Ohio’s Republican Senate Slugfest Fuels Jitters About Trump’s Candidate

Ohio’s GOP Senate Battle Intensifies Concerns Over Trump-Backed Contender

With the election just around the corner, the Republican Senate primary in Ohio has turned chaotic. This three-way battle has sparked worries about Bernie Moreno, the candidate endorsed by former President Donald J. Trump. The race to determine who will challenge Senator Sherrod Brown has been heated for months. Despite being a wealthy ex-car dealer with no political office experience, Moreno is finding it tough to stay ahead of his competitors, State Senator Matt Dolan and Secretary of State Frank LaRose. Recent independent polls have shown Dolan, a traditional conservative with significant financial resources, gaining momentum.

On Monday, Dolan secured an endorsement from Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, following support from another prominent Republican, former Senator Rob Portman. On the same day, Trump’s campaign revealed that the former president would join Moreno in Dayton on Saturday, hinting at a last-minute boost for Moreno. This decision came after concerns about Dolan’s rising popularity in internal polls led to a change in Trump’s schedule.

In the final stretch, Dolan and his supporters have outspent Moreno and LaRose, focusing on ads that question Moreno’s consistency on issues important to Republican voters, like immigration. Meanwhile, Moreno’s camp has criticized Dolan for not fully supporting Trump.

Ryan Stubenrauch, a Republican strategist in Ohio, described the race as a choice between long-standing, steady conservatives and newer, populist candidates inspired by Trump. He praised DeWine and Portman for their conservative achievements in Ohio, suggesting their endorsements carry significant weight.

This year, Republicans see a prime opportunity to defeat Brown, the only Democrat holding a statewide office in Ohio. Trump’s victories in the state in 2016 and 2020, along with J.D. Vance’s Senate win in 2022 with Trump’s backing, have bolstered Republican hopes. Brown faces additional challenges from a ticket led by President Biden, who is unpopular in Ohio.

Democrats are keen to face Moreno, who has been targeted by negative ads and questioned over his conservative credentials and legal issues related to his businesses. A Democratic group recently launched an ad focusing on Moreno’s hard-line positions and his closeness to Trump, suggesting they see him as the weakest candidate against Brown.

The Republican contest’s bitterness has reached Washington, with GOP leaders and strategists blaming each other for the mess. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who clashed with Trump over candidate selections in 2022, made a cryptic remark about preferring a baseball owner in the Senate, a nod to the Dolan family’s ownership of the Cleveland Guardians. McConnell also expressed hope that Trump and Vance’s endorsement of Moreno was the right choice, despite Moreno’s struggles.

Moreno sees the attacks and negative coverage as evidence of his challenge to the Republican establishment. He shared a video of Donald Trump Jr. supporting him, interpreting the opposition as a sign of his threat to the status quo. Moreno’s spokeswoman, Reagan McCarthy, accused Dolan of misleading voters and emphasized that Ohioans would choose the true conservative, Moreno, in the primary.

The race tests Trump’s influence in the GOP, with his endorsements in key battlegrounds like Pennsylvania and Georgia leading to primary wins but general election losses in 2022. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has not endorsed anyone in Ohio, where the candidates and their supporters have spent over $30 million. Jim Renacci, a former congressman and neutral observer, believes Dolan has the momentum, while the other candidates lack the resources to compete.

Dolan’s reluctance to endorse Trump during the GOP presidential primary, preferring to support “Trump policies,” may limit his appeal among Trump’s loyal base. However, Dolan emphasizes his record of getting things done and understanding the issues, contrasting himself with Moreno.

Brown’s campaign has raised significant funds, banking on his working-class message as Republicans focus on internal disputes. The Ohio Democratic Party believes the GOP’s infighting and the eventual nominee’s baggage will benefit Brown.

Moreno positions himself as an outsider with high-profile endorsements, while LaRose highlights his military background and conservative credentials. Dolan presents himself as a moderate Republican, focusing on less divisive approaches to immigration and abortion.

As the primary approaches, the candidates and their supporters have turned to personal attacks, with LaRose and Moreno teaming up against Dolan for his perceived disloyalty to Trump. Interviews with voters indicate many are still undecided, underscoring the race’s unpredictability.

At a Republican event, LaRose emphasized trust as a key factor for voters, while South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, campaigning for Moreno, stressed Trump’s support as crucial for the primary winner. However, some voters, like Mitzi Baird, remain unconvinced by Trump’s endorsement alone, seeking candidates who articulate their own visions.