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Trump conquered Ohio.  Now his supporters want the governorship.

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Trump conquered Ohio. Now his supporters want the governorship.

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“I was fighting it, then the coronavirus hits, and then everyone jumps in and says, ‘We gotta stop this guy,'” Renacci said of DeWine and the state’s Republican Party during a speech. in front of local activists here last week. “Well guess what? I was trying to stop him in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, ’21. And by God, we’re going to stop him in 2022.”

Renacci is following a well-trodden path of Republican hopefuls trying to get the former president’s attention, praising Trump and surrounding himself with staffers in Trump’s orbit. Renacci’s running mate Joe Knopp even signed a recent fundraising email to raffle off an autographed copy of a movie he worked on called “The Trump I Know.”

Brad Parscale, Trump’s former campaign manager, advises Renacci’s attempt to dethrone DeWine. Parscale shared with POLITICO a polling memo from an investigation conducted by Fabrizio Lee – Trump’s longtime pollster – which claimed Renacci was in a position of strength in his main challenge, showing Renacci 46% backing the 38% of DeWine in a one-on-one match. -up among Republican primary voters.

The memo – which was addressed to “Renacci donors” – did not share the full survey questionnaire, nor did it mention the third Republican primary candidate: Joe Blystone, a farmer.

The poll, according to the campaign, shows that the vast majority of Renacci’s likely voters support Trump and believe the 2020 election was “stolen” from him. “It’s amazing how many people, how many Republicans, in Ohio believe the election was stolen,” Renacci told POLITICO.

And the Renacci camp is working hard to try to drive a wedge between Trump and DeWine. “Jim Renacci is Trump’s only candidate,” Parscale said. “And it’s clear from the data that Mike DeWine is the anti-Trump candidate.”

DeWine’s campaign declined to comment directly on the poll.

“Mike DeWine’s conservative record has been on display for three years,” DeWine campaign manager Brenton Temple said in a statement touting, among other things, the recent announcement that Intel will build a massive factory in Ohio. “Not only did he recently announce the largest economic development project in Ohio’s history, but he cut $2.2 billion in personal taxes and signed the most pro-life, pro-life legislation ever. 2A that Ohio has seen.”

It’s unclear whether Trump can be induced to weigh in on the race, although he has flirted with it before. Trump appeared to address a primary challenge to DeWine in a November 2020 tweet shortly after DeWine became one of the first high-profile Republicans to acknowledge President Joe Biden’s victory. But DeWine — who co-chaired Trump’s re-election bid in the state — hasn’t faced the sustained barrage Trump has thrown at other Republican governors, like Georgia’s Brian Kemp or Arizona’s Doug Ducey.

Renacci also bears a dark mark in his gubernatorial campaign: his unsuccessful bid for the Senate in 2018. He was the only Republican to lose statewide that year in Ohio, even though it was a year strong nationwide for Democrats. Renacci lost to Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown by just under 7 points, while DeWine won the governorship and Republicans held other statewide positions like Secretary of State. , treasurer and auditor. In total, DeWine won around 178,000 votes ahead of Renacci that year.

POLITICO previously reported that Trump remarked on Renacci’s loss in 2018 during a March meeting with Republican Senate hopefuls from Ohio to Florida.

Meanwhile, several outside pro-DeWine groups support the governor.

A super PAC called Free Ohio has earmarked at least $240,000 of television and radio advertising time in the state to boost DeWine, according to data from ad tracking firm AdImpact. Radio ad attacks Biden while promoting DeWine on taxes and cutting red tape, says a ad copy obtained by Cleveland.com.

Mike McCauley, who is listed as the organization’s treasurer on ad buying forms, declined to share details about the group.

A second pro-DeWine group — Ohioans for Free and Fair Elections — has run between $17,000 and $23,000 worth of Facebook ads with positive posts about DeWine since last Thursday, according to the platform’s ad disclosure portal. (A phone number listed for the group was disconnected, and the organization did not respond to an email seeking comment.)

DeWine’s allies say the governor is in a good position.

“While some grassroots people aren’t happy with him because of Covid decisions, he’s the most enduring mark of Ohio politics,” said Mark Weaver, former deputy attorney general at the IA. State and longtime Republican agent in the state who worked on DeWine’s attorney. general campaigns. DeWine was one of the first governors to order a state lockdown in March 2020, but his stances on handling the pandemic became controversial among Republicans during the year.

“He’s a known quantity, and he knows how to campaign in the state,” Weaver continued.

Weaver — who noted Renacci’s internal poll didn’t include Blystone — said he worked for another pro-DeWine outside group this cycle, but declined to name it.

On the Democratic side, two former mayors are competing for the nomination: Nan Whaley of Dayton and John Cranley of Cincinnati. Both left office at the start of the year.

Another challenge for Renacci is breaking through as a contentious Republican primary to replace retired GOP Sen. Rob Portman unfolds simultaneously. The Senate primary has a noisy field where candidates are throwing bombs at each other, already spending tens of millions of dollars in the race between the candidates and outside groups.

The effect is two-fold: Airtime will be even more expensive in the battleground state, especially as the May 3 primary draws closer and the Senate primary sucks up much of the oxygen. state policy.

The next big date on the primary calendar is January 31, when contestants must submit their 2021 annual fundraising reports. Neither DeWine nor Renacci have announced fundraising numbers yet, although the challenger has announced at by mid-January he had donated an additional $4 million of his own money to the campaign.

During his 2018 Senate run, Renacci lent more than $8 million to his failed bid, but he eventually got back around $4 million.

DeWine isn’t the only Republican to face a Trump-inspired challenger. Trump backed former Sen. David Perdue’s main challenge in Kemp, Georgia, and threw his support behind Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin’s bid to defeat GOP Gov. Brad Little. Others — like Alabama’s Kay Ivey — also have naysayers who try to portray themselves as more loyal to the former president than the current occupant of the governor’s mansion.

In all of these cases, National Republicans say they have the incumbents’ backs.

The Republican Governors Association “supports its incumbents,” spokesman Chris Gustafson said of the race in Ohio, declining to comment further.

Trump conquered Ohio. Now his supporters want the governorship.

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