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Trump’s Power Play: Backing Moreno in the High-Stakes Ohio GOP Showdown

Meeting in Dayton: Trump’s Rally for Moreno Intrigues Ohio GOP Primary Watchers


In a much-anticipated redux of his political endeavors, Donald Trump, the 45th president, is revisiting the political canvas of Ohio, showing full support for his endorsed candidate in a highly competitive Republican primary. Not too long ago, Trump’s endorsement worked wonders for JD Vance, leading him to a triumphant finish in the GOP primary. Bringing the spotlight back to the present, we find the former president, now the presumptive 2024 Republican presidential nominee, rallying his support behind businessman Bernie Moreno in the tumultuous Ohio GOP primary.

Trump’s journey to Ohio, planned for this weekend, follows closely after securing his nomination, just three days before the state’s March 19 primary. The announcement of this rally, to be held in Dayton, Ohio, was made by Buckeye Values PAC, a group supporting Moreno. This stepping stone for Moreno’s campaign trails just hours after an endorsement from two-term Ohio Governor Mike DeWine was gained by one of the candidates, state senator Matt Dolan. Joining Dolan is Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, set to disrupt the primary.

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As the dynamics of the race shift, Dolan, once a top county prosecutor and assistant attorney general whose familial connections extend to owning Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Guardians, bagged a significant endorsement. The backing from governor DeWine, and the recently retired Senator Rob Portman, who are recognized stalwarts of Ohio’s Republican old guard, added a powerful thrust to Dolan’s campaign.

Governor DeWine’s endorsement came wrapped with praise, accentuating Dolan’s vision for the future, listening skills, fighting spirit and, importantly, his knack for securing results for Ohio. DeWine’s belief extends to deeming Dolan as a potent Republican contender against incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown in the upcoming November election.

Dolan, gunning for his second Senate bid in Ohio alongside Moreno, sets himself apart by claiming adherence to Trump’s policies but not his personality, standing as the single major candidate not seeking Trump’s baton. In storyline contrast, Moreno, an immigrant arriving stateside legally from Colombia and growing into a successful businessman in Cleveland, secured Trump’s endorsement in the past December.

An anticipated alliance can be seen forming as JD Vance campaigns with Moreno throughout Ohio, hinting at Moreno’s evolving political connection with Trump. The candidate also has the backing of two key Trump allies, namely, Ohio representative Jim Jordan and Vivek Ramaswamy, a former presidential candidate, and an Ohio native. Adding to this star-studded presence at the rally, Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota and 2024 Arizona Senate candidate and Republican gubernatorial nominee of 2022, Kari Lake, are expected to attend.

After the dust settled around DeWine’s endorsement of Dolan, Moreno leveraged this declaration to highlight an internal battle sprouting within their ranks – between the ‘America-First Republican Party’ and the ‘RINO establishment’. Carrying forward this narrative, Andy Surabian, a leading advisor of the Moreno campaign and a figure close to Trump’s fold, affirmed this divide through his social media channels, sparking the ‘Team America First vs Team RINO’ rhetoric.

While polling in the Republican Senate primary remains sparse, the three main campaigns are approaching the race as a neck-to-neck fight heading into the primary next week. As battles lines are drawn, campaigns and coordinated super PACs have pooled millions into a war chest, unleashing a torrent of negative attack ads. Not one to sit out the hustle, Democrats have intervened in the primary via the Duty and Country PAC, supported by the Senate Majority PAC.

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In a surprising turn of events, this Democratic-aligned PAC is pouring almost $3 million at the tail-end of the primary to bolster Moreno’s campaign, perceived by some to be the weaker general election candidate. This tactical move comes in the backdrop of recent allegations raised against Moreno, concerning the creation of an adult hookup website account back in 2008. Moreno, however, has denied these claims, branding them as a distasteful, desperate, eleventh-hour attack.

The goal for the GOP is the opportunity to challenge incumbent Senator Sherrod Brown in the November election. Brown, a seasoned Democrat and the only one to secure a statewide victory over the past ten years in Ohio, has the Republicans’ crosshairs trained on him. The shift to a red bias in the once-considered toss-up state of Ohio renders Brown a key target.

The upcoming 2024 elections hold a ray of hope for the Republican Party with a favorable Senate map. Out of the 34 seats up for contest, Democrats are defending 23, including three in red states carried by Trump in the previous election – Ohio, Montana, and West Virginia. The last of these will be particularly interesting given Democratic Senator Joe Manchin’s decision not to run for re-election.

Furthermore, five seats in pivot states marginally won by President Biden in the 2020 elections – Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, present intriguing scenarios for contestation. Simultaneously, Trump seems to be regaining his strong hold on the Republican party. In stark example, the previous week saw a complete reshuffle at the Republican National Committee, with a top Trump ally and the former president’s daughter-in-law taking the helm as chair and co-chair respectively.

Notwithstanding Trump’s growing influence, the GOP-controlled House tossed a spanner in his works, going against his wishes. A fairly recent bipartisan border deal was rejected in Congress due partly to the former president’s influence, only to have most House Republicans back a bill opposing Trump’s objections. The legislation, if enacted, could potentially lead to the banning of TikTok in the U.S.

The scenario building up in Ohio is one of the unique instances in an undercard GOP primary where the Trump-advocated candidate faces a real risk of defeat. Matt Gorman, a seasoned Republican strategist, put the situation into perspective, emphasizing that ‘Trump’s got a lot invested in Bernie Moreno’.

Offering his neutral perspective on the unfolding political panorama, Mike Hartley, a veteran GOP consultant based in Ohio, views Trump’s impending presence in Ohio as a significant sign of the importance the former president places on ensuring allies in Congress, with the ultimate aim of enabling the passage of his political agenda.

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