CLEVELAND — Two weeks after getting into the Republican race for Ohio's U.S. Senate nomination "Hillbilly Elegy" author J.D. Vance is looking to define himself in this race before his opponents have a chance to do it. Part of that is dealing with his past negative comments about President Trump, whose supporters he'll need to win the primary.
"I think it's important to say to that that didn't happen because I'm running for the U.S. Senate. I was defending President Trump and his agenda years ago on television," Vance told News 5. "What I tell voters is what you should judge me by is first of all who is attacking me. Honestly, it's the same people that are attacking Donald Trump over the last few years.
"And importantly, people can change their mind, and I think that Trump did a good job as president. I saw him as somebody who wouldn't do a good job in 2016, and I thought he did a good job, especially considering the forces that reigned against him. And I think that people recognize that you can have a change of heart on somebody and recognize when someone is actually trying to do something good for the country."
Vance's campaign signs and website carry the words "conservative outsider." We asked him, though, if he sees himself in the mold of any sitting U.S. Senators.
"There are a couple of senators I think do a really, really good job that I try to emulate. I think Tom Cotton from Arkansas, a very smart guy, cares a lot about immigration policy — not just securing our southern border, but making sure that we have a legal immigration policy that's good for the American worker," Vance said.
"I think Josh Hawley from Missouri has fought big tech better than anybody in American public life over the last couple of years," he continued. "I think both of those guys provide a pretty good sense of some of the issues that I care about, but also a way of conducting yourself as a senator to make sure you can get things done and actually work for your constituents."
Not quite two weeks into the race, we asked Vance if there have been any surprises.
"I may be a little bit surprised by how much the national media seems obsessed with me," Vance said. "It suggests I'm doing something right. I certainly knew I'd get a fair amount of criticism, but I take it as a badge of honor honestly."
As for the national media, there has been much speculation if a win of the seat by Vance would immediately put him into the 2024 conversation. Vance, for his part, said no thanks.
"No, no, not at all," he said. "Look, I think when you run for — you know this is basically a job interview, and I'm asking the people of Ohio to give me a job to do, and that job is a six-year job, and I plan to do it."
Vance causing a stir over the weekend when he compared New York City to the TV show "Walking Dead" in a tweet writing "Serious question: I have to go to New York soon and I'm trying to figure out where to stay. I have heard it's disgusting and violent there. But is it like Walking Dead Season 1 or Season 4?"
Serious question: I have to go to New York soon and I'm trying to figure out where to stay. I have heard it's disgusting and violent there. But is it like Walking Dead Season 1 or Season 4?— J.D. Vance (@JDVance1) July 11, 2021
That of course followed the July 2 Twitter dis of Cleveland by New York City's official Twitter account when they tweeted: "A gloomy day in New York City is still better than a sunny day in Cleveland."
A gloomy day in New York City is still better than a sunny day in Cleveland. pic.twitter.com/pJC6hDdMvz— City of New York (@nycgov) July 2, 2021
News 5 asked Vance whether that was a legitimate dig at the Big Apple, or a slap back of their dis of Cleveland?
"Well, it's a little bit of both. I definitely wanted to defend Cleveland and poke a little bit of fun back at New York. I think second, it's a joke, obviously, people took it very seriously like I was criticizing New York, but, look — it was a good-natured ribbing. I obviously don't think that New York is like 'Walking Dead,' which is literally a zombie television show, I don't think there's any similarity.
"I do think there's always a truth at the heart of any joke and I think the truth is that our biggest cities, New York City, San Francisco but even some Ohio cities have actually had really terrible crime sprees, have gotten a little bit less safe for middle-class people to live in and a little less affordable for middle-class people to live in, and I do think that's a big problem.
"You should be able to walk down the street of a major American city, whether in New York or in Ohio, without fear you're going to get mugged, and unfortunately that's just not true these days," Vance said.