Democrats and Trump Share a Favorite Ohio Republican Senate Candidate

The former president is backing Bernie Moreno in the GOP primary in Ohio.

Ahead of Tuesday’s Republican Senate primary in Ohio, former President Donald Trump has found an unlikely ally: Democrats.

Trump has endorsed Cleveland businessman Bernie Moreno in the three-way primary between Moreno, state Sen. Matt Dolan and Secretary of State Frank LaRose. A group affiliated with the Senate Majority Fund, a PAC that tries to grow the Democratic majority in the Senate, has spent $2.7 million in ads to boost Moreno in the primary.

The increasingly nasty primary will determine which Republican will face off against Sen. Sherrod Brown in November. As the sole statewide Democrat in a state Trump won twice, Brown’s seat is a key pickup opportunity for Republicans.

Democrats have an apparent reason for hoping for Moreno. He is leading the field among likely voters, according to the most recent polling conducted by Emerson College. But some Republicans reportedly fear he is vulnerable; last week, the Associated Press reported that officials were fretting about a profile created in 2008 tied to Moreno’s email account on an adult website. (The Moreno campaign placed blame on an intern for that account, although the AP could not corroborate that claim.)

Trump blasted the reports while campaigning for Moreno on Saturday: “He’s getting some very tough Democrat fake treatment right now. And we’re not going to stand for it because I know this man. We all know this man. He’s a hero. He’s a winner. And we’re not going to let these people — these people are sick.”

Democrats pointed to Moreno’s alliance with Trump and hard-line stances in ads from the group Duty and Country, which receives most of its funding from the Senate Majority PAC.

“When Ohio voters head to their polling place, they deserve to know the truth about Bernie Moreno — and the truth is that Moreno is a MAGA extremist,” Senate Majority PAC spokesperson Hannah Menchhoff told The New York Times last week.

Moreno’s opponents and their allies argue that the ads show he is a weak candidate.

“Seen those ads supporting Bernie Moreno? Know who is paying for them? It’s Chuck Schumer,” Dolan posted on X. “Schumer just got CAUGHT meddling in our primary because he wants the weakest opponent for Sherrod Brown. Enough is enough.”

Gov. Mike DeWine, who is backing Dolan, posted a similar message: “Chuck Schumer and the democrats are running ads in support of Bernie Moreno because they know he’s the weakest candidate to beat Sherrod Brown this fall.”

Along with DeWine, Dolan received an endorsement from former Sen. Rob Portman.

Trump called Dolan a “RINO” and “someone who wants to be the next [Mitt] Romney.” He also attacked Dolan, whose family owns the Cleveland Guardians, for changing the club’s name from Indians.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has remained neutral in the primary, but spokesperson Philip Letsou said it “plans to aggressively help our nominee unseat liberal career politician Sherrod Brown.”

The high spending in the GOP primary could benefit Brown, who did not face a primary of his own. Democrats predicted he would ultimately prevail.

“This expensive, bruising primary has been a disaster for Republicans, and Sherrod Brown will defeat whichever candidate limps out of this damaging intraparty fight,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesperson Maeve Coyle.

“After spending months and millions of dollars attacking each other, whichever Republican scrapes out a primary win will emerge weak, bruised and with a disqualifying agenda that Ohioans will reject come November,” said Menchhoff of the Senate Majority Fund.

Ryan Hernández is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.