Trump-backed Bernie Moreno wins Ohio Republican Senate race: NBC News

US Senate candidate Bernie Moreno, Republican of Ohio, speaks before former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump takes the stage during a Buckeye Values PAC Rally in Vandalia, Ohio, on March 16, 2024. 

Kamil Krzaczynski | Afp | Getty Images

Donald Trump-backed businessman Bernie Moreno will win Ohio’s Republican Senate primary, NBC News projects, teeing up a high stakes November contest against incumbent Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown.

“What we have to do now is, as a fully united party, understand we have one mission, which is to get rid of Sherrod Brown,” Moreno said in a victory speech in a Cleveland suburb Tuesday night.

Moreno’s main opponent was State Sen. Matt Dolan, who secured the endorsement of Ohio’s popular Republican Gov. Mike DeWine early last week. Secretary of State Frank LaRose was also on the ballot, but held a steady third place, out-funded by his wealthier competitors. 

Moreno’s victory sends an early message for this election year: Trump’s MAGA seal of approval may hold a power in 2024 that it did not several years ago.

“I wear with honor. My endorsement of President but from President Trump, I wear that with a badge of honor,” Moreno said.

In 2020, Trump lost the White House to President Joe Biden and the GOP lost both chambers of Congress. In 2022, many Trump-backed candidates underperformed in key races, though Republicans were able to narrowly take back the House. 

With memories of that spotty track record still fresh, Ohio’s race was positioned as a test for whether the former president’s backing had renewed sway over the GOP establishment this election year. 

The success of Moreno, 57, a politically inexperienced entrepreneur who made his living as a luxury car dealer and blockchain investor, over career politician Dolan boosts Trump’s comeback thesis.

“It’s evident that Donald Trump’s endorsement for Bernie Moreno was a key factor,” Dolan told reporters after conceding the race to Moreno.

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump greets Ohio Republican candidate for US Senate Bernie Moreno during a rally at the Dayton International Airport on March 16, 2024 in Vandalia, Ohio. 

Scott Olson | Getty Images

With Tuesday’s primary battle in rearview, Moreno’s campaign now shifts to general election mode as the Republican party counts on him to unseat Sen. Brown and help regain Senate control.

There has already been GOP head-scratching over Moreno’s ability to flip the Democratic seat. Especially after he faced backlash following an Associated Press report that linked his email address to a 2008 account on a casual sex website seeking “Men for 1-on-1 sex.”

Moreno’s lawyer later released a statement saying that a former intern for Moreno had created the account as a prank.

In the days leading up to the Senate race, a Democratic PAC spent millions on ads that were intended to boost Moreno, reflecting Democrats’ belief that it would be easier for Brown to beat Moreno in November than…

Read More: Trump-backed Bernie Moreno wins Ohio Republican Senate race: NBC News

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