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Two More Senate Races Just Got Messier

During the 2022 cycle, there was surely no U.S. Senate primary uglier than the one the Republicans held in Ohio. For something close to 2 years, a gaggle of wannabe GOP senators did everything they could to prove to the mirror, mirror on the wall (and anyone else paying attention) that they were the Trumpiest one of all. Obviously, it ultimately worked out for them, as Sen. J.D. Vance (R) eventually won the primary and then the general.

In 2024, it would seem that the GOP is going for a repeat. State Sen. Matt Dolan (R) jumped in first; he's plenty Trumpy and is backed by his family's massive fortune (they own the Cleveland Guardians, among other things). He was followed by Bernie Moreno, who is also plenty Trumpy, and who is also well-heeled thanks to his past ownership of a used-car-dealership empire. Moreno is also well-connected in Republican circles, as he is father-in-law to Rep. Max Miller (R-OH), a onetime Trump aide.

Although Dolan and Moreno have their advantages, at least from a GOP primary perspective, the former only managed a third-place finish in 2022 while the latter didn't even get that far, dropping out before the primary, but well after the writing was on the wall. In other words, neither is a "sure thing," or anything close to it, which means there is still a lane for one or more aspiring U.S. Senators. And yesterday, the race became a three-way affair, as Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) jumped in.

We certainly do not have our finger on the pulse of Ohio politics, and are happy to hear from readers who are better-informed than we are. That said, we can certainly offer a few observations. First, LaRose doesn't have the bank account that Dolan and Moreno do, but he is certainly Trumpy, and he is the only declared candidate to have won statewide in Ohio. He's also the only candidate of the three to be a veteran, which seems to matter to Ohio voters. On the other hand, he's closely linked to Issue 1, and we're not sure there's a positive outcome there for him. If Issue 1 passes, he will be perceived by centrist voters as anti-democracy. If Issue 1 fails, he will be perceived by right-wing voters as the guy who failed to keep abortion illegal. In any event, it looks like it will be another knock-down, drag-out fight for the Republican nomination. And this time, whoever prevails is going to have to face an incumbent, namely Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

Moving on to a state roughly 800 miles to the South, we have a race that just got interesting in a somewhat different way. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) has won three statewide elections, for senator (once) and for governor (twice), though he always wins by the skin of his teeth (in those three elections, his largest margin of victory was 1.15%). Since the last time he ran for office, he's been branded as the candidate who would consider getting rid of Medicare and Social Security. That may have something to do with the platform he issued in which he implied he would consider getting rid of Medicare and Social Security. Needless to say, this is not the most salable political position in a state where 21.6% of residents are 65 or older.

In short, Scott would seem ripe for a serious challenger. And, as of yesterday, he may have one, in the person of Phil Ehr (D). Here is Ehr's announcement:

If you watch it, you will see that Ehr plays up his military background (26 years in the U.S. Navy), while also hitting Scott over the head for Medicare/Social Security and for being a profiteer back when he was in the hospital ownership business.

Ehr has twice run for office before, once in the 2018 Democratic U.S. Senate primary (he lost to then-incumbent Bill Nelson) and then as the Democratic opponent to Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) in 2022. Normally, a "perennial candidate" who has lost twice is considered to be damaged goods. However, neither of those races were actually winnable, since incumbents are rarely knocked off in primaries (2018) and Gaetz' district is deep red (2022). So, it could be argued that those races were not really referenda on Ehr as a candidate, and instead were practice for a real run. Ehr did show a fair bit of fundraising ability, collecting more than $2 million last year.

It should be noted that the Florida Democratic primary is already crowded, albeit mostly with unknowns, and that the DSCC is still trying to recruit a "name" candidate, like Reps. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick or Debbie Wasserman Schultz, or maybe former basketball player Grant Hill. Still, of the candidates already in, Ehr seems to have the most potential. And regardless of who wins, there is an utterly unpredictable dynamic that will be at play, as either Ron DeSantis or Donald Trump will be a loser when it comes to the Republican presidential nomination. Will that defeat cause fans of one man, or the other, to sit this one out? It wouldn't take very many take-my-ball-and-go-home Republicans to endanger a senator, in Scott, who consistently puts up tiny margins of victory. (Z)

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