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S4 Ep24: Cleveland Rocks (with Henry Gomez)

March 16, 2024
Notes
Transcript
The Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Ohio is heating up…unexpectedly. Cleveland-area businessman Bernie Moreno is on the ropes despite Trump’s endorsement. And despite voters being mad about the Cleveland Guardians (née Indians) name change, a member of the ownership family is still in the ballgame (pun intended). NBC News senior political reporter and Ohio native Henry Gomez joins Sarah to break down this primary and preview what will be one of November’s biggest Senate races.
This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:06

    Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Focus Secret Podcast. I’m Sarah Longwell, publisher of the Bulwark. And this week, we are taking you to Ohio. And since I went to college in Ohio, Kenyan, I may have mentioned it. I’m gonna educate you on the state that educated me.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:24

    Good one for my producer. Some people think Ohio has gotten read enough that it’s pretty much fool’s gold for Democrats. But incumbent Democratic senator, Sherrod Brown, is running for reelection, and it’s gonna be one of the biggest Senate races in the country in November. So we’re gonna size up the Republicans vying to run against him, and the primary is on Tuesday There’s a car salesman endorsed by Trump. There’s a normie Secret Podcast state that’s trying the MAGa hat on for size.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:55

    And a wealthy state senator who somehow still has a shot, and the voters have very loose opinions about all of them. My guest today is Henry Gomez, Ohio based senior political reporter at NBC News who can help us make sense of what is going on in Ohio. Henry. Thanks for being here.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:15

    Yeah. My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:17

    Alright. So how does this primary compare to the one in twenty twenty two? That would just seem to have more flare in it than this one. This one seems a little sleepier. What’s going on?
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:28

    Yeah. No. I totally would agree with that assessment. Twenty twenty two, we had, like, a bounty of riches when it came to just how ugly and nasty and messy that primary was. There were more candidates.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:39

    And that race, which I think contributed to it. We also had some pretty strong personalities like JD Vance, like Josh Mandell, a guy named Mike Givens, who was a a wealthy businessman who nearly got into a fist fight with Josh Mandell on one of the debate stages.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:52

    I forgot about Mike Givens. Yeah. That guy.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:55

    Yeah. And so do a lot of voters in that primary at the end of the day. But, this year, you’re right. It has been a little sleepier at least up until the last week or so, and we started to see a whole lot more money get poured into the airwaves. And we’ve seen the attacks escalate because what’s happening is we’re seeing the Trump candidate Bernie Moreno, based on very robust challenge from, I guess, the comparatively moderate Matt Dolan.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:20

    I mean, Matt Dolan is running as a conservative, but he’s more cut from the old guard establishment cloth than breeding merino is. And, you know, the polls that we are seeing show it’s really close between those two. And you’re seeing that reflected in some of the endorsements that Dolan has picked up from governor Mike DeWine and former senator, Rob Hartman, and the fact that Trump, who hadn’t been planning to come to Ohio at all before the primary, according to my sources, planning a last minute rally for Brito, three days before the primary, which is viewed, but just about everybody here in Ohio is the last minute push to get Marina across the finish line.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:58

    Yeah. You know, I should note that Mike Givens I forgot about this. He’s a Kenyan alum.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:02

    That’s right. He is.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:04

    How did I forget about this guy? One of our less auspicious alumni, I guess. So there’s two reasons I really wanted to do this podcast right now. One is obviously the the primary is coming up. Although, I think it’s made very little national So people are not tuned into this the way they were again in twenty twenty two.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:24

    But it is gonna determine who’s gonna run against Sherrod Brown, and that seat is going to be a huge deal. But the other reason that I wanted to do this is the fact that Dolan is, like, showing something here. And Dolan is my type of guy, my type of Republican. He over performed in twenty twenty two a little bit. He came in third, but, like, just behind Josh Mandell, and I think did better than any of us had anticipated.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:51

    So we’ll get to more of him in the program, but I’m interested to see. It would be an incredible upset if Dolan were to pull this out. So I wanted to take a bigger look at it, but Before we get into the state races, just because it’s been in the news, we did ask this focus group of Ohio two time Trump voters for the reaction to Joe Biden’s state of the union, the reactions to Biden were, like, completely predictable from two time Trump voters. He sounds like he has, you know, dementia or he, you know, he doesn’t sound like he can get a word without whatever. But I was struck by how they talked about Katie Brit.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:23

    The senator from Alabama who gave the Republican response. Let’s listen.
  • Speaker 3
    0:04:28

    I thought it was embarrassing. I really did They just keep throwing people in there and they are saying really dumb things. And, you know, this is gonna be funny, but I have been watching the view because you talk about completely opposite, point of view on that show, you will get it. But I have to watch it because I wanna know what the other side’s thinking. But they showed quite a bit of her this morning Like I said, I think it was embarrassing for the Republicans.
  • Speaker 3
    0:04:57

    I really do. They could have done anything to improve how she appeared. And my opinion. I really don’t even know what she was trying to get across, really.
  • Speaker 4
    0:05:08

    Those are very confused. Like, I get embarrassed watching it. Like, I have to watch
  • Speaker 5
    0:05:13

    some watching this train wreck or car accident happening in front of me because there’s, like, nothing I can do about it. And it’s, like, why? Like, why?
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:21

