Tim Ryan turned his race into a surprise enate battleground now comes the hard part

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Tim Ryan speaks to supporters after the polls closed on primary election day.

Tim Ryan may be running ahead of J.D. Vance in Ohio. But the cavalry is coming to Vance’s rescue.

Whether Ryan can survive the coming ad onslaught and keep Ohio’s Senate race surprisingly competitive is an open question. The Democratic congressman is making an appeal to Republicans and independents in hopes he can win in a state that has shifted right in recent years, falling off the center of the battleground map it occupied for so many decades. Vance, the Republican nominee, rose to prominence as the author of “Hillbilly Elegy” and was supported in the primary by former President Donald Trump and tech billionaire Peter Thiel.

Independent polling in the race has been scarce so far. But Ryan has staked out a narrow 3-point edge in an internal poll for his campaign obtained exclusively by POLITICO, taking 48 percent support to Vance’s 45 percent, with 7 percent undecided. The survey, conducted July 21-28 by Impact Research, polled 800 likely general election voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

The lead is a product of a lopsided campaign so far: Ryan spent more than $8 million on advertisements, including $6.5 million on television since May. But until this week, Vance’s campaign had been AWOL from the airwaves for that entire time. Ryan has also remained far ahead of Vance in the cash dash, in part thanks to an aggressive small-dollar donation campaign.

The outcome of the Ohio race has major stakes for the 2022 midterms. The Senate is finely balanced at 50-50, and Democrats have enjoyed a summer of solid polling in top swing-state races despite the challenging political environment. Adding another seriously competitive, GOP-held seat to the list of battleground races in the fall could tip control of the chamber next year.

Ironically, the spate of negative stories surrounding Vance’s campaign in recent weeks — that he is struggling with fundraising and his own party is questioning whether Ryan is out-hustling him on the airwaves — may have had a net positive effect on Vance’s campaign. Fundraising has picked up since, and national Republicans have stepped in to start buying ads in the race.

On Thursday, Vance joined Trump at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., where he raised roughly $300,000 holding a golf fundraiser, according to a person with knowledge of the event.

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