CLEVELAND – Three Republicans are running Ohio’s competitive US Senate seat In a televised debate here Monday, he argued not who is best for the state, but who is best for Donald Trump.
The former president of businessman Bernie Moreno already has confirmation – he is a fact in the first 30 seconds of his answer to the first question. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who predicted a month ago that Trump would abstain, presented himself as a staunch ally.
Then there was state senator Matt Dolan He expressed his desire to pass Trump and did not jockey for his endorsement, but pledged to support him if he were the GOP presidential nominee. Dolan, the night’s main aggressor on stage, also claimed to be most aligned with Trump given his recent legislative experience, accusing his opponents of “fake” respect.
“The reality is that I’m the only person who accepts Trump’s policies at this stage,” Dolan said. “These two spent a lot of time trying to erase it all past comments, hateful comments about Trump. Now, because it suits their political interests, they say something completely different.”
Trump is the front-runner for this year’s Republican presidential nomination – a status that could be further cemented on Tuesday. New Hampshire’s first national championship.
Monday’s debate, hosted by Cleveland’s WJW-TV and broadcast live on Ohio’s Nexstar-owned stations, was the first of several scheduled before the March 19 primary. The GOP nominee will face Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown in what is expected to be one of the fiercest and most expensive Senate races of the year.
While Brown and President Joe Biden were criticized several times on Monday, the candidates often fought each other — even where they mostly agree.
Moreno punished LaRose he said in an interview last month Trump told her that he was unlikely to endorse anyone in the primaries. The next day, Trump endorsed Moreno.
“I think it’s absolutely appalling that Frank would lie and say that President Trump told him something that he clearly didn’t,” Moreno said.
After LaRose denied lying about his conversation with Trump, Moreno responded: “So you just called President Trump a liar.”
Later in the debate, the moderators pressed LaRose and Moreno to change their rhetoric following the January 6, 2021 riot by Trump supporters at the US Capitol. At the time, LaRose and Moreno condemned the violence and destruction. Both have since described some of the accused as political “prisoners” – Language that resonates with Trump’s.
Dolan criticized Moreno for his allegedly sympathetic response to the rioters.
“We’ve just heard a completely political bogus response,” Dolan said. “He’s trying to reinvent himself. January 6th was a bad day, I said at the time. January 6… was a bad day, and I’m saying it now.”
This comment and others disgraced Moreno.
“If you want Liz Cheney to represent you as a United States senator from Ohio, that’s your choice,” Moreno said, referring to the former Republican congressman from Wyoming, who played a leading role in the Jan. 6 House hearing.
On another point, Dolan then drew attention Moreno faced the courts During his years as a car salesman, Moreno said, “this is what third place looked like.”
No public polls have been conducted in the primaries since Trump’s confirmation last month. Moreno and Dolan are both independently wealthy and have already budgeted millions of dollars for TV ads, while LaRose relies more heavily on a tailored super PAC.
The debate moderators also pushed the candidates on abortion rights, which were enshrined in the Ohio Constitution last year after a ballot initiative that all three candidates opposed. LaRose had previously been the face of opposition after championing a separate, failed measure that would have raised the barrier to passage of such amendments.
Dolan, LaRose and Moreno avoided direct answers when asked if they supported a federal abortion ban, but each made it clear they supported some federal restrictions.
“Listen, states can set their own standards, but the minimum we look at at the federal level should be the minimum, and we’re not a nation that should allow late-term abortion,” LaRose said.
“I don’t want this to be a federal issue,” Dolan said. But I don’t want late-term abortions to be the norm in the United States of America.”
He also commented on LaRose’s involvement in the state’s anti-abortion campaign last year.
“Frank has been going around the state talking to Republicans who are already aligned with him to prepare him for this U.S. Senate race,” Dolan said. “Frank, you should have done what my team did — go door-to-door with undecided voters to explain how outrageous this abortion amendment is.”
Moreno reminded viewers several times of his support for Trump — and for good measure, his campaign aired two ads right before the Cleveland broadcast of the debate.
“We can only save this country if we stop sending career politicians to Washington,” Moreno said in a closing statement. “That’s what we’re seeing with President Trump.”