Thu. Apr 25th, 2024

How Ohio Republicans are weighing their Senate choice

By 37ci3 Mar16,2024



WINTERSVILLE, Ohio – Wesley Starr, 73, still doesn’t know who to vote for in Ohio’s Republican U.S. Senate primary.

“All three candidates impressed me. I like all three of them,” he told NBC News at the Jefferson County Lincoln Day luncheon.

Voters like Starr could decide a close race for the GOP nomination with Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown later this year. This is one of the most important Senate races in the country, and Republican voters are counting on factors such as businessman Bernie Moreno’s support from former President Donald Trump and other MAGA figures, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s record in office and military experience, and as a state senator. Matt Dolan’s attempt to balance his appeal to those who want a different version of the Republican Party while showing support for Trump.

NBC News spoke with more than 30 Republican and independent voters in Ohio last week to find out what’s important to them when choosing a candidate.

“[Moreno] is endorsed by Donald Trump, which gives him a leg up in this particular race, but both LaRose and Dolan have very strong, strong profiles and good experience,” Starr said. At the end of his conversation with NBC News, he was leaning toward voting for Moreno because of that endorsement. he said it was.

As in many other state and local elections since 2016, Trump looms large. Brian Kolkowski, who said Trump has been on the ballot since June 2015, said Trump’s endorsement of Moreno “made a big difference” to him.

“I want to support Trump. I want to make sure that he has the team that can actually change the law.”

Moreno made a concerted effort to align with Trump and members of the MAGA movement, including Sen. JD Vance, Rep. Jim Jordan and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who were scheduled to speak at Trump’s rally with Moreno on Saturday.

Moreno told NBC News that their presence at the rally shows that their wing of the party will “stab in the heart” of the old GOP name-checking Dolan and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (who supports). Dolan), as well as Trump critics such as former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, and Utah Sen. Mitt Romney.

“We’re going to make sure that the America First party, the Republican Party, the new Republican Party cares about working class Americans … cares about the voters at the base of the party,” Moreno said.

However, not everyone can withstand Trump’s support. Ben Batenburg, 73, voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020 and plans to vote for Trump in the general election, but plans to vote for LaRose on Tuesday.

“I look at the person. And President Trump can support whoever he wants, that doesn’t mean I’m going to support that person,” Batenburg told NBC News. “I support Trump’s policies and I support LaRose’s policies.”

Linda Ragsdale, 66, will also vote for LaRose, telling NBC News, “I believe in President Trump. But you have your own mind, we have free will.”

During a LaRose meet-and-greet in Mingo Junction, Ohio, a voter asked LaRose why Jordan, Vance and Trump supported Moreno.

“You have to ask them,” LaRose said, adding, “I can tell you that. Most voters don’t make their decisions based on endorsements.”

Later, LaRose tried to highlight what he called a “great relationship” with Trump.

“I had lunch with him a few months ago and I will be his best ally in the United States Senate,” LaRose said. “I think after Trump made that endorsement, there was obviously a lot of leaps and bounds for people who wanted to go along with him. But I am the one who can defeat Brown, and I will stand by President Trump every step of the way.”

“So there’s no daylight between me and Donald Trump,” LaRose continued, “and when this primary is over on March 20, there’s no hard feelings that he’s made the wrong choice in who he’s supporting in this race.”

Attending the final Republican Senate primary debate at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, 20-year-old Nick McNeil cast an early vote for Dolan. He was a supporter of Nikki Haley in the 2024 presidential election and said he was unsure who he would vote for in the November presidential election.

McNeil told NBC News that he was deciding between Moreno and Dolan, but ultimately went with Dolan.

“I think Trump’s endorsement really put me off him [Moreno]. I really don’t like it,” McNeil said.

Dolan told NBC News how helpful he sees DeWine’s support, given all the overwhelming support from Moreno: “I think DeWine is helping me win the Republican vote. And I think his point was two things. I’m doing things that help Ohio – I might as well do it in Washington. But I could also beat Sherrod Brown, so I think it’s a crossover appeal for all Republicans.”

Asked about Trump’s rally in Moreno a few days before the Ohio primary, Dolan said, “Bernie is a Trump-endorsed candidate and they have to feel that Bernie needs help.”

For most Republican voters in Ohio, whether they support Moreno, LaRose or Dolan, the top policy issue for them is immigration and the southern border.

Dorene Evans, 63, who plans to vote for LaRose, believes immigration is “out of control.” He fears that “there are terrorists crossing the border”.

Stephen Bastian, 24, who plans to vote for Dolan, said border security is his top concern, too. “I just think it’s important to keep our country safe and secure,” he said.

“And on the border, I think that’s one of the biggest issues right now,” Kolkowski, who supports Moreno, told NBC News. I think we need to close the border and clean up the mess that President Biden left us with.”

But while there are unifying issues, the divisions between factions of the Republican Party can be just as evident in conversations with the candidates as they are with the candidates’ supporters.

Sherri Garner Brumbaugh, 62, who has more than 30 years of experience in the trucking industry and supports Moreno, believes this is a “crucial time for the state of Ohio.”

“As Republicans, we’re going to be traditional old-school Republicans, or we’re going to rebrand ourselves as Republicans,” he told NBC News. “I’m looking for that change in Washington, and Bernie Moreno will bring it.”

Meanwhile, Amy Sabath, 52, who now runs a nonprofit at a community college and is a political operative in Ohio who has served in senior positions in GOP campaigns including DeWine and Dolan, plans to support Dolan and recognizes the split among the GOP. this race.

“I think there’s a concern that the ultra-conservative vote is probably going to split between Moreno and LaRose, but I hope there’s a nice way for Dolan to go down the middle — I don’t mean moderate Republicans. , but maybe that’s a better word,” Sabath told NBC News. “I’ve always considered myself an ultra-conservative Republican, but I just believe in the right candidate, and the right candidate is Dolan.”

Dolan was knocking on doors Tuesday afternoon in Aurora, Ohio, when he ran into Reed Fuller, a voter who said he was a lifelong Republican until Trump took office.

“My heart says I will never vote Republican again until Trump is gone.” I’m sorry,” said Dolan.

Aurora Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin tried to sway a vote for Dolan by pointing out that Fuller is “not a Trump person.”

“We’ll take you back to the garden,” Dolan said as he walked away.

Fuller replied, “If you can do it, that’s fine with me.”



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