Newsline , Society

Ignore the Spin – Bernie Moreno Was the Strongest Bet

Posted on Thursday, March 21, 2024
by Walter Samuel


Bernie Moreno and Sherrod Brown
Sherrod Brown (L) Bernie Moreno (R)

Following businessman Bernie Moreno’s landslide victory in the Ohio Republican Senate primary on Tuesday, in which the Trump-endorsed candidate won every single county, Democrats and the media have embarked on a campaign of trying to convince the public that Moreno is somehow a “weak” or even a “terrible” candidate. But not only is there no reason to believe Moreno will struggle in the general election, but plenty of evidence suggests he was the strongest general election candidate available to Republicans in Ohio this year.

There are three major reasons why Moreno was and remains the best choice to take on incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown.

The first relates to the nature of the state of Ohio and its politics. The second relates to the nature of Sherrod Brown and the coalition he needs for victory. The third involves the profiles of the three candidates and how each was equipped or not equipped to win an Ohio election in 2024.

Ohio in 2024 is no longer a swing state, and while that should have been evident after Donald Trump won the state by 8 percent in 2016, it took another four years for the message to sink in. In 2018, despite a blue wave and polls showing Democrat Richard Cordray leading the governor’s race, Cordray lost to Mike DeWine by 4 percent. Meanwhile, Democrats lost every statewide office except for Brown’s Senate seat.

Then, in 2020, despite every major polling outfit showing Ohio as a dead heat, Donald Trump defeated Joe Biden by 8 percent again. In 2022, despite massive outside spending, Tim Ryan, who according to Mike DeWine “ran as good a campaign as could’ve been run, and it just didn’t matter,” lost by 6 percent to J.D. Vance.

Ohio’s transformation was driven by wider national trends which were particularly pronounced in the state, prime among them the collapse of Democratic support in the rural areas of the Midwest, much as happened a decade earlier in Appalachia, and Donald Trump’s appeal in the medium-sized former industrial cities of the region.

A prime example of this process can be found in Trumbull County, near Youngstown. It twice voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 by 60 percent to 37 percent margins, with Mitt Romney losing 2,000 votes from McCain’s total. Then, in 2016, Donald Trump won it by 6 percent, 51 percent to 45 percent. In 2020, Donald Trump increased his margin to 11 percent, winning Trumbull 55 percent to 44 percent over Joe Biden. Joe Biden won 20,000 fewer votes than Barack Obama had in 2008, while Donald Trump added 15,000 to McCain’s total.

It is worth considering just how dramatic this shift was. Michael Dukakis won Trumbull County by 11 percent over Ronald Reagan in 1984, while losing by 18 percent nationally.

Trumbull County is not an outlier, either. Neighboring Mahoning County, home to Youngstown, showed just as dramatic a shift. Dukakis won it over Reagan by 18 percent, and Obama managed a 28 percent victory over John McCain there in 2008. Yet in 2020, Donald Trump won it over Joe Biden by 2 percent.

I chose these counties for another reason. Tuesday did not only feature a Republican Senate primary, but also presidential primaries for both parties. On the Republican side, Donald Trump defeated Nikki Haley 79 percent to 14 percent. On the Democratic ticket, Joe Biden won 87 percent of the vote, but Dean Philips also received 13 percent, his highest total, above that which he received even in his home state of Minnesota.

There was no “none of the above” option in Ohio around which pro-Palestinian left-wingers could organize. The pattern of Philips support was not that of discontented left-wing Democrats. Rather, Philips did best in the areas that had swung heavily Republican between 2012 and 2016. He won 16 percent in Mahoning and 21 percent in Trumbull, almost double his statewide performance. By contrast, Donald Trump did best in these areas, winning 85 percent in both counties.

Why is this important? Well for one thing, when Sherrod Brown won reelection in 2018, he won Mahoning 61 percent to 39 percent and Trumbull 57 percent to 43 percent, both above his statewide margin of 53 percent to 47 percent. Even if Brown gains votes in the Columbus suburbs from “NeverTrump” Republicans, it is hard to see how he can win reelection without winning these two counties.  In fact, we don’t need to speculate, we have the example of Tim Ryan’s 2022 defeat. Ryan lost Mahoning by 3.5 percent and Trumbull by 7.1 percent on the way to a 6 percent loss statewide.

The lesson is clear: to the extent that Sherrod Brown has unique appeal, it tends to correlate very closely with Donald Trump’s.

Bernie Moreno is supposedly a “weak” candidate because he is too close to Donald Trump, while State Senator Matt Dolan is strong because he has been endorsed by Governor Mike DeWine, Rob Portman, and John Kasich, but not by Donald Trump. These arguments presume the existence of a substantial group of voters who dislike both Donald Trump and Sherrod Brown and are willing to vote for a Republican over Brown unless that Republican is seen as close to Donald Trump.

While such voters may have existed in Georgia in 2022, where both Herschel Walker and Raphael Warnock were subject to accusations of domestic violence, the opposite appears to be the case in Ohio. Voters generally like Donald Trump and Sherrod Brown, and the key voters are those who like both. These voters also like Donald Trump more than Sherrod Brown, which is why Trump won in 2016 and 2020 by larger margins than Brown managed in 2012 and 2018.

