April 17, 2024

Ohio is shaping up to be the Messiest Senate Principal in 2024

Car dealer guru. A state legislator whose family owns the Cleveland Cavaliers. Acting Secretary of State.

Each has hopped into Ohio’s Republican Senate primary, and a campaign brawl is brewing.

Their divisions are mostly familiar. Donald Trump has the upper hand in the race, and his endorsement could be a deciding factor in the race. Yes self-funders which they can spend with abandon, and there are candidates who will have to raise money to propel them to victory. A public relations battle is brewing for the role “political alien.” And the Senate seat is very competitive for the Republicans on the line.

But there’s a significant difference in this race compared to other swing-seat GOP primaries this year: Anyone could be a senator.

National Republican workers say they are so confident that any of these candidates – car dealership owner Bernie Moreno, mentioned Senator Matt Dolan or Ohio Sec. of State Frank LaRose – may object to Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) that they are staying out of the primary altogether.

“When you have three candidates any one of whom could win the general election, you know, we don’t stay up late at night worrying about that,” National Republican Senate Committee Chairman Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) CBS said last week.

That runs counter to the rest of the NRSC’s strategy this year of picking favorites in young swing primaries, including in West Virginia, Montana, Michigan and Nevada.

But with no absolute insider favorites, and polls showing a plurality of undecided voters, it’s a free-for-all. And with a free-for-all, the candidates aren’t wasting time trying to beat each other out.

“The moment LaRose and Moreno took off their training wheels they crashed into a ditch,” Dolan’s strategist Chris Maloney said in a statement.

“[Moreno’s] the opponents are career politicians and liberal Republicans who don’t have the courage to stand up to the DC swamp,” Moreno’s spokesman, Conor McGuinness, told The Daily Beast.

And in his announcement interview with Politico, LaRose tried to dismiss Moreno and Dolan’s appeal. “They have been successful in their lives, and we congratulate them for that. But you are not necessarily a good public servant or a good Senate candidate or a good senator,” he said.

While Ohio Republicans would largely hope to avoid a false primary, that doesn’t appear to be in the cards.

Dolan was the first to announce, marking his second attempt at the US Senate after finishing third in the Senate GOP primary last year. He has served as a state senator since 2005 and has the advantage of self-funding his bid. His father Dolan was formerly with the Cleveland Guardians. His brother is currently the owner and CEO and Dolan himself has a minority stake.

“Matt Dolan is the only candidate focused on prosecuting the case against Sherrod Brown rather than giving him material for the general election,” Maloney said in his statement.

Politically, Dolan is positioning himself as a more middle-of-the-pack option. He has been torn between saying he is not anti-Trump and taking on criticism of the former president. And Dolan is not openly seeking Trump’s endorsement.

The same cannot be said of his opponent.

There is Moreno running with Trump’s encouragement—and it seems strongly that he is flirting with his endorsement. He was second into the race and he’s positioning himself as an America-first ally, not shying away from his conservative chops. Moreno continued into his story as a Colombian immigrant who came to the United States and forged a car dealership empire in Ohio before moving on to work in Blockchain.

“Bernie Moreno is the only businessman, outsider, and pro-Trump conservative running for the GOP nomination in Ohio,” McGuinness said in a statement.

Moreno also ran for Senate last year but dropped out before the actual primary. This time around, that foreign brand won him the support of Senator JD Vance (R-OH), who was elected to office last year.

That backstory made Moreno a great self-funder alongside Dolan.

LaRose, however, will not have the same advantage of personal wealth to fuel his bid. he he announced his run just last week—but its entry was long awaited. Daines himself publicly speculated that LaRose would run.

Although LaRose can’t self-fund like his opponent, he has name recognition and won Trump’s endorsement for Secretary of State last year. He also indicated that he welcomes Trump’s endorsement this time and that he is aligning himself with the more conservative wing of the party.

“Army Green Beret Frank LaRose is the only proven conservative in this battle-tested race… Secretary LaRose is off to a strong start and we expect him to continue as voters learn more about his vision to get our nation back on course,” LaRose spokesman Ben Kindel wrote in a statement to the Daily Beast.

Ohio politicians expect three GOP contenders to be the last of the top tier of candidates. Conservative Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH) was openly toying with a run earlier this year, but ultimately opted against it. The lack of a far-right challenger in the primary overall would be welcome to national Republican strategists who saw the consequences for fringe candidates in the 2022 midterms.

Daines has repeatedly said he is focused on supporting Republican candidates who can win the primary and general election, noting the need for nominees to appeal to independent voters as well.

One a recent poll commissioned by the LaRose campaign showed that 39.8 percent of Ohio Republican voters were undecided, indicating a sea of ​​untapped potential for all candidates. Another 27.9 percent of respondents were determined to support LaRose, followed by 11.1 percent for Dolan and 5 percent for Moreno.

Another poll at Suffolk/USA News Today his July release showed 56.8 percent of Republican primary voters were undecided, with LaRose having 18.9 percent say they would support him, followed by Dolan at 13.7 percent and Moreno at 9 percent.

Ohio has trended red in recent years, making Brown one of the most targeted Senate Democrats this cycle. The Ohio Republican primary will be held on March 19, 2024.

That leaves enough time for voters to be courted, swayed and turned off. Even as the NRSC chooses to leave the race, outside groups and endorsements are determined to push their influence and spending on Ohio voters for months.

Still, there is a fine line between a healthy, competitive primary school and one that is lagging. Often, top GOP officials will hope to avoid the latter. There could be fodder for opponents in general when candidates’ weaknesses are exposed in the primary.

Suffice it to say, Ohio Democrats are enjoying the prospects.

“The Republican ‘slugfest’ for the Ohio Senate seat is shaping up to be another long, contentious battle that will leave whoever gets hurt in the eyes of Ohio voters,” Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Reeves Oyster said in a statement.

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