Bernie Moreno: Donald Trump’s pick will win Republican Senate primary in Ohio, CNN projects

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Bernie Moreno will win the Republican Senate primary in OhioCNN projects, a victory for the presumptive Republican presidential candidate donald trumpwho had backed the Cleveland businessman in the three-way race.

Moreno will next face Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown in a fall election that will be crucial in deciding control of the Senate. As one of the two Democrats in the Senate Running for re-election in a state Trump won twice, Brown is a prime target for Republicans looking to pick up the one or two seats they need to flip the chamber, depending on who wins the White House.

“I want to thank President Trump for everything he did for me, for this campaign, for his unwavering support, for his love of this country,” Moreno said at his campaign viewing party in Cleveland shortly after being projected as the winner. .

Tuesday’s Republican primary It was the first test this year of Trump’s influence in a close race for the Senate. The previous president endorsed Moreno in December at the urging of Ohio Senator JD Vance, but his seal of approval did not initially secure things for Moreno in what became one of the most expensive races of the cycle so far. Triumph took a last minute trip to the state over the weekend to help your preferred candidate cross the finish line.

Moreno’s victory is also something of a victory for Democrats, whose spending in the race suggested they viewed him as the weaker candidate against Brown. An outside group affiliated with Senate Democrats’ main super political action committee ran ads endorsing him over state Sen. Matt Dolan and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose. “In Washington, Bernie Moreno would do Donald Trump’s bidding,” the ad said, touting the candidate as a “MAGA Republican” who is “too conservative for Ohio.”

Moreno dismissed Democrats’ attempts to link him to Trump and instead sought to link Brown to president joe biden.

“Let me say something: I carry with honor my endorsement…of President Trump. “I wear it with a badge of honor,” the candidate said. “I’m going to predict this: If Joe Biden enters Ohio, Sherrod Brown will fly out of here like a scared cat.”

Brown, who ran unopposed in his Tuesday primary as he seeks a fourth term in a state that has trended red, was quick to paint a contrast with his rival.

“The choice ahead of Ohio is clear: Bernie Moreno has spent his career and campaign putting himself first and would do the same if elected,” the senator said in a statement.

“Elections depend on which side you’re on and I will always work for Ohio,” Brown added.

Trump’s involvement in this race was notable as national Republicans, who decided to get involved in the primaries this year, in part to counter the type of candidates who emerged as flawed nominees for the 2022 general election, stayed out of these. primaries. The conservative Club for Growth also supported Moreno, who was born in Colombia and made a fortune in car dealerships.

Montana Sen. Steve Daines, chairman of the Republican Senate campaign, praised Moreno after his victory and offered his “full endorsement.”

Dolan, the other self-funded candidate in the race who finished third in the 2022 primary won by Vance, had the support of two prominent Ohio Republicans, Gov. Mike DeWine and former U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, whose commitment underscored the divide in the race. contest. split between his Trumpian wing and the more traditional one.

Dolan, who was the only one of the three candidates who did not endorse Trump, argued that he was the most electable Republican because he could outperform Trump in the suburbs.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump greets Moreno during the rally in Vandalia, Ohio, on March 16, 2024.

At Trump’s weekend rally, which was largely overshadowed by his controversial rhetoric. about a “bloodbath” for the automotive industryThe former president attacked Dolan as a RINO, or “Republican in name only,” and praised Moreno as a “political outsider.”

Moreno leaned heavily on Trump’s endorsement, with the former president omnipresent in his campaign advertising. “MAGA Alert: President Trump wants you to vote for outside businessman Bernie Moreno,” read one of the campaign’s final ads, reminding voters just tuning in who had the most coveted endorsement in the Republican primary. “Trump endorsed Bernie Moreno for Senate”.

Moreno faced attacks from his opponents and allies for having previously held more moderate political positions. As CNN K-File As reported earlier this year, he once said there was “no scenario” in which he would support Trump and called him a “fake Republican.”

But like Vance, who cruised through the 2022 primary with Trump’s help, Moreno was able to use the former president’s endorsement as a weapon to quell any skepticism about his past loyalty.

Moreno and Dolan’s willingness to invest millions of their own money in their campaigns put spending for this race at more than $40 million as of Monday. The Ohio Senate race trails only the U.S. presidential race, the 2023 Kentucky gubernatorial race, and the 2024 California Senate race in terms of total ad spending so far, excluding future reservations.

Moreno said Tuesday that he had spoken with Dolan, who congratulated him on the race, while LaRose issued a statement saying he had done the same.

“Now is the time to come together as a party,” LaRose said. “We all share the same mission to retire Sherrod Brown and restore Ohio’s voice and values ​​in the United States Senate. “The stakes in these elections could not be higher.”

Brown, who was first elected to the Senate in 2006 after seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, will face Moreno in a state that voted twice for Barack Obama before swinging toward Trump in the next two races. presidential. The senator, known as a progressive populist, is the last remaining Democrat in non-judicial state office in the Buckeye State. He won his last race, against a weak challenger with no national GOP backing, by 7 points in 2018.

Brown acknowledged Monday that this may be the most challenging competition of his career. “Sure,” the third-term incumbent told reporters in Dayton, “it might be my toughest race.”

The senator ended the pre-primary reporting period on Feb. 28 with a cash-on-hand advantage: $13.5 million to Moreno’s $2.4 million. But if the primaries are any indication, Moreno would be willing to invest his own resources in the race.

The outside money already laid out in Ohio shows how competitive both sides expect it to be. The Senate Majority PAC, the super PAC tied to Democratic leadership, has set aside $65 million for television ads, by far the most of any of the seven states where it made advance reservations. On the Republican side, the Senate Leadership Fund and an affiliated group have set aside about $80 million.

This story and headline have been updated.

CNN’s David Wright, Jeff Zeleny and Aaron Pellish contributed to this report.

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