Tim Ryan's Chances of Beating J.D. Vance in Ohio, According to Polls

Democratic Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio aims to flip a Senate seat blue in the November midterm, hoping to defeat GOP candidate J.D. Vance, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

Ohio's Senator Rob Portman, a Republican, announced in January 2021 that he would not seek reelection. He condemned Trump's actions in the wake of the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot, but declined to support his conviction at the conclusion of his impeachment trial. When he announced his retirement, the Republican senator criticized "partisan gridlock," and warned that the country has become "increasingly polarized."

Vance won the GOP primary on May 3, as Ryan simultaneously came out on top in the Democratic primary. The Republican Senate hopeful, an Ivy League educated venture capitalist best known for his memoir Hillbilly Elegy, has been touted as an example of Trump's continued influence within his party. The GOP candidate was trailing other Republican contenders in third or fourth place, depending on the poll, prior to receiving a substantial boost from the former president's endorsement.

Still, Vance only garnered just under 37 percent of GOP voters' support, while Ryan was backed by nearly 70 percent of Democrats in his primary. Vance's victory among Republicans was polarizing, with many conservative politicians and officials criticizing Trump's decision to back him. Whether that disunity among Ohio Republicans will benefit Ryan on November 8 remains to be seen.

Tim Ryan vs. J.D. Vance
Ohio polls show that the race between Democratic Senate candidate Tim Ryan and Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance could be close. Above to the left, Ryan speaks during a rally on May 2 in Lorain, Ohio. Above to the right, Vance speaks to supporters of former President Donald Trump at a rally on May 6 in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Drew Angerer/Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

The most recent polling data out of Ohio shows Vance is narrowly favored to win the contest. A survey carried out by Suffolk University/USA Today from May 22 to 24 showed that Ryan was down by a little more than 2 points against his Trump-endorsed opponent. Vance had the backing of 41.6 percent of likely voters compared to Ryan's 39.4 percent. Meanwhile, 16.8 percent of Ohioans said they were undecided, demonstrating that either candidate could still make substantial gains ahead of November.

The poll surveyed 500 likely voters in the midwestern state with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Prior to the primary results, a larger poll conducted by GrowProgress, sponsored by Innovation Ohio, found Ryan narrowly leading Vance. The Democratic candidate had the support of 43 percent of registered voters compared to 41 percent who backed his GOP rival. An additional 15 percent of respondents said they didn't know who'd they vote for or would support someone else.

That survey was conducted from April 25 to 29 among 2,000 registered Ohio voters. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percent.

Notably, Ohio has been somewhat of a swing state over the past few decades. Although Trump won there by substantial margins in 2016 and in 2020, former Democratic President Barack Obama won in the midwestern state in 2008 and 2012. Before Obama, former GOP President George W. Bush carried Ohio in 2000 and 2004, as did former Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996.

Ohio currently has senators from both political parties. In addition to Portman, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown has represented the state in the upper chamber of Congress since 2007. The state's Governor Mike DeWine is a Republican.

Despite the state's voters going back-and-forth between political parties, FiveThirtyEight assesses Ohio has a partisan lean of 12.4 percent in favor of Republicans. Whether Ryan is able to overcome voters' recent preference for the GOP could have significant political ramifications. As the Senate is currently evenly split, Democrats picking up a seat in November would bolster their power in Washington.