    So I bring up Katie Brit not just to pile on with the two time Trump voters, but because I have long been saying that I thought She was a real potential vice presidential candidate. And so before we get into the other things, I do wanna ask you about JD Vance. Because as sort of Nancy Mace and Carrie Lake, like, we’ve all had the sense that Trump’s gonna go with a woman, But as we watch many of these women sort of debase themselves to get the VP nod, they are blowing up their own chances at being taken seriously And it’s starting to feel more like JD Vance could really be the guy. What’s your sense of JD Vance’s likelihood that he could be the VP pick?
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:05

    I think he’s a long shot just based on the fact that he’s not been in the center very long and, you know, there’s gonna be this pressure on Trump to pick I wanted or perhaps a a candidate of color. But one thing that struck me in in that I think it was in that particular focus group, Sarah was when they were asked about GD Vance, they had very strong and positive opinions of him, like senators in Ohio and assume this is true in other states as well. Aren’t as well known or as well loved as governors. Like, governors are the ones that get the headlines and are more out there on the local news or on the front page of the local paper as opposed to the senators that are mostly end up becoming creatures of Washington. But Vance is, you know, what, in his second year in the Senate to have these, like, very strong and positive opinions in his favor, but really struck me and to tie it back to the Brit conversation.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:57

    It strikes me that Ohio voters or at least many of them have a good BS detector or can sense authenticity, and they see it in Vance, but maybe didn’t see it in Katy Brit’s state of the union response. The thing I’ll say about something that one of the voters in Redwood brought up, and it’s that he became very visible after the train wreck and his palestinian, the chemical disaster there, and really put himself into the spotlight there. But in a way that was trying to, like, you know, start a constructive conversation about it. Yeah. He was thrown some partisan bombs at Biden for not being there earlier or at Buttigieg for not coming soon enough.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:34

    But he he did really take that on as a leadership issue I mean, they got the pressure on the Democrats to respond more to that tragedy, and it’s become kind of his signature issue here in Ohio. And we also see headlines of him, you’re teaming up with senators like Elizabeth Warren on legislation, and I do think people like seeing that. They like seeing some results, and they like seeing that maybe he didn’t go to Washington and become exactly the ideologue he came across as. On the campaign trail. So I think for all those reasons, he would make a strong entry on Trump’s short list.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:07

    I just don’t know how feasible or likely it would be.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:11

    Well, you referenced the fact that these voters said positive things about him, and I wanna play some of that sound because it is having listened to voters and even the voters when they talk about people they’re gonna vote for, they rarely talk about them, you know, that enthusiastically, but they were nice about Vance. Let’s listen.
  • Speaker 6
    0:08:29

    I don’t know if that I could say every decision he’s ever made on anything, but I think for the most part, I’ve have been pretty aligned. And You know, like I said before, I don’t think there’s a lot of transparency on either side, but I think there has been at least the ability to kind of figure out why he voted a certain way or what decisions were made
  • Speaker 4
    0:08:47

    after the trading wreck, in Ohio, he actually came to one of the creeks where they were doing the soil sampling and everything, and he was one of the first people from the government to actually go and do that and make a comment as opposed to it took Biden a really long time. It took other people. So I kinda just said that he had, like, the forefront to get out there in front of something, kinda tackle it. I liked that about him, the initiative.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:13

    Yeah. You know, Vance is a weird one for me because the never trump JD Vance is the one that I liked. And so watching him go through the Bet of morphosys where he became fiery populist, JD Vance, came across to me as deeply inauthentic and Craven, But, you know, voters will give you sort of one road to Damascus’s moment because a lot of them did. I mean, I remember when Ohio went for Casey in twenty sixteen, And they thought, you know, that Trump was bad. And, obviously, now Ohio has undergone some it’s not even ideological ships exactly, but it has become very trumpy.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:52

    To the point where I gotta say, populist JD Vance Vance. I know what you’re saying about him being newish in the Senate. He does seem like he’s starting to feel like the heir apparent a little bit to the populist side of what Trump does. And it seems to fit Ohio, particularly well, as well as some of these Midwestern states that went for Trump in sixteen and really have changed the dynamic in our politics. So do you agree with that or tell me what you say?
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:20

    Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, We can now talk about the Hillbilly allergy days or GD Vance was on a a book tour and talking a lot of trash about Donald Trump and how he wasn’t gonna vote for him. And that’s what a lot of people remembered about and who were following politics closely at the time, and it was a little bit jarring to see the switch. But I do think that you know, he comes at his populism for a very intellectual point of view.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:43

    And sometimes that might fly over Motors heads, but he is fairly consistent on it. And, shared Brown, who is the other side of area, Ohio, has populist credentials as well. So they both are kind of in tune with that working class aesthetic, although they come at it, obviously, from different ideologies. But it’s something that I think that because Vance has put the work behind it in the senate and the stuff that he’s received coverage for doing since he’s been there, whether it’s that he’s palestin train disaster, whether it’s, consumer, affairs issues that he’s sort of taken the lead on. That stuff that people like and respond to, And to my other point, I told this to everybody in Ohio.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:23

