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Bernie Moreno beats two rivals to win Ohio’s GOP Senate primary

PoliticsBernie Moreno beats two rivals to win Ohio's GOP Senate primary

Bernie Moreno won the caustic GOP Senate primary in Ohio — putting him on a crash course with Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown in the November election and giving former President Donald Trump some bragging rights.

The race was the first test of Mr. Trump’s political clout in this election cycle and was called a little over an hour after polls closed.

Mr. Trump endorsed Mr. Moreno, a businessman who made his fortune as a luxury car dealer, early on in the race and made a late-in-the-game visit to Dayton to strengthen his hand against state Sen. Matt Dolan and Secretary of State Frank LaRose.

With 50% of the vote counted, Mr. Moreno had received 48% to Mr. Dolan‘s 33% and Mr. LaRose’s 19%.

“We have an opportunity now to retire the old commie and send him to a retirement home and change this country,” Mr. Moreno said of Mr. Brown at his election night party.

“I want to thank President Trump for all he did for me, for this campaign, for his unwavering support, for his love of this country because I don’t think I have ever seen someone love this country the way he does,” he added.

Preliminary exit polls showed the GOP primary electorate was pro-Trump. Two-thirds approved of the job he did as president and more than six in ten said they did not believe President Biden won the 2020 election.

Mr. Brown has been a staple of Ohio politics since he entered the state legislature in 1975. He has held his seat in the Senate since 2007.

His gravelly voice, ruffled look, and focus on the working class have proved popular in Ohio, which has been cast as a political barometer for blue-collar workers in the Rust Belt.

“The choice ahead of Ohio is clear: Bernie Moreno has spent his career and campaign putting himself first, and would do the same if elected,” Mr. Brown said on social media. “I’ll always work for Ohio.”

Mr. Brown starts the general election campaign against Mr. Moreno with a cash advantage and a slight polling edge.

But he also knows he has a massive bullseye on his back in Ohio and that this could be his toughest race. The state has been trending red over the last decade.

Mr. Trump carried the state in back-to-back presidential races, defeating President Biden and Hillary Clinton by 8 points.

Sen. J.D. Vance notched a six-point victory in Ohio in 2022 after receiving Mr. Trump’s highly coveted endorsement.

The results underscored how the former presidential battleground is ripe territory for Republicans to send reinforcements to Washington.

Many political analysts consider the 71-year-old Mr. Brown the most vulnerable Democrat up for re-election this fall.

If Mr. Moreno knocks Mr. Brown off, Democrats’ hope of defending their slim majority Senate will likely be dashed Republicans are defending few seats, most of them considered safe, while at least one Democratic-held state — West Virginia — is likely to be a Republican pickup.

The stakes of the race were laid bare over the weekend after Mr. Trump parachuted into Ohio to rally support behind Mr. Moreno, whom he endorsed late last year.

“You gotta win, Bernie,” Mr. Trump said during Saturday’s rally. “Don’t leave me alone. Don’t leave me alone, Bernie.”

The race, however, remained in doubt heading into the primary with the limited polling leaving the impression that Mr. Moreno was locked in a tight race with Mr. Dolan.

Mr. Dolan had the support of Gov. Mike DeWine and former Sen. Rob Portman. Mr. Moreno, meanwhile, had the backing of Mr. Vance and U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan.

Mr. Moreno leaned into the Trump endorsement throughout the campaign, warning voters that Mr. Dolan was the antithesis of the MAGA movement.

Mr. Dolan countered that Mr. Moreno was a “phony” and had changed his positions on issues, including taking a hardline on immigration, for purely political reasons.

Mr. Moreno also faced questions over reports of a 2008 profile seeking “Men for 1-on-1 sex” on a casual sexual encounters website called Adult Friend Finder. His lawyer dismissed the report, saying an ex-intern created the account as a prank.

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