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J.D. Vance Is Imploding

His campaign can’t find its footing.
by Jim Swift
November 11, 2021
J.D. Vance Is Imploding
(Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr)

As much as he tries, J.D. Vance cannot out-crazy Josh Mandel. But try he has. Bizarre video rants about Kyle Rittenhouse; attacking detractors for having a picture of an animal in their profile picture; a defense of Trump hatchet man Johnny McEntee, who comes across as a psychopath—and this is all within just the last three days. There’s so much more.

Even while J.D. continues to try to compete with Josh on the Ohio Right-Wing Scoville Scale of Spicy Craziness, he is doing something that suggests that his Peter Thiel-supported candidacy is imploding.

Vance has chickened out and refused to debate other candidates twice recently, citing prior commitments. But reporting from the Daily Beast contradicts that excuse. Vance apparently has an event in Westerville, Ohio, home of John Kasich, that can’t be skipped? Suuuure. Which reminds me of when, in 2019, Mark Sanford—yes, that Mark Sanford—decided to spend a week in Iowa to make PR stops at restaurants instead of debating his opponents in his longshot attempt to primary Donald Trump.

Mark Sanford wanted to enjoy Arby’s, but it’s not clear why Vance thought a meet and greet in Westerville, a Columbus suburb, was more important than a debate in Dublin, a mere 18 minutes away. Especially since Mandel is running away with the race in polls. You’d think that Vance would want an opportunity to offer an alternative version of right-wing crazy to GOP voters in the Buckeye State. An R.C. Cola to Josh Mandel’s Cotton Club.

Meanwhile, Vance is delaying informing Ohioans about his campaign’s funding. Despite promises to file his campaign’s financial disclosures in October, Vance has stalled.

In addition to his lagging poll numbers. Vance has made gaffes, of the sort that sank Terry McAuliffe or the one that helped put a nail in the coffin of Martha McSally’s Arizona Senate campaign. In Vance’s case, at the National Conservatism conference in Orlando last week—think of it as a CPAC for super-traditional isolationists—Vance said:

You can all go to and make yourselves as poor as possible to support my campaign.

It’s clear he was joking, but the line went over like a lead balloon. Believing in isolationism is a great way to become poor very quickly when put into practice at a personal level, but hey, during a pandemic, give this wealthy isolationist candidate—just from his book sales and his deal with Netflix, he is surely a millionaire—your money and become poor even faster!

The knives are out for Vance now, and he is a juicy target because of his flip-flopping on Trump.

Consider this ad, airing in Ohio:

Bizarre jingle in an anti-JD Vance ad

I remember the 2004 Bush/Cheney ad nailing Kerry for being a flip flopper, but this is next-level. And the jingle is quite catchy. Republicans are better at ads (sorry, Democrats), and this one, along with the polls, Vance’s gaffes, and his poorly run campaign all signal to me that Josh Mandel (my former mentor, who I think has gone off the rails) has this primary in the bag.

Jim Swift

Jim Swift is a senior editor at The Bulwark.