    No one is pure on Trump. So, like, JD Vance did get wrapped for that pretty heavily in his primary. Bring an arena has come in for his criticism as well because he was a critic of Trump in twenty sixteen. But, yes, this was a k six state in twenty sixteen. So nearly everybody supported somebody else for president that year.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:39

    And it’s how you make that pivot, I think, at least it’ll determine how far you go with trump voters. They will sort of give you that mulligan, but you have to be able to played it. And in a way, it makes sense to them, which, in the case of both g d vance and bringing merino is we’re really, really, really, really kiss up to Trump. Say how wrong you were, how right he was, that you have never been so happy to be proven wrong about something. But they do it, and they’ve done it in a way convincing, I suppose, to voters.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:05

    And so that’s kept them out of trouble. We can’t say that for a brie marino quite yet.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:09

    Yeah. I mean, JVance, if it’s a bit, he’s extremely committed to it. And I think he he is an intellectual guy. He’s, like, a pretty serious guy. And so I think he found a story to tell himself that allowed him to sort of be this person that he now has internalized and believes.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:23

    I, like, get the sense when I hear JD Vince. They’re like, he’s not just playing anymore. There’s, like, enough in here that he thinks he’s on the right side. And look, he shows good political instincts on things like this. I mean, it was Boutigieg or Biden, you know, you have those kinds of accidents.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:39

    Like, yeah, that’s what politicians do. They get there. They show up. They make people feel like they care about it. And it that’s something that he did.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:46

    And clearly, it was in the group. You could just tell that made a big impression on people. Alright. Let’s get into the current senate race. Starting with the guy that Bance has endorsed Bernie Moreno is a Cleveland area car salesman who’s running for the second time.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:02

    He dropped out of the race in twenty twenty two to clear the wave for JD Vance. The voters we talked to didn’t have that many aggressions, of him as a candidate, but they knew Moreno’s one big value proposition for his candidacy. Let’s listen.
  • Speaker 7
    0:13:17

    That is the beat of everyone in his ads. Trump endorsed that so far, that is his only qualification and the fact that he is not a lifelong politician.
  • Speaker 8
    0:13:27

    I actually was looking into it before we did this. I know one of them Trump wants Bernie, and then the Marina over guy. That was the guy kind of, like, just kinda jumped out to me. The first guy, Frank, I was like, man, but I will have to go in and do more research.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:44

    I think that, you know, I’m gonna go with whoever Trump endorses because, you know, I’m looking at the team working well together. So they’ll probably win it for me.
  • Speaker 6
    0:13:54

    I live in Cleveland, and I had never heard his name before you asked me about it on the screening call, like, two hours ago. I have no idea who he is. I don’t know anything about him.
  • Speaker 3
    0:14:03

    Yeah. I see him as similar to Donald Trump in the way that he’s an outsider and not part of the political machine, which makes me think that maybe he’s not corrupted by whatever corrupts the politics, well, it’s money, you know, but he’s coming into it already with his own money And I don’t think Trump even knew he what he was doing anyway. He just throws it out there. I’m sure he didn’t go to Bernie’s website and check him out He probably just knew he was a millionaire. Oh, you’re a millionaire.
  • Speaker 3
    0:14:39

    He got my vote. I’ll endorse you. That’s how I feel about it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:44

    That last person liked Donald Trump just fine, though, despite that she was sort of joking about how he made his decision. So It was different in both the groups. Right? One group was just a little more tapped in, like they were paying more attention. And in that group, Moreno was cleaning up.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:00

    In the other group where people seem to be paying a lot less attention, like, you heard that woman say she hadn’t heard of him. And so How much does a Trump endorsement? Because you broke the news, right, that Trump was gonna be headlining the rally on Saturday night So how important is it that Trump is endorsing Moreno?
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:20

    Well, if he hadn’t, I mean, Marina would probably not have a prayer in this race because he was pulling in single digits at the beginning, and this was after having briefly been a candidate in the twenty twenty two primary And then Trump had started saying some nice things about him when he got into the race this time. Marina’s campaign immediately turned that smartly into an ad that led with Trump’s words at a rally somewhere last year saying, you know, we love Ohio and we love bringing merino. That ad got played so much last fall before Trump actually did endorse Marina that my six year old daughter was quoting it around the house. Oh, no. And so they were using that to drive up Bernie’s poll numbers to get him into a spot where they could show Trump and say, Hey, look, he’s rising.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:05

    Now’s the time to get So in December, Trump endorses, Moreno, and we’ve seen the numbers go up. The problem is it hasn’t sealed the deal for him. There’s still lot of undecided voters here, and Matt Dolan has spent so much money on television, you know, hammering his own message that it created this close race. And then you have Frank La Rose. We haven’t really talked about yet, but it’s a two term secretary of state.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:31

    And then one of those focus groups. I believe it was the one where the voters were slightly less plugged in to the race. I mean, Franklin Rose cleaned up with them because I’m guessing he has the name recognition. You know, they That’s right. Seen him on the ballot before and what they have read about him late white.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:46

