Skip to content

JD Vance May Need Another Peter Thiel Bailout

The venture capitalist helped propel Vance to victory in the primary. Could a “Thiel effect” sink him in November?

Thiel speaks at the Bitcoin 2022 conference at the Miami Beach Convention Center in Florida on April 7.

Thiel speaks at the Bitcoin 2022 conference at the Miami Beach Convention Center in Florida on April 7.

Photographer: Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

During his victory speech on May 3, JD Vance declared the Ohio Senate primary a “referendum on what kind of a Republican Party we want.” Vance, a venture capitalist and author, had barely registered in the early polls and was attacked relentlessly for having supported an independent candidate for president during the 2016 election. But despite these shortcomings, Vance had something going for him that the rest of the field did not: a close connection to Peter Thiel, the much, much wealthier venture capitalist who’s refashioned himself as a sort of far-right kingmaker.

Thiel, who previously employed Vance at one of his investment firms and served as a key backer of Vance’s VC fund, seeded the candidate’s Senate bid with a $10 million donation to a super PAC. He helped Vance make peace with former President Donald Trump and secure Trump’s enthusiastic backing, which propelled Vance to a late surge in the polls in April. Vance beat a crowded field with about 32% of the vote and was seen, at least immediately after the primary, as a heavy favorite to win a Senate seat as part of a midterm wave that could allow Republicans to retake Congress in November. Ohio leans Republican. Trump won the state by 8 points in 2020, and the retiring Republican senator, Rob Portman, won his seat by more than 20 points in 2016.