JD Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy, has announced his bid to replace retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman in Ohio's 2022 Senate election, and is now walking back past criticism of former President Trump. "Like a lot of people, I criticized Trump back in 2016," the Republican venture capitalist said in a Monday interview with Fox News, after announcing his candidacy on Thursday. "And I ask folks not to judge me based on what I said in 2016, because I've been very open that I did say those critical things and I regret them, and I regret being wrong about the guy. I think he was a good president, I think he made a lot of good decisions for people, and I think he took a lot of flak." Days earlier, CNN's Andrew Kaczynski shared deleted tweets in which Vance called Trump "reprehensible" and vowed to vote for independent Evan McMullin, per Politico.
The only Democrat vying for the Senate seat, Rep. Tim Ryan, noted he and Vance "have exactly one thing in common—neither of us voted for Donald Trump," per the Hill. Vance—whose bestselling memoir about his upbringing, turned into a movie, helped explain Trump's appeal to white, working-class voters—had also faulted Trump for his take on immigrants and Muslims. But Vance told Fox that "the most important thing is not what you said five years ago, but whether you're willing to … take the hits for actually defending the interests of the American people," per Mediaite. The 38-year-old, up against former state GOP chair Jane Timken and former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, also noted he'd met with Trump at Mar-a-Lago. The AP notes a political action committee encouraging Vance's run received $10 million from PayPal founder Peter Thiel, who once employed Vance. (Read more Senate race stories.)