(Bloomberg) -- Democrat Tim Ryan has dodged President Joe Biden in his bid for Republican-leaning Ohio’s US Senate seat, but on Thursday he welcomed Senator Joe Manchin, oft-maligned by their party, to his side as he tries to woo moderate voters.
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Ryan’s appearance with the West Virginia senator in southern Ohio wasn’t a campaign stop, but rather an official event to discuss contamination and issues related to a former uranium-enrichment plant. Manchin is chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and pledged to help the community.
But Manchin, who is known for frustrating Democrats with his opposition to Biden at key times, argued that Ohioans who want results should pick current Democratic US Representative Ryan over Republican venture capitalist JD Vance. The midterm election contest is unexpectedly competitive with control of the upper chamber at stake.
“If you want to basically make the Senate work, we don’t need anybody from the extremes,” Manchin, whose state is a GOP bastion, told reporters after a forum with community officials in Piketon. “That’s what I’m asking the people in Ohio: Give us somebody that’ll work in the middle, that’s not afraid to say, ‘Hey, the Republicans are right on that issue.’”
Ryan is trying to charm independents, moderate Republicans and disaffected Democrats with a campaign in a state Donald Trump easily won twice by emphasizing his willingness to oppose his party and support the former president on issues such as trade and being tough on China.
Republicans had expected the seat of retiring GOP Senator Rob Portman to be safe, but polls show the race is competitive after Ryan outraised and outspent Vance, the Hillbilly Elegy author and first-time candidate. Vance struggled after winning a bruising primary in May with Trump’s endorsement.
“I’m not asking anybody to sign up to be a Democrat,” Ryan told a group of college students during a stop at Ohio State University on Wednesday. “I’m asking people in this election to sign up to be an American. Democrats, Republicans and independents, the exhausted majority of us, against the extremists.”
His appearance alongside Manchin is in contrast to the campaign fellow Democrat US Senate hopeful John Fetterman, who campaigned with Biden Thursday, has run in Pennsylvania. In the primary, Fetterman routinely criticized Manchin for his opposition to parts of Biden’s agenda popular with progressives.
“Do we have any Joe Manchin Democrats? One? OK, one. Two? We’ve got two. OK. So I want to tell you that I might let you down if I get to Washington, DC,” Fetterman said at an April campaign stop in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.
Vance and his allies argue that the image Ryan is trying to project on the campaign trail, in his television ads and during two debates belies his record, which they say is in near lock-step with Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“As much as Tim Ryan pretends that he’s somehow independent, as much as he pretends that he’s somehow bipartisan, if you look at every single issue these guys have governed on in the last couple of years, they have gone completely off the rails,” Vance said during an appearance in Columbus on Wednesday with GOP senators Tom Cotton and Tim Scott, both potential 2024 presidential candidates.
Cotton said Vance must win because “there is no path to Republican majority without the Ohio seat,” and “Ohio has been trending Republican for a few years now, that’s why the Democrats are so desperate to get their grips back on it again.”
Manchin said he thinks control of the Senate will be a toss-up, and he hopes Democrats get a one- or two-seat majority.
“I’m just praying to God it’s not 50-50,” Manchin said.
--With assistance from Gregory Korte.
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