    But if they haven’t been following this mostly. They haven’t seen and you mentioned this at the outset, Sarah, that La Rosa has really gone on this full Maga conversion away from the more centrist, no labels, normy, moderate Republican that he had been in the past. So I do say the Trump endorsement has obviously helped Bernie Marina. It just hasn’t sealed the deal firm. And the fact that we’re a few days out from this primary, and he asked to call Trump in for a last minute rally.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:11

    The fact that, you know, we’re seeing polls showing Marina and Dolan neck and neck Oh, we heard this from the voters and those focus groups. What they know about Bernie is that Trump endorsed him, and that isn’t necessarily going to mean that they vote for Bernie Marino. He hasn’t maybe defined himself beyond just being the guy that Trump endorsed, whereas they’ve seen enough about Matt Dolan and his TBS and they’ve seen heard enough about Frank Carlos over the years where they they feel they know those two candidates a little bit better. So the trump thing isn’t enough, I guess, is what we’re seeing.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:42

    Yeah. I mean, what I remember about Trump’s endorsement of JD Vance was how much that helped JD Vance. Like, JD Vance, was really sort of sucking wind behind Josh Mandell, and Trump got in there, endorsed Vance, and that like, made the difference. It shot him up, like a rocket. And Trump loves taking somebody who’s been not so nice to him and turning them into a convert and showing that he can come to their rescue.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:09

    But, you know, I wonder if for Frank Rose, or you were just talking about, which I think, you just made a great point about him. Look, I’m not, very mad at no labels right now for thinking about third party candidates. But generally, I’m sort of a moderate squish in that way and love me some secretaries of state, especially Republican secretaries of state who certified the twenty twenty election and did the right thing. Frank Larose was that guy But, yeah, he’s gone through this Magga conversion, and we’re gonna get into the sound about him. But do you think he’s splitting the Magga vote with Moreno and, like, He’s getting the low info, mega people, and Moreno’s getting the high info, mega people, and Dolan’s over there with his Nikki Haley consolidation.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:54

    Yeah. I think there’s definitely something to that. Rose has been able to cut into the the trump supporting base that has limited what Bernie’s been able to do in the polls. I think that Laura also does really well in the rural areas or the information might not be flowing. Quite as much.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:13

    And what the Moreno campaign is trying to do, I think, in this last week or two here, is through their own advertising and through La Rosa’s campaign sort of going in the opposite direction. They are doing what they can to try to pick up those voters. They’ve been advertising more in, like, smaller markets including, like, places like Charleston, West Virginia, which reaches in to South Eastern Ohio or Fort Wayne Indiana, which reaches in to Western Ohio to try to, like, pick up some of those, you know, lower information voters who may have been with La Rose because of name ID, but who would be beneficial to Bernie to pull ahead of Dolan. So, yeah, I think there’s definitely something to that. And the problem is is is Dolwyn spent so much money And he cleaned up in Cleveland in Columbus last time, which, you know, they’re democratic areas, but they’re also two of the biggest voting populations, even for Republicans that are Republican So if Dolan holds his own there and then starts doing well in the suburbs, that just makes more vote that Marina has to peel away from La Rose in some of these rural areas.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:15

    Alright. Well, let’s talk about what Rosa let’s listen to what the voters had to say. He makes me so sad. I mean, he in twenty twenty, he said that saying that the election was stolen was irresponsible. Then when he was running for reelection in twenty twenty two, he said president Trump is right to say voter fraud is a serious problem.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:31

    So let’s listen to how voters thought about him.
  • Speaker 7
    0:20:34

    Rose had actually, I think, been very effective as secretary of state. I think he has done a very good job. It’s anything in. I’ve worked the last couple of elections, in the polls, and I’m somewhat amazed about the security that’s been put into it denial. Where I think is the double and triple checks on things, you know, protecting it in terms of their voter IDs and things like this.
  • Speaker 5
    0:20:55

    He does have a really good website. I’ve been on it before, and I think it’s kind of helped with some of the questions, things that I’ve had So if you’re maybe on the fence, that might be something you wanna look at because it might help you one way or another.
  • Speaker 4
    0:21:10

    From what I know about him is that he was a cub scout, and then he was actually an army green beret, I think. And, I mean, he’s not my first choice, but I don’t really like the other two choices too much. So he’s my middle ground. It says that he does work hard and that he, you know, along the line has had some integrity, whether or not, you know, I think everybody’s a puppet for somebody else, and I hate to say it like that. But he’s one that I could see myself voting for and not beat myself up too much about it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:41

    She said cub scouts, but I think she meant eagle scout is the scout’s very important in Ohio. People seem to really gravitate to that particular factoid with a candidate.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:50

    That surprised me too when I heard that comment. And it’s something that I know that La Rosa’s campaign has pushed out there in its messaging. The fact that he’s an evil stop at Greenberry. So maybe It’s just an example of the one thing that is getting through to voters about Franco Rose is that, which I’m sure his his campaign folks would take that any day of the week because those are not bad things to be identified with. The other thing somebody said, I’m not sure if it was just in the clip, but, like, one woman mentioned how he was the only candidate on the race with young children.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:15

