early and often

J.D. Vance and Tim Ryan Were Surprisingly Brutal Last Night

Photo: Gaelen Morse/The New York Times/Redux

One could be forgiven for expecting that the final Senate debate in Ohio would be boring, considering that candidates J.D. Vance and Tim Ryan are not exactly avatars of charisma. But they made up for that deficit during Monday night’s contest — which could help decide the close and pivotal race — mostly by being really mean to each other.

Throughout the debate, the Republican venture capitalist and the Democratic congressman attacked each other for being flunkies for their respective party leaders. Ryan went after Vance for being an opportunist who flip-flopped on his support of Donald Trump in pursuit of power. At one point, he said that Vance was “calling Trump ‘America’s Hitler.’ Then he kissed his ass.” Moderators gave Vance an opportunity to respond — while brutally mentioning that Trump dogged him last month at a rally in Youngstown, where he said that “J.D. is kissing my ass, he wants my support so bad.” They asked Vance if he could point to something he thinks Trump is wrong about, and he said he thought that appointing jingoistic cabinet members like John Bolton was a mistake, before quickly pivoting to say that Trump calling him an ass-kisser was actually just a joke between friends.

Vance then turned the sycophant charge back toward Ryan, claiming that the congressman was a shill for Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. Vance said that Ryan’s “entire campaign is based on sucking up to the national Democratic Establishment” and that his opponent “says he’s reasonable, keeps saying he’s a moderate … but when he gets to Washington, he votes the opposite way.” Vance said his opponent is really the “guy who is subservient to the national party” and that he has been “begging these guys to come in and save him from the campaign he’s running.” (He did not mention that Republican Party leaders like Mitch McConnell have been begging his benefactor and former boss Peter Thiel for millions more in funding to ensure a GOP win in Ohio.)

They also brought the wives into it. Vance mentioned an ad in which Ryan jokes that it’s a good day if he and his wife agree with each other 70 percent of the time. “Yet he votes and agrees with Nancy Pelosi 100 percent of the time,” Vance said. “It must make things a little awkward in the Ryan household.” Later, Ryan said his opponent endorsed the “great replacement” theory supported by white nationalists suggesting white Americans are being replaced by non-white migrants. Vance, whose wife is Indian American, said the notion was “disgusting.” He added that Ryan is “so desperate for political power that you’ll accuse me, the father of three beautiful biracial babies, of engaging in racism.”

“I would never talk about your family, J.D.,” Ryan responded. “You don’t want to talk about the fact that you’re with the extremists in that belief.”

J.D. Vance and Tim Ryan Were Surprisingly Brutal Last Night