Tuesday, July 23, 2024

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Trump-Backed Bernie Moreno Wins Ohio Senate GOP Primary, Setting Up Clash With Sherrod Brown

Moreno Prevails Despite Salacious Allegations, Giving MAGA Movement Key Test in Ohio Senate Race.

Bernie Moreno
Gage Skidmore

In the aftermath of a brutal GOP primary filled with personal attacks and lurid allegations, wealthy businessman and MAGA favorite Bernie Moreno has emerged as the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Ohio. His victory sets up a clash with incumbent Senator Sherrod Brown, one that could ultimately decide control of the narrowly divided Senate.

Moreno, an ardent devotee of Donald Trump’s MAGA movement, emerged victorious over his two principal Republican rivals – the deep-pocketed state Senator Matt Dolan and Secretary of State Frank LaRose. While Dolan kept the race relatively competitive by appealing to suburban voters, that was no match for the weight that a Trump endorsement carries among GOP voters in Ohio. 

However, Moreno’s struggle to crack 50% of the primary vote, even with the former president’s backing, hints at simmering divisions within the Republican ranks. The hard-line MAGA wing may have carried the day, but a sizable contingent of the party appears uncomfortable with its obedience to Trump’s disruptive populism and conspiratorial rhetoric. This intra-party schism could create issues for Moreno as he aims to unite skeptical establishment conservatives behind his uncompromising Trump allegiance.

ohio gop primary result

The primary was undoubtedly expensive and aggressive, but it will likely pale in comparison to the upcoming high-stakes battle between Moreno and Brown. With Democrats defending critical Senate seats in Montana, Nevada, and Pennsylvania, the Ohio race could command the most money, attention, and resources from both parties.

Trump and his allies are fully invested in Moreno’s candidacy, for better or worse. The former president endorsed the Cleveland-area car dealership mogul and held rallies on his behalf, labeling Moreno an “America First champion”. Figures like Senator J.D. Vance and Arizona’s Kari Lake, both fervent MAGA supporters, also vigorously campaigned for Moreno.

In contrast, Dolan found his brand of traditional Republicanism firmly rejected once again by Ohio’s GOP voters after an unsuccessful run in 2022. As secretary of state, LaRose was a known statewide political entity but struggled to match Moreno and Dolan’s immense spending power.

The Republican infighting ahead of the primary was intense, with unseemly attacks and compromising allegations emerging. Most notoriously, the Associated Press reported that Moreno’s business email was used in 2008 to create a profile on the Adult FriendFinder website seeking sexual encounters with men. Though Moreno vehemently denied the accusation as a “sick, last-minute attack,” the revelations provided ammunition for his opponents.

Throughout the saga, Democrats publicly maintained confidence in their ability to defeat any of the Republican candidates. However, the party’s Senate campaign arm clearly viewed Moreno as their ideal opponent, spending millions to boost his “too conservative” credentials in ads. The calculus was likely that Moreno’s unapologetic MAGA extremism would turn off moderate voters in a general election.

As the nominating contest concluded, Senator Brown wasted no time going on the offensive against Moreno. In interviews, he drew a stark contrast between his record of fighting for Ohioans and Moreno’s self-professed unwillingness to work across the aisle. Brown specifically hammered his opponent over supporting a national abortion ban, defying the will of Ohio voters who recently enshrined abortion rights in the state constitution.

“The arrogance of even though we set that by 13 points in the state, he’s going to fight against it, tells you he’s looking out for himself more than the people of Ohio,” Brown stated bluntly. “That’s my view of government and why I’m going to win, because you contrast that with a guy that’s just out for himself.”

Moreno’s campaign fired back, criticizing Brown as a career politician concerned only with “enriching himself” and siding with “Washington insiders over Ohioans.” They accused the three-term senator of already “panicking” over his struggle to defend his alignment with President Biden’s agenda.

The bitter tenor emanating from both sides underscores how pivotal the Ohio race will be for determining control of the Senate over the next two years. While Trump’s endorsement boosted Moreno in the primary, it remains to be seen whether his MAGA extremism can overcome Brown’s durable popularity and track record of constituent service in a general election.

Early polls show Brown holding a modest lead over Moreno, with one poll showing Brown ahead of Moreno 39 percent to 34 percent. But in an increasingly red state where Democrats have struggled mightily in recent cycles, nothing can be taken for granted.

One thing is certain – with so much at stake for both parties, the Ohio Senate race is shaping up as one of the most high-profile, expensive, and bitter campaigns in the nation. It’s a battle that will likely be won or lost in the suburbs, where Republican-leaning but persuadable voters have soured on Trumpian extremism and extensive criminality.