One of the more intriguing Senate races of 2022 is taking place in Ohio, where an open seat and strong Democratic nominee Tim Ryan has added some intrigue to what should be a sleepy Senate race. Fortunately, we can legally bet on it with PredictIt, and see if there’s value to be had. Let’s break down the campaigns.
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2022 Ohio Senate Odds
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Democrats have been increasingly pessimistic about Ohio in recent years, with the GOP winning it in both 2016 and 2020, but more concerning for Democrats is having Donald Trump win it by the same amount both times. Despite five trips from the Biden-Harris ticket – more than they made to Georgia, which had two Senate seats up for grabs (and they actually would go on to win it) – the state didn’t move at all, and voted for Trump by 8%.
Despite polls which posited that Biden could win it, or at least be close – polls persuasive enough to Bidenworld to have him go to the state on the final day of the campaign – the Democrats underperformed their polls, as they did in both 2016 and 2018.
It’s worth remembering that 2018 was also a disaster for Democrats in the state – they failed to beat Mike Dewine in the open Governor’s race there despite a polling lead going into election day, and they failed to gain a House seat despite investing heavily in the Ohio 12 special and in an effort to beat Steve Chabot in District 1.
That said, Democrats still have a soft spot for the state, because Sherrod Brown won in 2018; albeit, by less than the polls said, less than he should have, and only because he and Democratic outside groups outspent the GOP by $28M after the GOP left town.
Despite the fact that Democrats only won because the GOP decided their other targets were better, Brown’s race is held up as a sign that the state isn’t lost for Democrats, and so, once the GOP signaled they were going to dismantle his district, mini Sherrod Brown – also known as Tim Ryan – decided to finally run for statewide office.
And fortunately for us, some people decided he could win.
More Political Odds and 2022 Midterms Coverage
2022 Ohio Senate Odds: The Candidates
Democratic Nominee Tim Ryan
Part of the reason Democrats are optimistic they could actually win this race is that Tim Ryan has an genuinely good record of over-performing Presidential partisanship in his Youngstown and Akron based seat. In theory, he can get Obama-Trump voters back.
It’s a nifty theory, built around the idea that Ryan, running on bringing manufacturing back to Ohio and fighting back against the hollowing out of parts of Ohio, could turn back the clock and get the kinds of results in culturally conservative, economically liberal parts of the state, especially the area south of the I-71.
Go to any of the small counties in the state’s east and south, and you’ll find a group of union workers or those who used to be union workers who want better health care in their small towns and want good paying jobs to come back.
Ryan’s whole implicit appeal is he can win over some of those voters because he himself is hard scrabbled, he is a little off color, he isn’t a politically correct “normal politician”, as it were.
Republican Nominee JD Vance
The fact Republicans are nominating JD Vance, the author of Hillbilly Elegy and former Never Trump Republican turned Trump endorsee, also helps Ohio Democrats think they have a chance.
Hillbilly Elegy has been described as a book for liberals who think they understand the Midwest, and the notion that Vance’s original bid to win the state – that he would ride the good will of that book to a primary win – never came through. He pivoted in the primary to Peter Thiel, whose money got him into competitive range before the Trump endorsement won him the primary.
Running Vance – who in 2016 called Trump “America’s Hitler” in some texts to his former college roommate – is a Godsend to Democrats, because he’s an inexperienced candidate who will make a series of mistakes.
Throw in the fact that it is hard to say that he is a man of much conviction – unless one seeks to suggest his 2016 texts were a compliment (they weren’t) – and the door is open, just a crack, to a Ryan victory.
The polling of this race even suggests it will be competitive, with Ryan down 2% in a USA Today/Suffolk poll of the race and up 2% in a Democratic internal. Taken at face value, a candidate down only a couple of points in an independent poll, and up 2% in a poll from an outside group (even a Dem leaning one) at Ryan’s price is a steal.
But it’s not.
Remember why I mentioned all those bad, Democratic leaning Ohio polls from 2018 and 2020. It’s really not hard to find polls that says good things about Democrats in Ohio. Hell, as someone who thought Biden would win Ohio, it’s not even hard to believe those polls. But they’re not true.
Vance might be an urban elite phony cosplaying as a true down home boy, but it doesn’t matter, because Ohio voted 12.5% right of the nation as a whole in 2020 and it’s likely going to be a Republican leaning year.
Is Vance going to win by 16%, which is what pure partisanship would suggest? No, of course not, but that’s exactly the point. Vance has such a buffer given the state’s partisanship and the year that it doesn’t matter that he doesn’t believe anything he’s saying.
Ryan will run a great campaign, in all likelihood, and he will get a very creditable result compared to what the expected value of a Democratic campaign in Ohio in this red wave is worth, and if there is valor in losing by 6%, then give it all to him. But that’s not the same thing as having a chance to win.
Ryan’s campaign and these laughably bad polls – which, let’s just be 1000% clear, are as accurate as those rumors that Joe Burrow wouldn’t play in Cincinnati if drafted there – have opened a window for what is essentially free money.
Vance losing this Senate seat would be the biggest Senatorial upset since Mary Landrieu held on in Louisiana in 2002. These sorts of upsets just don’t happen, especially not with increased polarization.
JD Vance is going to beat Tim Ryan. It may be heavy, heavy juice, but bet accordingly.
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