Trump supporters Moreno and Merrin dominate GOP primary to challenge two vulnerable Ohio Democrats this fall. (Part-1)

Columbus — On Tuesday, former President Donald Trump won two high-profile Ohio elections that could influence Republicans' chances of winning key seats this fall and strengthening their power in Washington.

Trump-backed Cleveland businessman Bernie Moreno defeated state Sen. Matt Dolan and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose in the bitter primary to challenge Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown this fall. A day after Trump supported him, Derek Merrin defeated Craig Riedel in northwest Ohio. Merrin will challenge longstanding Rep. Marcy Kaptur in November's general election.

Brown and Kaptur are among the year's most vulnerable Democrats due to Ohio's recent rightward shift. National party leaders have focused on both elections because to Democrats' Senate majority and Republicans' House advantage. In his Cleveland acceptance speech, Moreno praised Trump, Dolan, and LaRose for successful campaigns. He urged party unity to defeat Brown.

“We have an opportunity now to retire the old commie, send him to a retirement home and save this country, because that’s what we’ll do,” Moreno told a roaring throng.Brown President Joe Biden's “absolute enabler” in the Senate and liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren's “lapdog.”

Brown said on X: “The choice ahead of Ohio is clear: Bernie Moreno has spent his career and campaign putting himself first, and would do the same if elected. Ohio will always employ me.”

An increasingly Republican state is predicted to have a heated general election. Brown is a prime GOP target as Democrats hold a 51-49 Senate majority but are defending more seats than Republicans. He is the only non-judicial statewide Democrat in Ohio, which has shifted right under Trump.

Senate Majority PAC, an independent group allied with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, paid $2.7 million to boost Moreno's primary effort in the hope that he would be weakest against Brown come November, drawing bipartisan criticism.

Brown will likely campaign on abortion rights. After the Supreme Court's 2022 decision overturned the constitutional right to abortion, Ohioans solidly endorsed a state constitutional amendment last year to protect access. Late in the campaign, former luxury auto dealer and blockchain entrepreneur Moreno survived controversy.

In 2008, someone with Moreno's work email account created a profile on an adult website seeking “Men for 1-on-1 sex.” The Associated Press reported last week. AP could not confirm Moreno created it. Moreno's lawyer presented a statement from Dan Ricci, a former intern, who stated he established the account as “part of a juvenile prank.”

According to seven people involved with GOP discussions about how to address the profile, prominent Republican operatives have been frustrated by questions about Moreno's possible vulnerability in a general election for the past month. For fear of Trump and his allies, they demanded anonymity.

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