News News from America Uncategorized How Bernie Moreno won Ohio GOP Sen­ate pri­ma­ry: 4 take­aways from his win

How Bernie Moreno won Ohio GOP Sen­ate pri­ma­ry: 4 take­aways from his win

The line­up is set for Ohio’s high-stakes U.S. Sen­ate race. Busi­ness­man Bernie Moreno won the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion on Tues­day and will face Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen. Sher­rod Brown this fall. What start­ed as a qui­et pri­ma­ry end­ed in tur­moil as dif­fer­ent fac­tions of the GOP tried to push their cho­sen can­di­date over the fin­ish line.

U.S. Senate candidate Bernie Moreno and his wife, Bridget, greet supporters as they take the stage at his watch party in Westlake on Tuesday.

Moreno defeat­ed state Sen. Matt Dolan, R‑Chagrin Falls, and Sec­re­tary of State Frank LaRose with more than 50% of the vote, accord­ing to unof­fi­cial results.

Now, Repub­li­cans say they’ll unite to tack­le an even lofti­er mis­sion: Unseat­ing Brown. The three-term sen­a­tor is one of the most vul­ner­a­ble Democ­rats in the coun­try, and Repub­li­cans want to flip Ohio in their quest for con­trol of the Sen­ate. At the same time, they acknowl­edge the chal­lenge: Brown is a skilled retail politi­cian who’s appealed to work­ing class vot­ers in past elections.

Here’s are the key take­aways from Tues­day’s primary.

Trump remains king­mak­er for Ohio Republicans

Moreno was large­ly unknown in Ohio out­side of the Cleve­land area, where he based his car deal­er­ship and blockchain busi­ness­es. He briefly ran in the 2022 Sen­ate pri­ma­ry to replace for­mer Sen. Rob Port­man, but he dropped out before the dead­line to make the ballot.

By con­trast, Sen. J.D. Vance had some name recog­ni­tion when Trump backed him in 2022.

Former President Donald Trump appears with U.S. Senate candidate Bernie Moreno outside Wright Bros. Aero Inc at the Dayton International Airport on Saturday.

That made Trump’s endorse­ment of Moreno in Decem­ber a bit of a gam­ble. At that point, Moreno was polling last in a pri­ma­ry that had­n’t got­ten much atten­tion. Trump did it anyway.

Despite the nod, Moreno strug­gled for weeks to break away from the pack and get through to unde­cid­ed vot­ers. His allies pan­icked when Dolan surged in the polls and pulled out all the stops to push Moreno to vic­to­ry. That includ­ed a vis­it from the for­mer pres­i­dent, who hurled insults at Dolan and ral­lied his sup­port­ers for Moreno.

In the end, Moreno’s win − cou­pled with anoth­er rebuke of tra­di­tion­al Repub­li­cans − allows Trump to con­tin­ue claim­ing influ­ence over GOP races.

Dolan falls short for sec­ond time

Dolan turned heads when he won the sup­port of Gov. Mike DeWine, a care­ful politi­cian who does­n’t often wade into pri­maries. The endorse­ment, cou­pled with his poll num­bers, gave the impres­sion that Dolan could give Moreno a run for his mon­ey. But it was­n’t close: Dolan land­ed in sec­ond place with one-third of the vote.

The out­come was rem­i­nis­cent of 2022, when Dolan expe­ri­enced late momen­tum and had observers won­der­ing if he could defy Trump. Instead, he trailed Vance and for­mer state trea­sur­er Josh Man­del in that primary.

Speak­ing to reporters Tues­day, Dolan attrib­uted the results to poor turnout. But Repub­li­can strate­gist Luke Thomp­son, who worked on a PAC sup­port­ing Moreno, said press and polit­i­cal pun­dits under­es­ti­mat­ed Moreno.

State Sen. Matt Dolan had support from traditional Republicans like former Ohio Sen. Rob Portman.

“He won every coun­ty in Ohio tonight because he’s lived the Amer­i­can Dream,” Thomp­son said. “He gets, con­crete­ly, the aspi­ra­tions of work­ing Ohioans. He’s had his head under the hood. He’s worked for what he has. And that down-to-earth prac­ti­cal­i­ty speaks to nor­mal people.”

Pri­ma­ry deals blow to LaRose’s polit­i­cal prospects

LaRose’s entry into the Sen­ate race was a giv­en after he spent years rail­ing against Brown. He shed the per­cep­tion of a tra­di­tion­al, even mod­er­ate Repub­li­can and began try­ing to appease Trump-aligned vot­ers. That includ­ed increas­ing­ly heat­ed rhetoric about vot­er fraud, even while he defend­ed Ohio’s elec­tion sys­tem as secure and reliable.

In real­i­ty, LaRose’s recent polit­i­cal woes began before Tues­day. He made him­self the face of two bal­lot issues last year that did­n’t go as Repub­li­cans hoped: The August pro­pos­al to make it hard­er to amend the con­sti­tu­tion, and the Novem­ber abor­tion rights mea­sure. Still, he dis­missed spec­u­la­tion that those could affect his Sen­ate bid.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose concedes his run for the U.S. Senate at Grandview Cafe in Columbus on Tuesday.

Plus, LaRose brought some advan­tages to the pri­ma­ry: He’s a Green Beret, and he was the only can­di­date who’s held statewide office. His cam­paign argued that would boost his chances on Tues­day and bring some unde­cid­ed vot­ers into the fold. Ulti­mate­ly, it was­n’t enough. LaRose received less than 17% of the vote.

“I knew that this was going to be dif­fi­cult right from the begin­ning, but I’m not some­body that ever backs down from a job,” LaRose said Tuesday.

It’s unclear where LaRose goes from here.

It pays to be wealthy

Anoth­er prob­lem for LaRose was mon­ey − and it was­n’t an issue for his opponents.

Both Moreno and Dolan are inde­pen­dent­ly wealthy, and they used that to keep their mes­sage on the air­waves through elec­tion day. Dolan fun­neled $10 mil­lion into his Sen­ate bid, while Moreno loaned his cam­paign $4.5 mil­lion. LaRose invest­ed $250,000 in the fall, but it was­n’t enough to keep up with two multimillionaires.

Mon­ey will con­tin­ue to play a big part in Ohio’s Sen­ate race. Moreno must quick­ly recov­er from a bruis­ing pri­ma­ry and lever­age GOP sup­port if he wants to match Brown’s fundrais­ing num­bers. Mean­while, Nation­al Repub­li­can and Demo­c­ra­t­ic groups plan to pour tens of mil­lions of dol­lars into Ohio this fall.

USA TODAY Net­work Ohio Bureau reporter Jessie Balmert contributed.

Haley BeMiller is a reporter for the USA TODAY Net­work Ohio Bureau, which serves the Colum­bus Dis­patch, Cincin­nati Enquir­er, Akron Bea­con Jour­nal and 18 oth­er affil­i­at­ed news orga­ni­za­tions across Ohio.

Source: dis​patch​.com