    And that that was something that distinguished him in a good way, which was interesting. I never thought about that. I mean, well, Ross hasn’t run a very super open, like, parents rights campaign, like, we’ve seen in other states, but maybe there was, like, a lane for him there that he could have written a little harder and maybe appeal to some people given that he has a young family. So, yeah, I mean, the the fact that those things stayed out to voters, that’s good for La Rose. Let me go to this way.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:38

    The La Rose Super PAC in the last few weeks has been running a lot of negative ads on the other candidates. Aurel’s has not had any money in his own campaign to run ads at all. So there’s been no positive on TV about Franco Rose. It’s all been negative about the other candidates. And when we’re seeing his basis support erode in these polls, that just helps, like, Matt Dolan or Bernie Moreno, really, that if Frank Rose’s Super PAC is bashing bring the Reno, then that was not stolen.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:03

    And it doesn’t help Franco Rills.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:05

    Can I ask about sort of what I see as cynical shift on the, you know, the election being stolen?
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:11

    Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:11

    What do you make of the transformation? Was it all in preparation for this run here? Or, like, why? Did you see that evolve in him?
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:19

    Whistler rose particular? Yeah. Yeah. So I covered Frank Rose for a long time. I mean, I was out in New Hampshire covering k six campaign where Frank Larose was John k six advanced man in New Hampshire setting up the events for him.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:32

    You know, he was k six till I die, basically, any event made comments, you know, in the fall of twenty sixteen about how he couldn’t in good conscience support Trump. Like, this was around the time of Texas Hollywood. So More broadly, the transformation has been very jarring to watch because La Rose have always identified as mister New Labels. And as far as the election stuff goes, yeah, it did take more of a turn after twenty twenty. You know, fortunately for him, the result in Ohio was so decisive.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:59

    Trump won by eight points, that there was no need for a Republican looking to impress Trump to go inventing fraud where it didn’t exist. And so Lewis didn’t have to do that. He could just say, you know, I’m election’s great here in Ohio. I’m the reason why. And that was, you know, also a good and accurate talking point, I suppose.
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:17

    But It was twenty twenty two where we really saw the ship, then it actually has to do with JD Vance. JD Vance was looking for endorsements for a Senate campaign and there were other statewide candidates looking for Donald Trump support. So on the day that Franco Rose endorsed Jade Vance Vance for Senate, which was the day that Donald Trump was coming to Ohio to rally for GD Vance. Donald Trump endorsed Frank Marosa’s reelection campaign for Secret Podcast state. And that’s when we started hearing where I was talking more about election fraud and creating an election integrity unit in the secretary of state’s office.
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:49

    He still to be fair emphasizes that there isn’t, you know, widespread fraud, at least in Ohio. And if you push in really hard and don’t let go, He will acknowledge that he does not believe the twenty twenty election at large was stolen from Trump, but he started to weave in more of these talking points that would near other candidates wanna have it both ways where he talks about the Zucker box and, you know, the influence of the media being the elements rig or shaped the election, which is a lot different than saying, you know, a bunch of votes were altered or stolen or miscast, and that that somehow altered the the course of the election arena wasn’t true.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:26

    Yeah. So there’s one more key player in this race, and we’ve talked about them a little bit. Back in twenty twenty two, you may remember that state senator Matt Dolan finished in a strong third place despite affirming that Joe Biden won in twenty twenty. There was one Matt Dolan voter between the two focus groups we did But based on what we heard from all the other participants, he wasn’t winning any converts. So let’s listen to how they talked about Dolan starting with one guy talking about why Dolan didn’t get Trump’s endorsement.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:59

    Something about when the endorsed changing the name of the Cleveland Indians to leaving Guardians. He’s not gonna endorse anybody who supports making that decision.
  • Speaker 8
    0:26:08

    I mean, he seems like a nice guy. Just what little looked at, but he seems like he would be wishy washy. I don’t know. That’s just my first impression. Like, I haven’t done a lot of research.
  • Speaker 3
    0:26:19

    I think it’s, Matt Dolan owns part of the the one that just got the name changed, the guardians.
  • Speaker 9
    0:26:27

    He seems to be the only non trump apologist in the race. Whereas Frank Rose, I like him. I’ve met him before. He’s an eagle scout that, I mean, like, good guy, but it seems like he’s just been over backwards for Trump the past couple of years. So I want no part of that.
  • Speaker 9
    0:26:42

    Samantha Nolan seems to be an independent thinker. He’s a businessman as well, and he’s a state senator and pretty good one from what I understand. So that’s why I was planning to vote for him.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:54

    So for context, Dolan is the son of the Cleveland Guardians formerly Cleveland Indians owner, Larry Dolan, Now that sound is very interesting because despite the lukewarm reception that Dolan got from the focus group, A new Emerson College poll has him leading. Please pulling twenty six percent. Moreno’s at twenty three percent, and Larose is at sixteen percent thirty two percent undecided. And if there was anything to really take away from the focus groups, it was that, like, there’s some real undecided voters out there. They are still Juna starting to get their heads around this race.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:27

    So when Emerson did that same pullback in January, Moreno was at twenty two percent Laureaus was at twenty one percent, and Dolan was at fifteen percent. So something’s going on. And I think we heard two things that might explain Dolan’s polling bump. So he’s consolidating the Nikki Haley type voters who, by the way, tend to be very reliable primary voters, And the Cleveland Guardian’s controversy notwithstanding, he’s been on the air. You said this.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:52

