Trump Endorses Bernie Moreno, Ex-Car Dealer, in Ohio Senate Race

Former President Donald J. Trump on Tuesday endorsed Bernie Moreno in the Ohio Republican Senate primary, bolstering the candidacy of Mr. Moreno, who has accumulated several high-profile endorsements in his tight race against two more experienced politicians.

With just three months until the primary, public polls show a close contest involving State Senator Matt Dolan, Secretary of State Frank LaRose and Mr. Moreno, a former car dealer from Cleveland.

The winner will challenge Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat who is seeking a fourth six-year term. Several recent public polls have shown Mr. Brown leading any of the three Republicans and having the easiest time beating Mr. Moreno.

A poll from Emerson College and WJW-TV, a Cleveland Fox affiliate, on Nov. 13 showed Mr. Brown 11 points ahead of Mr. Moreno, more than double his lead over Mr. Dolan and Mr. LaRose. A poll on Oct. 19 from the Ohio Northern University Institute for Civics and Public Policy showed Mr. Brown 22 points ahead of Mr. Moreno.

Mr. Trump, in a series of social media posts, did not directly mention Mr. Moreno’s Republican competitors, but pointed to Mr. Moreno’s status as a “political outsider” as a valuable asset in a race against Mr. Brown. Mr. Moreno has never held elected office, but has been an active Republican donor in recent years and ran unsuccessfully for the party’s Senate nomination last year.

Mr. Moreno will “fight the corrupt Deep State that is destroying our Country,” Mr. Trump wrote in a social media post.

Mr. Moreno had been skeptical of Mr. Trump’s political rise, referring to him as a “lunatic invading the party” in 2016. But he has since reversed his thinking. Emily Moreno Miller, his daughter, was a Republican National Committee official during Mr. Trump’s re-election bid, and her husband, Representative Max Miller of Ohio, is a former Trump White House aide who won his first election last year.

“I could not be more grateful or humbled to have the complete and total endorsement of President Donald Trump at this vital moment in the campaign,” Mr. Moreno said in a statement, adding that a Republican takeover in the Senate and a victory from Mr. Trump in the presidential contest “will Make America Great Again!”

Mr. Trump’s imprimatur proved valuable last year in Republican primaries ahead of the midterm elections, but less so in general election contests.

Across the country, his handpicked candidates lost close races, including a crushing blow in Pennsylvania, where Democrats flipped a Senate seat and helped ensure Republicans would remain in the minority for the next two years. Trump-endorsed candidates in the five most competitive House races all lost.

Democrats downplayed Mr. Trump’s endorsement, and predicted that the Republican primary would become more divisive.

“Bernie Moreno has made it clear he won’t fight for Ohioans and doesn’t understand the issues facing their daily lives,” said Reeves Oyster, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Democratic Party. “As this primary heats up, it’s clear this slugfest is only going to get messier, nastier and more expensive from here.”

In Mr. Moreno’s previous Senate primary race, Mr. Trump’s endorsement proved decisive for J.D. Vance, who won the Republican nomination before defeating Tim Ryan, the Democratic candidate, in the general election. Mr. Vance endorsed Mr. Moreno this year.

Mr. Moreno has also been endorsed by Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

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