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JD Vance's incredible path: from poverty to Yale and possible Trump vice president

The 39 senator and author is one of the Republican's favorites to be his running mate, along with Marco Rubio and Doug Burgum.


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"The coolest thing I've done, at least on paper, is graduate from Yale Law School, something thirteen-year-old J.D. Vance would have considered ludicrous. But about two hundred people do the same thing every year, and trust me, you don't want to read about most of their lives. I am not a senator, a governor, or a former cabinet secretary. I haven't started a billion-dollar company or a world-changing nonprofit. I have a nice job, a happy marriage, a comfortable home, and two lively dogs," JD Vance wrote as an introduction to "Hillbilly Elegy," the book that brought him national fame. Having already achieved the first thing I list, perhaps, it will depend on Donald Trump and then on the voters, I could add the word " vice president e" to that list.

It turns out that the 39-year-old Republican is on the short list of presumptive nominees to be Trump's running mate in November, along with his colleague Marco Rubio and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum.

According to Trump, he will reveal the name during the week of the Republican National Convention (RNC), which will begin next July 15.

Who is JD Vance?

Vance was born on August 2, 1984, just two months before Ronald Reagan's re-election, in a small town called Middletown in southwestern Ohio. His family is of Scots-Irish descent, a group he defines as "rural people who came from the United Kingdom between the 17th and 18th centuries."

As he describes in his aforementioned book, published in 2016 and listed as the "most important" publication at the time, he had a very difficult childhood. One that possibly would have ended in tragedy had it not been for his grandmother, "Mamaw," who, as he confesses, knew how to get it back on track in time. When he was beginning to do poorly in school, hang out with the wrong crowd, and "experiment with drugs and alcohol," everything suddenly changed... and for the better.

"I remember start hanging out with this kid who was sort of known to be a local druggie and my grandma found out and she leaned in and said 'JD I want to tell you something if you don't stop hanging out with that kid I'm going to run him over with my car and no one is ever going to find out'",  he recalled in an interview with Peter Robinson for the Hoover Institution. Although deep down he knew that the grandmother was not going to commit murder, his conviction began to straighten him out.

"She was she was very hard on me in a way that I needed. She demanded that I get a job, that I work hard in the job, that I pay my own way. She demanded that I go to school and then I get good grades you know. By the time that I lived with Mamaw, all that was probably the poorest I ever was growing up, we had very very little money. I remember that she went and bought a ti-89 graphing calculator because I was in the advanced math class at school, that was the hot calculator. Mamaw said, 'look you lazy bastard if I can pay for this calculator with as little money as I have then you are going to work hard in school you're going to do well' and that meant something to me," he added.

From Middletown to Yale

He finished high school and went on to enlist in the Army, where he served in the Marine Corps and was deployed to the Iraq War.

Back home, he graduated in political science and philosophy from The Ohio State University and made the leap he highlighted in the opening paragraph. He left Yale University with a law degree, which quickly transported him into the corporate world, one very different from the one he was accustomed to while vacationing in Kentucky as a young man.

"You can't understand what's happening now without first reading JD Vance."

Precisely, one of his Yale professors, Amy Chua, convinced Vance to put his childhood in a book.

"When Chua and Vance met, Chua was in the process of publishing Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, about the strict parenting tactics she used to raise her daughters. Watching Chua share her family’s story with a national audience, Vance started to believe that he could do the same thing," The Atlantic reported.

Once on the market, "Hillbilly Elegy" was a bestseller. So much so that it even made it to the big screen as a Netflix documentary, which went on to earn Academy Award nominations.

To understand the dimension and impact that the then-young 32-year-old author's publication had, he managed to crash the website of The American Conservative magazine after an interview with him was published. "You can't understand what's happening now without first reading JD Vance," Rod Dreher of the aforementioned media stated at the time.

Senate candidacy.

After denying again and again his intention to run for the Senate in Ohio, which he effectively rejected in 2018, he decided to jump into the political arena in 2022 following the retirement announcement of Senator Rob Portman.

With a platform marked by an approach to Trump's rhetoric, from whom he also obtained official support, he achieved first place in a close Republican primary, beating Josh Mandel and Matt Dolan.

Despite facing a tough rival like Tim Ryan in the general elections, he managed to win with 53% and reach the Senate as one of its youngest members, only surpassed by Jon Ossoff of Georgia.

Regarding his administration, he was notable for being somewhat skeptical of the effectiveness of sending funds from Ukraine, for supporting a national limit of 15 weeks on abortion, as well as for collaborating with Democratic senators on various bills.

For example, he worked with Sherrod Brown and Bob Casey to come up with a plan to prevent another train derailment like the one that occurred in East Palestine, as well as with Elizabeth Warren to target the bailout of the big banks.

Strengths and weaknesses of a Trump-Vance ticket.

Finally, when analyzing what JD Vance would contribute to a possible Donald Trump presidential ticket, leaving aside his height and attractive blue eyes, the Ohio senator would balance the ticket in age and regional terms.

For starters, he is exactly half as old as Trump, and most importantly, he embodies the Rust Belt, which experts use to predict the election's outcome. The traction of votes in key states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and even Minnesota could be fundamental for the eventual Republican duo.

In turn, he could help the ticket raise money from non-traditional places for Republicans, and his excellent television appearances make his name gain even more strength.

Last but not least, he has already participated in federal elections, meaning everything his rivals could have found against him would have already been published. Although there may always be some surprises, this would be peace of mind for the campaign.

As for the non-positive points, in addition to his youth, which can also be seen as a double-edged sword, it must be taken into account that Vance was tough on Trump in the past, something that would indeed be exploited against him by Biden's campaign, something very similar to what happens with Marco Rubio.