 

Where he really hit back against Ryan, though, was by reminding that the alleged criminal in the case of a 10-year-old girl who was raped and became pregnant as a result, was here illegally. 

"But let's talk about that case," Vance mentioned. "Because why was a 10-year-old girl raped in our community, raped in our state in the first place? The thing the media and Congressman Ryan, they talk about this all the time, the thing they never mention is that poor girl was raped by an illegal alien, somebody that should've never been in this state in the first place." Vance then turned towards Ryan to decry how "you voted so many times against border wall funding, so many times for amnesty, Tim. If you had done your job, she'd never have been raped in the first place." As the buzzer rang to call time, Vance called on Ryan to "do your job on border security, don't lecture me on positions I don't actually have."


Vance used the moment to hit Ryan not only on abortion, as he did, but on illegal immigration as well, which would also come up at a later point in the debate, with the prevalence of fentanyl in this country and in Ohio. 

The J.D. Vance for U.S. Senate Press account tweeted at length about the opioid crisis, which has affected Vance's family personally, and many others in Ohio. As one tweet shared, Ohio is the state with the third-highest amount of drug overdoses.

Not only did Ryan not sufficiently answer for Vance's charge that he's funded by the pharmaceutical companies that profited off of opioid addictions, but he also attacked Vance on the issue by claiming Vance "started a nonprofit that tried to take advantage of people in Ohio. And you know what, all you did with it was launch your political career.”


In addition to mentioning how the issue was personal for him, Vance also hit back at Ryan by once more tying fentanyl to illegal immigration. "Why are the people who've gotten rich off the opioid epidemic funding Tim Ryan and attacking me," he asked. "Because this guy is the biggest fan of pharma and he's the biggest fan of illegal pharma, which is the Mexican drug cartels that are bringing this poison into our country."

Abortion was not the only social issue that Ryan engaged in fear-mongering over, as he also warned that the rights to same-sex marriage and contraception were at risk. The otherwise decent moderators also ginned up hysteria on this issue. 

One question from NBC4i’s Colleen Marshall involvedtrying to "get something else on the record on this topic" and remind how "the Senate has a unique role in confirming Supreme Court nominees." Her question claimed that "marriage equality, as the congressman mentioned, could be revised by the Supreme Court," even though such a likelihood that the Court would ever take up such a case, let alone a majority of justices voter to overturn 2015's Obergefell v. Hodges is highly unlikely. Marshall went on to ask if that would be part of "a litmus test" for the Senate candidates, with Ryan saying it would be and Vance saying he does not have a litmus test. 


While Vance reminded that same-sex marriage is already the law of the land and that he opposes legislation that would codify it into federal law because of concerns for lawsuits against religious organizations, Ryan ginned up fear to do with a concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas that referenced the possibility of revisiting the rights to same-sex marriage and contraception. It's worth reminding that such was a solo concurrence for Dobbs v. Jackson and the opinion of the Court as well as a concurrence by Justice Brett Kavanaugh emphasized that the Dobbs decision only applied to abortion. 

On the issue of abortion and contraception, and also his claims that Republicans are into book-banning, Ryan claimed more than once that Vance and the Republican Party were those who want to "ban books, and get the government involved in the bedroom and in the doctor's office."

Towards the end of the debate, the candidates were asked what they thought the biggest threat to democracy was. While Vance's straightforward answer mentioned the influence Big Tech has, Ryan focused on "extremism," including "insurrectionists" and "election deniers," which he tried to tie Vance to. He then went on to warn against candidates who "don't have the guts to stand up to their own party," which Ryan also tried to claim applied to Vance. This is despite his own record.

The congressman was particularly hypocritical about candidates sucking up to party leadership, especially as he himself claimed he's supported former President Donald Trump on issues such as China and trade, while opposing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and President Joe Biden on occasion. 


As Vance brought up during the debate and has brought up extensively in the past, Ryan has voted with Pelosi and Biden 100 percent of the time. Even a particularly biased fact-check from PolitiFact acknowledged as much. While Ryan also made a big deal of how Vance has supposedly sucked up to Trump, he himself made remarks where Schumer was in attendance that "I want to make sure he's my future boss so I gotta suck up a little bit here."

Ryan didn't merely engage in fear-mongering and hypocrisy, but also doubled down on extreme positions and answers. Both Vance and the moderators brought up Ryan's comments last month for MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that we have to "kill and confront that movement" of so-called "extremist Republicans."

The congressman similarly stood by President Joe Biden's speech from early last month in which the president demonized "MAGA Republicans" while speaking outside of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. 

Ryan throughout the debate claimed that January 6, 2021 was an "insurrection" and "we got very close to" losing what he said was "the foundational element of this country, our elections, our vote" which means "then we lose everything."

The race is considered to favor Vance, with forecasters rating it as "Lean Republican" or "Likely Republican." Vance has a +1.4 lead in the polls, according to RealClearPolitics

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