Ohio Republican primary is a test for Trump that could shape control of the Senate this fall

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By journalsofus.com


Ohio Republican Senate primaries Tuesday — the first test this year of Donald Trump’s influence in a tight Senate race — will help determine a key question this fall: What is the fate of Sen. Sherrod Brown and the Democratic majority?

“Are we ready to win and remove Sherrod Brown from Ohio politics?” State Sen. Matt Dolan, one of three Republican rivals locked in the bitter primary, asked his supporters Monday night in Columbus.

Yet for all the GOP’s focus on trying to defeat Brown in November, there was much more talk about Trump and a weekend rally near Dayton that resonated on the eve of the election. That of the former president Warnings about a “bloodbath” for the auto industry largely overshadowed the reason for their rally in the Buckeye State, which was to get their preferred candidate, businessman Bernie Moreno, to the finish line.

Trump’s involvement in this race is notable because national Republicans, who decided to enter the primary this year, in part to avoid the kind of candidates who emerged as flawed nominees for the 2022 general election, have stayed out of this race. . Despite already clinching the GOP presidential nomination last week, Trump has a lot at stake in Ohio on Tuesday.

Ahead of Election Day, an ad from Moreno’s campaign underscored the extent to which the former president has been omnipresent in his messaging. “MAGA Alert: President Trump wants you to vote for outside businessman Bernie Moreno” the ad says. “Trump endorsed Bernie Moreno for Senate”.

But Democrats are also trying to use the former president’s popularity in this red state to their advantage. An outside group affiliated with the Senate Democrats’ main super PAC intervened in the already costly primary last week, announcement launch that highlight Trump’s support for Moreno to shore him up over Dolan and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose. “Donald Trump needs Bernie Moreno. Ohio doesn’t.” the ad says.

To win re-election, Brown needs a good share of Trump voters in a state the former president twice won by 8 points. The three-term incumbent is one of the two democrats he is running for re-election this year in states that Trump won; the other is Montana Senator Jon Tester. Republicans only need to pick up one or two seats, depending on who wins the White House, to control the Senate, and they have already picked up one, with West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin. not run for re-election. That raises the stakes for Brown to hold on in a state that has trended red in recent years.

On the eve of the Republican primary, the senator sought to unite his Republican opponents and said he had no preference who he would prefer to compete against.

“I’ll let the rich fight,” he told reporters Monday in Dayton. “They are spending their inheritance on this race. We know one thing: that everyone is more or less the same.”

Moreno and Dolan’s willingness to invest their personal fortunes in their campaigns has already helped make this race among the most expensive of the 2024 cycle. At more than $40 million as of Monday, the Ohio Senate race is only trailing the US presidential race, the 2023 Kentucky gubernatorial race and the 2024 California Senate race in terms of total ad spending so far.

A costly and heated race that has divided the Ohio Republican Party

Governor Mike DeWine and former Senator Rob Portman’s recent endorsement of Dolan (the only one of the three candidates who has not explicitly endorsed Trump) has highlighted how this race is dividing the Republican Party between its Trump and establishment wings, and the different styles they adopt. bring to the race.

At a busy sports bar in Columbus’ German Village neighborhood on Monday night, Dolan attempted to link Brown to President Joe Biden, noting that his argument for the fall would rest on questioning the administration’s record on inflation. and immigration. Dolan mentioned Trump only in passing and told his supporters that he could outdo him in the suburbs.

“We have to recognize that civility in politics is not a weakness,” Dolan said, making a not-so-veiled attack on the former president’s conduct. “We need to judge strength not by how loud we are, but by how much we accomplished for the American people.”

DeWine implored Republicans to carefully consider their choice in a fierce race. He said foreign policy should be a critical issue in the fall campaign, and he drew sharp distinctions with Trump and his soft dealings with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We have to win in November,” DeWine said. “The person who clearly has the best chance of winning in the fall is Matt Dolan; I think our common sense tells us that.”

But the governor’s endorsement could hurt Dolan on both counts, Ohio Republican strategists told CNN. It could boost turnout among the older, more educated Republicans Dolan is poised to do well with, but it could also discourage some voters like Eric Lange.

“I’m not a big fan of DeWine, so when I heard he endorsed (Dolan) that made me not want to endorse him even more,” the 40-year-old Piqua factory worker said outside the Trump rally Saturday.

Trump attacked Dolan during his remarks, exaggerating the divide in the party by trying to link him to Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential candidate, and criticizing him as a RINO, or “Republican in Name Only,” whose family changed. the name of the Cleveland Indians to the Cleveland Guardians.

Despite Moreno’s own history of criticizing Trump – he once called him a “fake Republican,” as CNN put it KFile previously reported – several Trump supporters told CNN before his rally that they planned to support Moreno largely because of the former president’s endorsement.

“If (Trump) points to that guy, then that’s the guy for me,” said Anna Saylor, 64, of Hamilton.

LaRose, who lacks the personal wealth of his opponents but has argued that his experience as the only statewide elected official in the race puts him in the best position to defeat Brown, downplayed the impact of both Trump and DeWine.

“Endorsements are not what most people base their decisions on,” he told reporters after a campaign stop in Sandusky over the weekend. “And it seems like one of my opponents in particular is trying to hide behind endorsements because he has a pretty liberal record that he doesn’t really want to explain. And that is Moreno.”

Lange, the Piqua factory worker, admitted he has concerns about Moreno’s eligibility in a matchup against Brown, fueled in part by Democrats’ success in passing issue 1 last year, which enshrined the right to abortion in the state constitution.

Brown declined to say Monday whether he thought Moreno would be the easiest to take on in the fall, as several Democratic strategists in Ohio have argued. He admitted that his bid for a fourth term is the most challenging race in a career in elected office that spans nearly half a century.

“Sure,” Brown said, “it might be my toughest race.”

Ohio voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 before backing Trump by 8 points in both 2016 and 2020. Brown, known as a progressive populist, is the latest Democrat to hold non-judicial state office in the Buckeye State. He won his last race, against a weak rival without the backing of the national party, by 7 points in 2018.

Brown on Monday outlined the issues on which he intended to play offense as a Democratic candidate running for re-election in the increasingly Republican state.

“Everyone is in favor of a national ban on abortion. They have never supported organized labor. All three of them are against the minimum wage,” Brown said of his Republican opponents. “We’ll be ready for whoever it is.”

CNN’s David Wright contributed to this report.

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