J. D. Vance, the conservative investor who authored the best-selling autobiography Hillbilly Elegy in 2016, announced his run for the United States Senate Thursday at the Middletown Tube Works in his hometown of Middletown, Ohio. Vance is running to replace retiring Senator Rob Portman. Portman often struggled with the America First agenda that Vance laid out in his announcement speech.
Vance rose to national prominence in 2016 with the publication of his memoir of growing up amid challenging personal circumstances against the backdrop of declining prospects in the American heartland. Middletown, once a prosperous manufacturing town, was already feeling the effects of globalization during Vance’s childhood which made the prospect of a better future seem remote. Mainstream media commentators saw the book as a lens for understanding the appeal of Donald Trump and his populist message in Middle America.
Vance joined the Marine Corps and went to Iraq after graduating from high school before returning and enrolling at Ohio State. He finished in two and one half years paying his way with a combination of the GI Bill and working part-time as a laborer. Earning top marks in college he was admitted to Yale School. But rather than pursue a career as a lawyer, Vance worked for Trump-supporter Peter Thiel’s venture capital firm which launched his career as a successful investor. From there he founded the Rise of the Rest fund in Cincinnati which was focused on investing in companies in the American interior—far from Silicon Valley and its values.
After that fund’s success, Vance started a second fund, also based in Ohio, that recently invested in video platform Rumble along with Thiel. Former President Trump recently made news when he started a channel on Rumble which streamed his recent rally in Wellington, Ohio.
The speech to kick-off the campaign sounded a clear-eyed warning about the challenges facing American families and the unsustainable trajectory the country has been on and which has enriched a small group of people that control the very large companies that no longer see themselves as American and which make life for the middle class increasingly difficult.
Yet, Vance paired that with a message of definite optimism, laying out a path to rebuilding the nation and strengthening families. Tellingly perhaps, Vance has been attacked for his defense of family life and children from both the progressive Left and anti-Trump Republicans. The Washington Post fretted that Vance’s hope that American families would have more children was racist while the Lincoln Project has also set its sights on Vance, which the group likely sees as a potentially potent force in Washington.
In the speech, Vance also went after Big Tech saying, “We’re gonna go after them; we’re going to break up their monopolies, we’re going to make it illegal for them to steal your data & then sell it back to you.” That drew a round of applause from the crowd that gathered to hear the speech. He went on to talk about how the playing field is tilted in favor of the larged businesses and against small- and mid-sized businesses such as Middletown Tube, where he was speaking.
“Did you know that Middletown Tube pays a higher tax rate than Google Amazon Apple and Facebook? It’s because the leaders of this country who have plundered reward their friends w special tax breaks and not small companies in Ohio,” Vance said.
Meanwhile, Vance faces a group of other candidates that have yet to gain traction and which all have their own problems with Republican primary voters. American Greatness reported that Josh Mandel’s campaign faces a rolling series of personal problems that have put a cloud over the candidate and appear to be taking a toll on the campaign itself as much of the fundraising staff recently resigned.
Jane Timken, a wealthy candidate who has put at least $1 million into her campaign has problems of her own. Breitbart reported how Timken’s family business increased their profits by outsourcing Ohio manufacturing jobs to China, while American Greatness reported on how she defended her protégé, Representative Anthony Gonzalez, for his vote in favor of impeaching Donald Trump. So Vance looks to be in a good position to take the lead in the race with strong backing from Ohio’s Trump-supporting grassroots and a SuperPac that has already amassed over $10 million in donations.
The entire announcement speech set the tone for Vance’s campaign which appears to set to pick up the America First mantle in a thoughtful, but action-oriented way. Vance’s speech was packed full of specifics that got cheers from the crowd. The whole video is here.
American Greatness editor and publisher Chris Buskirk interviewed Vance about America’s future.
A speech by Vance on the future of American prosperity delivered at the National Conservatism Conference is below.