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Ohio Governor Mike DeWine Chooses Matt Dolan Over Trump-Backed Bernie Moreno in U.S. Senate Race

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s Republican Governor, Mike DeWine, diverged from Donald Trump’s camp on Monday by throwing his support behind state Senator Matt Dolan in the state’s GOP primary for a U.S. Senate seat, over Trump-backed businessman Bernie Moreno.

Breaking ranks with the former president, DeWine emphasized Dolan as the party’s strongest contender against Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown in November’s election.

Brown, perceived as one of the Senate’s most vulnerable Democrats seeking reelection, faces Dolan, who positions himself as a moderate Republican. Notably, Dolan is the only primary candidate who didn’t actively seek Trump’s endorsement.

In a letter to fellow Ohioans, DeWine and his wife Fran advocated for Dolan, praising his “service, experience, and integrity,” and noting his ability to “listen, fight, and deliver results for Ohio.”

DeWine’s decision underscores the ongoing divide between establishment Republicans in Ohio and the party’s increasingly dominant pro-Trump faction. Despite Ohio’s state GOP being the first to endorse Trump for president in the previous elections, DeWine’s move highlights a shift in dynamics within the party.

Earlier, DeWine had indicated he wouldn’t make any endorsements in the GOP primary. However, as the March 19 primary approached with no clear frontrunner and many Republican voters still undecided, he shifted his stance.

Former U.S. Senator Rob Portman also weighed in, endorsing Dolan shortly before DeWine’s announcement, further bolstering Dolan’s campaign.

DeWine’s endorsement is likely to have less impact on Moreno, who heavily touts his Trump endorsement, than on Frank LaRose, Ohio’s Secretary of State, and another primary contender. LaRose, a former Green Beret, has sought to differentiate himself in the race.

LaRose emphasizes his grassroots support, contrasting with Dolan and Moreno’s self-funded campaigns, which have collectively poured $10 million into the race. Moreno, with business interests in Cleveland, and Dolan, from the family behind baseball’s Cleveland Guardians, both bring significant financial resources to the contest.

Moreno, supported by prominent Trump allies like South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and Donald Trump Jr., remains confident in his campaign’s conservative credentials, despite Dolan’s endorsements from figures like Portman and DeWine.

However, DeWine’s decision suggests that conservative backing alone may not suffice against Brown, a seasoned three-term senator with deep roots in Ohio politics.

DeWine himself boasts a strong political legacy, having held various state and federal positions, including congressman and U.S. senator. His overwhelming reelection victory in 2022 underscores his enduring popularity across much of Ohio.

Republicans view Brown’s liberal stance and Ohio’s recent rightward shift as advantageous factors in their bid to unseat him. With Biden’s presidency facing challenges in popularity and Ohio’s political landscape evolving, the GOP sees an opportunity to flip the Senate seat in their favor.

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