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Days before Ohio primary election, national Democrats wade into GOP race

Bernie Moreno, Matt Dolan and Frank LaRose at the final Republican U.S. Senate debate, hosted by Miami University and produced by WLWT-TV in Cincinnati.
Jason Houston
Hearst Corporation
From left, Mike Kallmeyer of Spectrum Networks Ohio moderates a Republican U.S. Senate primary forum with state Sen. Matt Dolan, Secretary of State Frank Larose and businessman Bernie Moreno Feb. 19, 2024, in the TLB Auditorium at the University of Findlay in Findlay, OH.

Election Day in Ohio is five days away, and nationally, Democrats are now wading into the three-way GOP primary for U.S. Senate through television ad purchases.

The latest polls are predicting a tight race between state Sen. Matt Dolan, businessman Bernie Moreno and Secretary of State Frank LaRose. The three men are all vying to be the nominee to face off against incumbent Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown in the fall.

But one of the latest commercials hitting televisions across Ohio doesn't come from the Republican party.

Most of the ad spending has been for and by Matt Dolan and Bernie Moreno, and almost none by Frank LaRose. This new ad began airing Thursday morning, according to Columbus-based conservative ad firm Medium Buying. It's focused on former president Donald Trump’s endorsement of Moreno and Moreno's backing of a federal abortion ban.

It ends with, “Donald Trump needs Bernie Moreno. Ohio doesn’t."

It’s funded by Duty and Country, a super PAC backed by the U.S. Senate Democrats’ political campaign arm. Duty and Country reserved at least $2.7 million worth of on-air hits through Tuesday around Ohio, according to a Dolan news release.

Dolan and LaRose took to X, formerly Twitter, on Wednesday night decrying what they called Democratic “interference” in the race and arguing Moreno was the weakest candidate to take on Brown—reason for Democrats to prop him up.

“Democrats constantly underestimate the America First movement at their own peril,” a Moreno spokesperson wrote in an email. “Bernie is a threat to the establishment in both political parties.”

Released Wednesday morning, an Emerson College/The Hill poll had Dolan coming in at 26%, Moreno at 23% and LaRose at 16%. “Undecided” lead at 32%, with a 2.6% margin of error. Since its prior January poll in January, Dolan gained ten points and Moreno gained one. LaRose lost five points.

The race has been ranked by national outlets as one of the country’s most contested races, with the potential to determine which political party controls the upper chamber of Congress. Brown beat out all three in the latest Emerson College poll—although Dolan performed marginally better.

Sarah Donaldson covers government, policy, politics and elections for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. Contact her at
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