    Right? He has been on the air the most, the absolute most so far And that matters a great deal when people, you know, this need to do more research into all the candidates means that there’s just a lot of undecided voters out there. So You’ve talked about how he over performed in twenty twenty two because he spent a lot of his own money and no opponents took him seriously, but as you’ve recently tweeted about, club for growth is spending against him. So what’s their line of attack? Is it the guardian’s name thing?
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:20

    Like, is that something that you expect will hurt him with the locals? It came up several times people seem to know about it. And what do you think explains the Emerson College poll that has stolen leading?
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:30

    Take the second one first. I think the lead would reflect that is how much money he’s spending again on the airwaves. He’s had a lot of ads. A lot of their policy oriented, and he talks a lot in interviews and debates about how these four trump policies which is his way of getting around. He’s not a huge trump guy, otherwise.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:46

    But, like, his ads are very policy driven. He talks a lot about the border and the fentanyl crisis. I think those are issues that resonate with Ohioans that they can look at. And, you know, he might come off as a generic Republican, but he’s got a name that they might remember. And maybe it’s because they associate it with the baseball team.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:03

    I don’t know. But he’s putting a lot of money behind himself. And it’s not all negative ads about somebody else. There’s a lot of positive building up his own. Case.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:09

    So I think that’s what’s getting through it. And when you were asking about, oh, the club for growth, it was weird. One of their first ads on him was hitting him on a gas tax that he supported in the legislature, which almost every other Republican supported at the time as well, And it seemed to maybe be more of like a placeholder ad. The club was, like, you know, setting the warning shot that they were about to start going hard on Dolan. And since then, they’ve come at him was much more aggressive.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:35

    Like, this is the EMT Trump guy in the race, which is, you know, kinda hilarious because called for growth just last year of plotting an anti trump, messaging campaign of its own. And now it’s gotta be lead with Trump and the Ohio Senateies. State back, bring Moreno and their ads are targeting Dolan. So I think that, what we’re gonna hear a lot of in the last few days on the airwaves, you know, Matt Dolan is not for Trump. Cassandra Trump, we’re gonna probably hear more Cleveland Guardian’s name change stuff, which dogged him a little bit at the end of the last race as well.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:05

    To the extent that, like, Moreno and Trump and their allies can make Madolan look like this, you know, woke rhino anti trump guy that’ll be to their benefit because as we saw in these focus groups, they do remember the Cleveland Guardian thing, which is surprising to me because Matt Dolan is not an front, like, leader of the organization, but they do associate that with him and not in a positive way. So, like, and those are things that they can understand. Right? They can’t really I asked them to understand the gas tax and all the nuances of it. That’s one thing that say, you know, he caved to the woke mob and changed the name of your beloved Cleveland Indians, and that’s something where people can understand.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:42

    There was plenty of sound of people expressing their situation with that name change. Like, it went deep with them in terms of their own, being annoyed about it. So Dolan has also been endorsed by Senator Rob Portman retiring and governor Mike DeWine. The problem is that those two guys are both relics of the pre Trump Republican Party that, voters I listen to all the time don’t seem that enamored with anymore. So while there are some sort of dewined portman types out there, we didn’t find them in this in any of these groups that we did of the two time Trump voters So I wanted to play some of the sound about how they talked about governor Duine.
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:26

    I used to Lebanon, not anymore. He crossed over. I don’t know what happened to him. Transgender ideology, I guess. That’s what I wanna say.
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:37

    I don’t have any idea what in the world coerced him or convinced him to say that all this was okay. I don’t know where it came from. I think it came out of COVID. These kids get on there and they make stuff up, and then everybody says, yeah, that’s a great idea. You’re right.
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:55

    I do think I’m a boy. Oh, well, let’s just go ahead and have surgery or take some puberty blockers and I mean, it’s no matter what you think, it’s insanity. I just had the feeling that, like many other politicians. He was afraid of being labeled a transphobic, and, unfortunately, fear of being labeled like that sways a lot of politicians and doing things that maybe they really wouldn’t do otherwise.
  • Speaker 6
    0:32:28

    I think he used to be much more conservative, and I think he has caved whether he’s doing it only outwardly know, and for show and it really is against his personal convictions or whether he’s changed his convictions. I can’t say one way or another, but he is not nearly as conservative. As he used to be.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:47

    Not a lot of love for Mike DeWine for our group. Now this guy is a second term governor. You tell me what’s going on here.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:54

    And a couple of them mentioned it. It it goes back to COVID, and the early days, the pandemic, you know, Mike DeWine was one of the first governors in the country of either party and one of the few Republicans who led with science, at least at the beginning. He was very early to close things down. He had daily like, you know, everybody talks about Cuomo’s broadcasts in New York. The wine did them in Ohio, and they were appointment viewing for everybody, like, became very big with suburban moms.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:24

    They called it wine with dewine. They wanted to have their glass of wine while they watched him and his house director did the updates. But this slowly began to infuriate the right because he was early on walking things down. He supported a mask mandate for a while. He eventually rolled all of these things back earlier than many people thought he should add that he was following the science, but it didn’t matter.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:46

