Republican candidate J.D. Vance, who received former President Trump’s endorsement in a crowded primary race earlier this year, was projected Tuesday to win the Ohio Senate race. 

NBC News and ABC News both called the race.

Vance defeated 20-year Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who represents Akron and Youngstown, and made the contest surprisingly close by appealing to swing voters in eastern Ohio.  

Republican J.D. Vance was projected to win the Ohio Senate race against Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio). (Associated Press)

Trump played a key role in the race by endorsing Vance in the Republican primary, where he came from behind to defeat former state Treasurer Josh Mandel and businessman Mike Gibbons.  

Vance, the author of the best-selling book “Hillbilly Elegy,” was stuck in single digits in the polls and third place before he stormed to the front of the pack in the primary, buoyed by Trump’s endorsement and the damage that Mandel and Gibbons inflicted on each other with personal attacks.  

Vance has criticized Trump in the past, telling interviewer Charlie Rose in 2016 that he was “a Never Trump guy” and “never liked him.”  

But Vance decided to embrace Trump during the primary and praised him in April as “the best president of my lifetime.” 

Trump has reveled in Vance’s turnaround.  

“J.D. is kissing my ass; he wants my support so much,” Trump quipped at a recent campaign rally in Youngstown. 

Vance, who was a vocal critic of former President Trump’s in the past, embraced him wholeheartedly during his Senate campaign. (Associated Press)

Vance has taken shots at other Republican leaders and embraced Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election. 

“I think the fundamental problem is we had a massive effort to shift the election by very powerful people in this country,” he told Spectrum News in January. “I don’t care whether you say it’s rigged, whether you say it’s stolen, like, I’ll say what I’m going to say about it.”  

He declared at a rally with Trump in April that “we’ve got a ridiculous leadership even on the Republican side that tries to undo some of the best things that Donald Trump did over the past four years.”  

Vance declined to commit to voting for Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) when asked about a potential Senate leadership race at a Fox News town hall event, only saying: “We’ll see what happens when I get to Washington, D.C.” 

McConnell, however, raised millions of dollars for Vance through an aligned super PAC, the Senate Leadership Fund, which poured more than $30 million into the Ohio Senate race.  

Another group affiliated with McConnell, One Nation, announced a $3.8 million multiweek ad buy in August to help Vance.  

The influx of spending from outside groups helped offset Vance’s lackluster fundraising performance.  

The Ohio Senate race remained tight through much of the fall, but Vance expanded his lead in the days leading up to the election. (Associated Press)

Vance raised $12.8 million during his Senate campaign while Ryan raised $48.1 million, according to the most recent public data posted online by the Federal Election Commission.  

The fundraising discrepancy drew criticisms from Republican strategists in Washington who wondered why Vance wasn’t raising more money and doing better in the polls.  

The race was close to even for much of October, with the two candidates in a statistical dead heat, according to an average of polls compiled by RealClearPolitics.  

Vance appeared to widen his lead in the final week of the campaign with polls by Republican-leaning Trafalgar Group and Democratic-leaning Data for Progress both showing Vance ahead by 10 points.  

He pledged last week to accept the outcome of the Ohio race, which he said he expected to win.  

“I expect to win,” Vance said at a town hall event in Columbus. “But of course, if things don’t go the way that I expect, I’ll support the guy who wins and I’ll try to be as supportive as possibly can, even accepting that we’re going to disagree on some big issues.”