Ohio's JD Vance Brings Big Dollars to GOP's Working-Class Party J.D. Vance, venture capitalist and author of 'Hillbilly Elegy,' in 2017. ( Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
By Eric Mack | Sunday, 04 April 2021 11:11 AM
J.D. Vance, a potential Republican Senate candidate from Ohio, is a rare breed in this hyper-political world: A working-class crusader backed big tech, ruling-class money, running as a conservative despite past praise of former President Barack Obama and disdain for former President Donald Trump.
None of it seems to fit in the normal lanes of politics, but the author of "Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis" is bringing money to the Republican Party's effort to rebrand as the working-class party, The Guardian reported.
Vance has yet to officially announce a run for the seat held by retiring Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, but he did already draw a $10 million donation from tech billion Peter Thiel – and an undisclosed amount from GOP mega donor Robert Mercer – to a super PAC in support of his candidacy. Vance has a Netflix adaptation of his book fueling his political cachet.
Vance, 36, a former U.S. Marine, Yale law school graduate, and venture capitalist, checks a lot of boxes for GOP donors, save for his past criticism of Trump and Obama praise, according to the report.
"I think that I'm going to vote third party because I can't stomach Trump," Vance told NPR when he released his book in 2016. "I think that he's noxious and is leading the white working class to a very dark place."
Then, in 2017, Vance wrote in The New York Times that he would "miss" Obama "and the example he set."
The former chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party David Pepper is skeptical of GOP efforts to take the "working-class" mantle from the big-budget, big-tech-backed Democrats.
"They're not going to get there on the standard worker issues," Pepper told The Guardian. "There's no way."
But Trump did carve into that voter base in the past two presidential elections with his America First platform.
"The Republican party is not the party of the country clubs, it's the party of hardworking, blue-collar men and women," Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said in his February CPAC speech.
And Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., tweeted after the November election: "We are a working-class party now. That's the future."
Even a former Obama adviser sees the transformative shift in politics for the working class.
"The Democratic party envisions themselves as the party of working people, but it doesn't feel that way to a lot of working people, and the party needs to figure that out," David Axelrod said after the election.
Vance, despite the big money, might fill the lane for the GOP in the battleground state of Ohio.
"He's clearly trying to mimic this Trump genuflection that we're seeing from some of the other candidates, which is kind of embarrassing for JD Vance, because his brand was very different just a couple years ago," Pepper told The Guardian.
Vance, if he decides to run, will at least bring a $10-plus million war chest.
"That's a lot of money, that will help him a lot, but if the only reason he's in the game is because of coastal big tech, it kills the 'I'm-a-Trump-guy' narrative – but it also kills his narrative about representing the working man," Pepper concluded to The Guardian.