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New polling shows Ohio Senate GOP primary tightening

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The Ohio Senate GOP primary is getting tighter.

A second poll in as many weeks showed business executive Bernie Moreno narrowly leading a three-way contest for the right to take on Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. Both internal surveys showed a heated primary — a stark departure from previous polling that showed Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose with an advantage.

The latest poll, conducted in early December for the Moreno campaign by Fabrizio, Lee & Associates, found Moreno with 23 percent of the vote, compared to LaRose with 19 percent and state Sen. Matt Dolan with 18 percent.

Forty percent of the 600 likely primary voters surveyed were undecided. The margin of error is +/- 4 percentage points. Moreno has been on TV airing ads over the past month to boost his name ID and his surveys indicate the strategy may be working.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee is remaining neutral in the March primary in Ohio, home to one of the most consequential 2024 Senate races. The Senate seat is in one of three red states with a Democratic-held Senate seat up for grabs. Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) decision to retire made the spotlight on Ohio and Montana even brighter.

LaRose, a statewide elected officeholder, had an early lead in some initial polling. But he has trailed Dolan and Moreno, who are both personally wealthy, in fundraising. Dolan and Moreno have been airing TV ads in recent weeks.

A March survey by Fabrizio, Lee & Associates found Moreno in a distant third place with just 6 percent. (LaRose got 23 percent and Dolan received 16 percent.)

Since then, Moreno has spent more than $2 million on TV, boosting his statewide profile. His spot features footage of former President Donald Trump praising Moreno. Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) has endorsed Moreno.

Moreno plans to air TV ads in the Youngstown, Cincinnati and Toledo markets this week. Previously he was airing ads in Cleveland, Columbus and Dayton.

An internal Moreno poll conducted in late November by the firm co/efficient found a statistical tie: Moreno with 15 percent, LaRose with 14 percent and Dolan with 13 percent.

Both LaRose and Moreno are angling for Trump’s endorsement. The former president has been cautious about wading into down-ballot contests this cycle. Any candidate with a consistent lead in polling could make a stronger case for an endorsement.