Mon. Apr 22nd, 2024

Ohio’s hostile GOP Senate primary today puts Trump’s clout on the line as Bernie Moreno, Matt Dolan face off

By 37ci3 Mar19,2024

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Donald Trump’s name is not on the ballot Tuesday Ohio Republican Senate Primary.

But his reputation is very high.

Former president and presumptive 2024 Republican presidential candidate Endorsed Bernie Morenoa former car salesman and blockchain entrepreneur in a race he campaigns for considered as shooting in recent days. Recent polls have shown a dead heat between Moreno and the state senator. Matt Dolanwho Trump was attacked as a “RINO”. — or just a Republican — at a rally near Dayton on Saturday.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose is also seeking the nomination but doesn’t have the resources to mount a strong advertising campaign or attract the big-name endorsements that have gone to Dolan and Moreno.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Arizona Senate candidate Kari Lake and Sen. JD Vance, who won a nasty Trump-backed primary here two years ago, were among those who crossed the state for Moreno.

Dolan received help from two Trump-wary Republicans — Gov. Mike DeWine and former Sen. Rob Portman — creating a clash between Trump’s ever-rebellious MAGA movement and defenders of Ohio’s old-guard establishment.

But even some of Trump’s hardliners are behind Dolan.

“I am a Trump supporter. … I hope people will give Dolan a chance,” East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway told NBC News, adding that Dolan had offered to help after a train derailment and toxic chemical release in his village last year. “Nothing against President Trump. I have supported President Trump since his first candidacy for the presidency and I will support him until I die.”

On Tuesday, the winner will face Sen. Sherrod Brown, who is unopposed in the Democratic primary, in a contest that will help determine control of the Senate. Brown is one of two Democratic incumbents, along with Sen. John Tester of Montana, up for re-election in states Trump has twice won by wide margins. Both parties plan to spend heavily on the Ohio race this fall.

The often hostile impression of the GOP primary underscored the high stakes in November. Voting closes at 7:30pm ET.

“This is the last gasp of the swamp RINO establishment in Ohio,” Moreno said at a rally with Trump on Saturday. “I need you to stab me in the heart on Tuesday and make it clear that we put America first in Ohio. We do not put the interests of foreign countries first.”

Bernie Moreno, Matt Dolan and Frank LaRose
Bernie Moreno, Matt Dolan and Frank LaRose at the final Republican Senate debate on March 6 at the University of Miami.Jason Houston / Courtesy WLWT

Trump’s last-minute trip is a source close to him told NBC News a week ago It is “very difficult” for the former president to attend the rally for Moreno – a sign of how closely Moreno’s political fortunes are tied to Trump’s. Moreno featured him in ads even before Trump officially boarded the plane.

A spot that was aired many times at the end of last year a clip Trump praises Moreno to right-wing activists: “We love Ohio,” Trump told the crowd, “and we love Bernie Moreno.”

The strategy has only required minor tweaks since Trump gave his official endorsement in December. His endorsement helped boost Moreno, who is unknown to voters except for a brief Senate run in 2022, putting him on more equal footing with Dolan and LaRose. Moreno also self-financed a significant portion of his televised campaign, lending $4.2 million to the effort.

But recent polls have shown that Moreno is essentially tied to Dolan, whose family made a fortune in the cable television industry and owns the Cleveland Major League Baseball.

Dolan put up $10 million of his own money, signing an aggressive advertising campaign that allowed him and his policy agenda to be established faster and faster than his opponents. He has maintained a political distance from Trump, presenting himself as a defender of “Trump policies” and insisting that the former president’s identity is “not me.”

Dolan’s rise was caused by a Democratic PAC affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer It launched a $3 million advertising blitz It aims to boost Moreno by promoting his conservative credentials and Trump’s endorsement. The intervention reflected Dolan’s potential general election strength — he’s familiar with voters in Democratic Cuyahoga County, where Brown needs to pick up points to win in November.

“It’s never worth losing,” Dolan told NBC News Sunday after pouring pints for St. Patrick’s Day revelers at a bar in Willoughby, east of Cleveland. “But I believe I have the right message in our Republican primary and you need the resources to get it out. You have to be willing to sacrifice your time, treasure, and talent, especially when I go around the state asking others for their time, treasure, and talent.”

LaRose entered the primary with the highest name recognition, winning two statewide elections. But there were no financial resources for Dolan and Moreno, who called themselves “miners”. His campaign has been unable to afford television ads, relying mainly on an allied super PAC that has attacked Moreno in recent weeks. LaRose spent the final days of the race believing that the many undecided voters who showed up at the polls would win the candidate they know best on Election Day.

At a Columbiana County GOP dinner last week, as lounge singer Roberta Flack performed a blazing version of “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” an elderly woman gave LaRose a long hug by the bar as she approached to refill her coffee.

“This thing is a jump ball in a lot of ways,” LaRose told reporters after lunch.

The seeds of this race were planted in the 2022 state Senate primary won by Vance. Moreno was a short-term candidate at the time, but dropped out after meeting with Trump and realizing he couldn’t win his endorsement. Dolan also ran that year — the only GOP candidate to publicly test Trump’s support. Concerned that a well-funded but disloyal candidate could emerge from a crowded field with a small number of votes, Trump fired Dolan over his family’s rebranding of the Cleveland Indians to the Rangers.

Moreno followed Trump’s lead and endorsed Vance. So did LaRose, who won Trump’s favor for his secretary of state’s re-election campaign. the same day he declared his support for Vance. Dolan finished a relatively strong third in the seven-way contest, partly because of how little he was attacked in television ads.

Attacks on Dolan flared up again later this year, reflecting doubts that the candidate known for Trump’s ambivalence could win the GOP primary. But Moreno and his allies began rallying in earnest this month as polls rejected that notion. At a rally on Saturday, Trump reignited his criticism of the changing of the Guard, describing Dolan as a Mitt Romney dream — a stinging attack given the Utah senator’s considerable public disdain for the former president.

“You’ve got to win, Bernie,” Trump said at another point in the rally, shaming the prospect of a Moreno loss. “Don’t leave me alone. Don’t leave me alone, Bernie.’

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By 37ci3

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