Donald Trump Clears Path for MAGA Ticket in Ohio's GOP Senate Race

In a change from his usual tactic, Donald Trump has talked one of his supporters out of running for Congress—in order to give his Make America Great Again movement the best chance of winning.

Bernie Moreno, a Cleveland businessman, revealed on Thursday that he is dropping out of the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate race in Ohio after a "private meeting" with the former president.

In a statement, Moreno said he and Trump had agreed that the crowded Ohio primary—left open because GOP Senator Rob Portman is not standing again—already contains "too many Trump candidates" and could cost the MAGA movement a seat if the votes are split between them.

"This decision may surprise some, but it is what I feel gives us the best chance of success," Moreno added.

Moreno confirmed that he would focus on supporting the candidate who wins Trump's endorsement for the primary in May.

The Trump allies who are still vying for the nomination—and the backing of the former president—are author J.D. Vance, former state treasurer Josh Mandel, state Senator Matt Dolan, former Ohio GOP chair Jane Timken and businessman Mike Gibbons.

In a statement, Trump thanked Moreno for his "time and effort." The Cleveland businessman had spent more than $3.75 million of his own money on the campaign, according to Federal Election Commission figures.

The former president said: "I was very impressed with Bernie who was tough on illegal immigration which, after the Biden disaster at the Border, has become a big issue for all candidates. He has done much for Ohio and loves his State and our great MAGA Movement.

"His decision will help ensure the MAGA Ticket wins BIG, as it is all over the Country. Thank you, Bernie, for your support and keep fighting!"

For months, Trump has been giving his backing to candidates at all levels of government who are willing to support his baseless claim that the 2020 election was rigged against him.

If his strategy succeeds—and the GOP retakes the House and Senate in November's midterms—both chambers could be filled with Trump allies, cementing his stature and popularity ahead of any 2024 run for president.

This is not the first time that Trump has intervened in the Ohio primary. In December 2021, Politico reported that Trump had called David McIntosh, president of the Club for Growth, to ask the conservative group to pull ads that were critical of Vance—because the former president was concerned they could harm his own image in the state, which he won by 8 percentage points in the 2020 election.

The Club for Growth is backing Mandel and its ads highlighted how Vance had described Trump as an "idiot" and said he had "never liked him" in tweets and interviews in 2016. Vance later said he regretted his criticisms of Trump and is now seeking his endorsement.

The eventual winner of the Republican primary will likely face Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan in the race for the Ohio seat.

Trump has been contacted for comment.

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Donald Trump arrives for a rally at the Lorain County Fairgrounds in Wellington, Ohio, on June 26, 2021. He won the state by 8 percentage points in the 2020 election. Scott Olson/Getty Images