The strongest GOP candidate is the one who is best equipped to convince voters who like and will vote for Donald Trump not to vote for Sherrod Brown. While Donald Trump’s endorsement is not a guarantee of success on its own, it is certainly not a liability when it comes to voters who like and will vote for Trump.

In turn, it is unclear how outspoken opposition to Trump would be an asset rather than a liability when it comes to appealing to Trump/Brown voters. While there may be states where it makes sense to go with the candidate of the local rather than the national establishment, such as Maryland where Larry Hogan is the strongest Republican candidate, there is no reason to do so in Ohio.

The only circumstance in which going with the Kasich/DeWine candidate over the Trump pick would make sense is if Moreno was somehow so flawed that he could not win for personal rather than ideological reasons. Moreno’s critics insist that this is the case, but they struggle to substantiate it.

First, they argue he lacks political experience and is a “used car salesman.” But Moreno has been a major political figure in Ohio for over a decade and was hailed by no less a figure than David Frum as a statewide candidate from central casting.

Furthermore, if his business record is subject to criticism, so too is Dolan’s, under whose family management Cleveland’s legendary baseball team changed their name from the Cleveland Indians to the Cleveland Guardians.

Second, Moreno critics argue he is “too conservative.” Leaving aside the “Trumpism” charges which we have already addressed, Dolan has largely adopted similar positions on abortion and transgender issues. Furthermore, the third candidate, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, heavily associated himself with gamesmanship to keep two constitutional amendments relating to abortion off the ballot in 2023, resulting in two drubbings at the ballot box for the pro-life movement.

Third, there is the supposed scandal in which it is alleged that Moreno created an account on a website known as Adult Friend Finder in 2008. This story has largely already fallen off the radar because it is of little consequence to begin with, and Moreno’s explanation–that an intern, who has confessed to the deed, did it as a prank–does fit with the information available. While it is unfortunate that a juvenile prank more than 15 years ago is now making national headlines, it is hardly disqualifying for Moreno.

Tuesday provided additional evidence that the “Trump” strategy is the correct one. Armed with Donald Trump’s endorsement, Moreno won over 50 percent of the vote, leading Dolan by 18 percent, and carrying every single county in the state. Either Donald Trump’s endorsement was sufficient to carry a somehow flawed Moreno to a landslide victory over the Kasich/Portman/DeWine machine, or Moreno himself was a compelling enough candidate on his own.

The behavior of Democrats who, contrary to their public pronouncements, set out to prevent rather than aid Moreno’s nomination, indicates they agreed Moreno posed a mortal threat to Brown.

By announcing that Matt Dolan was the man they truly feared and that they would run ads attacking Moreno for being endorsed by Donald Trump, they sought to kill two birds with one stone. First, they sought to drive Republican primary voters, traumatized by the disappointing returns in 2022, to vote for Dolan on the assumption he was more “electable.” At the same time, they set out to plant a narrative that Moreno was somehow flawed in the event he still prevailed.

The greatest indication this was an exercise in reverse psychology rather than a serious effort to derail a Dolan nomination is how little they spent on ads attacking him, a mere $2.5 million. They wanted everyone to think they wanted Moreno but made no real effort to secure that outcome.

Sherrod Brown will be a formidable opponent, and with Senate control coming down to a small number of states, he will have a near unlimited war chest. Brown’s weakness is that he is vulnerable to the pull of gravity, and in Ohio, political gravity is represented by Donald Trump’s almost certain victory over Joe Biden in November.

On Tuesday, Donald Trump convinced his supporters to also mark their ballots for Bernie Moreno. If he can do the same in November, come January, Bernie Moreno will be headed to the U.S. Senate.

Walter Samuel is the pseudonym of a prolific international affairs writer and academic. He has worked in Washington as well as in London and Asia and holds a Doctorate in International History.

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zoe frost
zoe frost
4 months ago

Good synopsis of Ohio. Was on a neighborhood social media site and read a comment by one of the traitor’s useful idiots parroting leftist traitor’s lies disparaging both Trump and Moreno. Her last comment was, as a Democrat, per OH primary election laws, she requested a Republican ballot so she could vote for candidates running against Trump and Moreno. Not feeling well, literally dragged myself to the polls to vote for pro-Republic Moreno and Trump, to counteract her stupidity born of propaganda.
Actual Socialists/Marxists/Communists aside, propagandized useful idiots, told they (GAK!) are patriots saving “democracy” have no clue they’re supporting the “fundamental transformation” destruction of America JoeBama’s got on hyper warp speed. If somehow one of the traitor D puppets gets elected (ChiCom/Globalist elitists owned puppet Joe may not make it, but for sure his handler, traitor puppet O will be behind the curtain), we can say bye bye to our safety, economy and freedoms/opportunities Constitutional Republic.
D = Amerikazuela.

J Anderson
J Anderson
4 months ago

When you have pictures of people, PLEASE, identify them by name!!!! It is frustrating to read the article and not know who is who!!!

Gordon williams
Gordon williams
4 months ago

He against Browns socialistic leadership —— what else I need to know?

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
4 months ago

That’s for the Laugh of the Day: this from people who will vote for BIDEN! HAHAHAHA!

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
4 months ago

Anything the media says, do the opposite of! If they really wanted to see a Republican candidate fail all they have to do is… ENDORSE THEM!

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