The World’s Smallest Violin Is Playing for J.D. Vance

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Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance has pinned his Senate hopes on a personal transition. He wants Republican voters in Ohio to believe he’s now Donald Trump’s biggest ally, a stiff challenge for Vance, who was once a vocal critic of the former president. He’s running consistently behind Josh Mandel in the Republican primary, and a new polling memo suggests that he’s in real trouble with Trump’s biggest supporters. Politico reported on Monday that the memo, from Vance pollster Tony Fabrizio, says that the candidate “needs a course correction ASAP.”

Vance’s rivals in the race have made much of his Never Trump history. As a result, the memo says that Vance appears “ideologically misaligned” with the base he needs to win. More Republican primary voters “now see him as moderate or liberal (29 percent) than as a conservative (27 percent),” the memo says. The candidate also no longer has a net positive image. “The groups where Vance has improved are those we don’t want him doing better with: Trump disapprovers and moderate/liberals,” Fabrizio’s memo continues brutally.

The memo does note that the crowded race is still competitive; Vance, in theory, still has a chance. But there are obvious obstacles in his path to victory, and Vance placed them there himself. He is doing well with the constituencies he once wooed as an author and public speaker: other Never Trump conservatives, moderates, and liberals who bought his diagnosis of the country’s ills (that white welfare queens are poor because they do not grasp the dignity of work). Those groups made him wealthy and famous. They may now also cost him a Senate seat. The irony is delicious.

So let’s not feel sorry for Vance. He hoped to win power by moving far to the right, a cynical strategy that mirrors the trajectory of his sad party. Yet Vance has miscalculated. He just isn’t as convincing an actor as Mandel or other former Never Trumpers like Lindsey Graham; he looks insincere. Couple that with his failure to do much of anything to help the hillbillies he elegized, and there’s not much for a voter to respect: just hot air and an empty suit, which makes him a typical politician — and, maybe soon, a failed one at that.

The World’s Smallest Violin Is Playing for J.D. Vance