The Ohio Senate debate Monday night between Democrat Tim Ryan and Republican J.D. Vance was a contentious event that oscillated between personal attacks and differing economic views.

The two candidates are vying for the seat of retiring Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican.

The closer-than-expected race, in a state that former President Trump carried twice, has been expensive for Republicans. Ryan has had the fundraising advantage, but Vance's efforts have picked up as Election Day approaches.

Ryan's campaign said it expects millions to be spent against him in ads in the coming weeks.

Ryan continued to cast himself as a free-thinking moderate, while the Trump-backed Vance painted himself as a political outsider.

Here are three flashpoints from Ohio's Senate debate:

Establishment Relationships

The Democratic campaign strategy is simple: If you're with Trump, you're backing extremism. But it was Ryan, not Vance, who was looking to separate himself from his party leadership.

"I'm not here to just get in a fight or just tiptoe the Democratic Party line," Ryan said. "I'm here to speak the truth."

Ryan also reiterated his belief that President Joe Biden should not run for re-election in 2024. He also said Vice President Kamala Harris was "absolutely wrong" to say that the border was secure.

Vance, meanwhile, did little to distance himself from his party or Trump. When asked if Trump had done anything that concerns him, Vance said he wanted "the criminal investigation play out" on the mishandling of classified documents stored at Trump's Mar-a-Lago home. Vance attacked the focus on the former president's past scandals.


In the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, abortion has come to shape the political narrative throughout the country. Ohio is no different.

Both Senate candidates took more moderate stances than their parties' positions.

Ryan said he has supported abortion rights "going back to Roe v. Wade." He said efforts to pass stricter abortion laws are "the largest government overreach in the history of our lifetimes." He argued for "some moderation on the issue."

Vance said he was "pro-life" but "always believed in reasonable exceptions." He seemingly blamed Ryan for the rape of a 10-year-old Ohio girl who sought an abortion in nearby Indiana. The girl was raped by an undocumented immigrant. Vance partly blamed the crime on Ryan's border security funding record.

"If you had done your job, she would have never been raped in the first place," Vance said, turning to Ryan. "Do your job on border security, don't lecture me about opinions I don't actually have."

Foreign Policy

What started as a clear foreign policy debate was quickly muddled by China.

Ryan repeatedly accused Vance of investing in companies that shipped jobs to China, prompting Vance to quip back "name one."

Ryan called for an "aggressive response" if Russia were to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

"I don't think we are at the point where Vladimir Putin will," he said.

Ryan also attempted to paint Vance as unsympathetic to Ukraine, noting that the Republican once said he doesn't "really care what happens to Ukraine."

Vance did not shy away from his Trump-style "America First" position, saying that Democrats were "sleepwalking into a nuclear war."

But when asked about defending Taiwan in a potential conflict with China, Vance deflected. "Taiwan is a much different situation than Russia and Ukraine," Vance said.

FiveThirtyEight's election forecast model currently has Vance favored to win, with the Republican coming out on top in 70 in 100 potential scenarios. Polls conducted by Marist and Siena both have the race within a 3-point margin.

The debate was the first of between the two candidates. The next and likely final debate is scheduled for Monday.