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Republican JD Vance journeys from ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ memoirist to US senator to VP contender

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — It was March 2022 and Senate candidate JD Vance was standing under hot lights in a Cleveland television studio debating four fellow Republicans on whether the U.S. should support a no-fly zone over Ukraine, not a month into its grinding war with Russia.

“Absolutely not,” Vance said.

“I’m in the minority up here,” the Marine veteran added, “because, at the end of the day, we can accept as individuals, look, it’s tragic, it’s terrible. What Vladimir Putin did was wrong in invading a sovereign country on his border. But we have our own problems in the United States to focus on.”

Vance was “putting America’s priorities ahead of all else,” his campaign said — and he had caught Donald Trump’s attention.

Within 25 days, the former president had endorsed Vance, helping the “Hillbilly Elegy” author and Yale-educated Silicon Valley venture capitalist defeat a crowded Republican field and ultimately win Ohio’s open Senate seat.

A relationship had been born that’s now nudged Vance, 39, onto Trump’s vice presidential short list. Trump boosted Vance’s career, and Vance has returned the favor by unceasingly defending Trump’s policies and behavior. His debating skills, ability to articulate Trump’s vision and fund-raising prowess are all potential assets for Vance, those familiar with the vetting process say.

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