    It really really hurt him with the far right base of the party. The flip of that is when he was up for reelection in twenty twenty two, he won his time. I already had two challenges from the right right around fifty percent of the vote, he was reelected in the general election by a landslide. And so the calculus here, if you’re Matt Dolan, He wouldn’t have come out and endorsed Matt Dolan publicly if he thought it would hurt him or if the Dolan campaign said, Hey, what? Thanks, but no.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:11

    Thanks. You could do us more harm. This is obviously being calculated in a way that they feel could help Matt Dolan. And I think what could help Matt Dolan is there’s So bourbon moms that I just told you about. There are a lot of independent leaning voters in Ohio who still like Mike DeWine.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:27

    And there are a lot of Republicans who still like Mike DeWine, and do wish that the party would revert more to that form of Republicanism. So if Matt Dolan’s doing well in the big cities, like I mentioned, and Franklin Rose is doing pretty well in rural, that makes the suburbs a much bigger battle around between Moreno and dolan. And that’s where Mike DeWine could be a difference, I think.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:49

    I know that there was a big ballot initiative on abortion in Ohio recently, but what’s the trans stuff. What was that about?
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:56

    Something came up a few months ago where the wine was I don’t know all the intricacies of it, but basically Dewine was supportive of something that didn’t go as far as the right one of them too. He was a little more sympathetic to the rights of parents when it came to having these conversations with their children about their health care decisions. And he vetoed a bill from the legislature because he thought it went too far. The legislature, which is, you know, heavily republican over ranges veto. But then, you know, Deline also did some things by executive order that the Democrats and people that are more progressive on this issue didn’t like, but the headline was he didn’t do what the far right wanted to.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:34

    On this issue. And so he was seen as being, you know, overly sympathetic to transgender people. Duane was trying to be consistent. Right? He’s like, you know, if we’re for parents rights, then we should also be for allowing parents to make this decision with their children who are contemplating this life changing decision.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:52

    And we should not be saying no under no circumstances under the law, are you allowed to do this? So that’s basically what it was. It was upsetting to to people on the right who have very strong feelings about this issue. But anybody that knows Mike DeWine wasn’t really surprised by it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:07

    So leaving DeWine aside for a second, I remember the woman who ran in the twenty twenty two primary. Jane Timkin. Thank you. So Tim can also she, like, led her campaign. I remember her first ad was about men playing women’s sports.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:23

    Is there a scourge of men playing women’s sports? And how, like, is this a huge problem? It’ll how? Like, tell her what’s going on.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:29

    It’s not. And it’s not a huge problem in Michigan where we saw Tudor Dixon had to run the same type of rhetoric in her governor’s race in twenty twenty two, but it’s I think what happened was people saw the success Glen Youngen had it wasn’t about necessarily this issue in particular, but was more, you know, parents’ rights has become this umbrella, and it’s something that does appeal very much to you know, right leaning voters in Ohio, and they feel that they should have a say in in everything, even if it’s something that she sort of I don’t wanna be, like, a terrible call and say, you, like, gave up that rate or relinquished that rate. It’s just something that I think got cold tested. I remember talking to a consultant in Ohio about this in twenty twenty two. And ask why are we seeing June and make such a big issue of this?
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:08

    And he’s like, oh, it’s the rare, like, eighty twenty or ninety ten issue in politics right now because even though, like, the country has come such a far away on, you know, gay rights and other lgbtq rights, this is still, like, something where, like, people who aren’t as informed or haven’t learned enough or thought enough about this issue. There’s still a lot of people that have problems with the sports issue, which to your point is not something that’s widespread or prevalent, but it’s something that you could get people riled up about if you talk about.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:35

    Yeah. I mean, it’s a super complicated issue when you, like, really dig into it. It’s also, like, a not so prevalent issue that I just find it always a little shocking that people are like, no. This is why I’m voting for this person. And I’m like, does this affect point two percent of the pie?
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:52

    Like, I won’t get on my whole thing about that. Were you surprised on abortion? That did overwhelmingly pass in Ohio. These groups were they said that it was a confusing, but they were essentially took what I guess I would say the pro life position. What did you make of the abortion views?
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:10

    Yeah. I thought that it was pretty tribal. Like, there were a couple pro choice voters in those panels that I saw, which was a little surprising. Their feelings on the amendment that passed last year were pretty much land along, like, whether they were pro life or pro choice. And it is nuanced, but it’s also Like, the campaign last year was to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:29

    There were some questions as to, like, how far do a pregnancy would that be allowed But those were questions that were asked and answered throughout the campaign. And I’m not surprised with how the vote ended up turning out in Ohio. I mean, it it was, you know, fifty seven percent, I think, and favor of, you know, and sliding these lights into the state constitution, which is pretty much in line where where public opinion is in the state. So again, I think it falls along whether you’re, you know, anti abortion or pro abortion rights, how you felt about that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:57

    Well, with all that being said, here’s then the sixty four thousand dollar question. Can Sherrod Brown? Let’s say it’s Bernie Moreno? Let’s say it’s Matt Dolan. Could Sherrod Brown beat either of them?
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:07

    Both of them? What do you think?
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:10

    I think shared route could beat any of them. I think it’s the hardest reelection campaign he’ll ever face I think he did Democrats a solid by running again. He’s not, you know, getting any younger. He’s done this now for three terms. He can go and enjoy his grandkids with his wife.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:27

    But I think part of the reason he ran again is that he knew that no other Democrat in Ohio could win this seat. I think he’s absolutely correct about that. We saw what a fairly strong candidate, like, Kim Ryan was able to do in twenty twenty two, and that’s used to JD Vance by the same margin that Joe Biden lost to Donald Trump online. So shared two in, but it’s gonna be really hard because there’s gonna be so much money. And because it’s a it is a Republican state mounting abortion is a single issue, and you’ll see the Democrats insured Brown make as much of that as they can.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:58

    And I think that they’re on to something, all three of the Republican candidates were opposed to that constitutional amendment, which means the Democrats will also argue that they’re opposed to IVF because there was a provision about that in the constitutional amendment. So those are gonna be positions that could come back and haunt them in a general election, and you’ll definitely hear a lot about that. But, I mean, it’s at stake. It’s trending away from from Democrats. And Sherrod Brown had a really tough race at twenty twelve against Josh Mendell.
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:26

    He won. Obama was on the ballot that year in Obama also in Ohio. At twenty eighteen, he kinda locked up. Mendel was gonna run again, but ended up dropping out at the last minute. And Jim or AC in a Republican candidate was Republicans even agree on this point was a pretty lousy candidate for Republicans that year.
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:40

    So Sharon Brown won again. This year, Matt Dolan is from Cleveland as well from the Cleveland area. So he’s gonna do well in some of those democratic candidates that shared Brown needs to have high margins in. Brnie Moreno, more of a bike sleep. They’re already trotting out APO on him about lawsuits that he faced as a car salesman and some other things.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:01

    It’s gonna be really tough for Sharon Brown. He can win, but I think all three of those Republicans can beat him as well.
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:08

    Yeah. I mean, my read on it just cursory would be that Dolan sort of like Nikki Haley. If they can get through a primary, they represent just a much smaller slice of the Republican Party than they used to, these kind of normie Republican types. But if they can get the primary because Moreno and Rose are splitting the Magavote, he’s tough to beat in a general election because the suburbs come home, and people don’t realize this about Ohio. It has, like, a lot of suburbs.
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:38

    There are lots of urban and suburban areas there where I think Dolan could do really well. And I think he’d win by dewine level March potentially, or do you disagree with that?
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:48

    The only the only wild card about the old one is if he’s in how many you have the situation where Trump and Dolan running on the same ticket who aren’t temperamentally similar, who there’s some bad blood between now. Like, you know, Republicans wanna win. I’ll it’ll be big irons and, you know, Darwin and Trump will tick it up in at least a way that doesn’t cause much disruption, but you can’t ever count on there not being disruption when Donald Trump is involved. And is he gonna try to undermine Dolan? Skated to see in any way or try to, like, pull Dolan further to the right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:17

    Is Dolan going to have to make nice with Trump and do some things that undermine his appeal to those middle of the road, you know, suburban voters. I don’t know the answer to that And it’s not something we’ll know until we see it start playing out if Dolan is the nominee. But in the abstract, yes. Matt Dolan would appeal to the suburban voters He can do well in places like Kyle County and the suburbs around there. He could do well in Franklin County and the suburbs around there.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:44

    And by well, that’s relatively speaking. Like, he can hold shared Brown’s margins down in those counties, which is huge. You know, if shared Brown can’t get my seventy two, seventy five percent of the Republic County, he’s not gonna be real
  • Speaker 1
    0:43:00

    Alright. Well, we are gonna come back and do this all again in Ohio once we have a nominee, and we’ll see if Sherrod Brown can do the impossible, which is help a Democrat win in now a much redder Ohio. Henry, I didn’t ask you at the jump. Where did you go to college? Did you go to college in Ohio?
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:20

    I did. I went to Youngstown State University.
  • Speaker 1
    0:43:23

    Youngstown State. Alright.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:25

    Peru up in Youngstown. Still have family there. So I am
  • Speaker 1
    0:43:29

    buddies with Tim Ryan. He’s from Youngstown.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:31

    Nobody’s, but we’ve known each other a long time. One of my first stoops in this business was his announcement that he was running for gym traffic and seat in Congress. I was working at the Warren Tribune Chronicles. That was his hometown paper, more in just north of the Uggstown, but Yes. I love the mounting valley, and, I see a lot of reporters parachuting to Unstown during election season.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:54

    I’m lucky that I only have to get in my car and drive home to see mom and dad.
  • Speaker 1
    0:43:59

    Mhmm. Well, I crashed a car in Young’s once. That’s what I know about Youngstown. Who hasn’t? Right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:06

    It was, you know, it’s a long drive between Pennsylvania and Ohio that I used to make all the time. And Tim Ryan, incidentally also a guest on this podcast, which means he has one of these focus group mugs, which we will send you to Henry. Henry Gomez. Thank you so much for joining us. And thanks to all of you for listening to another episode of the Focus Group podcast.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:24

    Remember to rate review and subscribe, and we will see you all next week.
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