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Focus On: Ohio Senate
March 22, 20242 min read

Focus On: Ohio Senate

On Tuesday, March 19th, Ohio primary voters choseby an 18-point marginauto dealer Bernie Moreno (R) as their candidate to challenge incumbent Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown (D) this November. 

Since the beginning of 2023, this race has seen $24M in TV ad spend. Friends of Sherrod Brown accounted for almost all the Democratic ad spend in this period with $2.7M on 6,064 ad airings. This is unsurprising for an incumbent party, though the Duty and Country Political Action Committee (PAC) reified Dem efforts with $950K in spending. 

In a marked contrast to the GOP presidential primary, candidate campaigns—not PACS—are the top Republican spenders in Ohio for this primary. The top sponsor was state senator Matt Dolan, who spent $4.9M on 10,068 airings while Donald Trump-endorsed car dealer Bernie Moreno slotted into second place with $4.5M spent on 10,816 airings. 


Source: Vivvix CMAG

Source: Vivvix CMAG


Looking at the PACs, three groups have risen to prominence. Leadership for Ohio Action Fund—which is supporting Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose—led the PACs in this primary with $3.7M spent on 3,733 ad airings. MAGA-aligned Club for Growth Action Fund aired $3M in TV ads on 5,125 airings attacking Dolan and supporting Moreno while the pro-Dolan Buckeye Leadership Fund released 4,482 ad airings at a cost of $2.2M. 

Breaking down the actual content of this advertising, Vivvix CMAG can discern which issues the GOP feels are important to their voters, as well as which ad strategies led to Moreno’s victory. 


Dolan for Ohio: Top issues 

1) Immigration - $4.4M 
2) Public Safety - $3.3M  
3) Anti-Biden - $2.5M  
4) Social Issues: Drugs - $2.4M 
5) Taxes - $2M 


Bernie Moreno for Senate: Top issues 

1) Pro-Trump - $4.5M 
2) Immigration - $2.9M

3) Anti-Biden - $617K 
4) Social Issues: Drugs - $614K
5) Trade: China - $131K
5) International Affairs: China - $131K
5) Food/Agriculture - $131K 


Leadership For Ohio Fund: Top issues [pro-LaRose] 

1) Immigration - $2.5M 

2) National Defense - $2M 

2) Social Issues: Drugs - $2M 

3) Guns: Anti-Gun Control - $1.2M 

4) Economy - $1M 

5) Anti-Biden - $493K 

5) Anti-Obama: $493K 

5) Pro-Trump: $493K 


Club For Growth Action Fund: Top issues [pro-Moreno] 

1) Pro-Trump - $2.1M 
2) Public Safety - $1.1M 
3) Budget/Govt Spending - $889K 
3) Corruption - $889K 
3) Taxe - $889K 
4) Anti-Biden - $163K 
4) Impeachment - $163K 

Buckeye Leadership Fund: Top issues [pro-Dolan]  

1)  Budget/Govt Spending - $2.2M 

1) Corruption - $2.2M 

1) Immigration - $2.2M 

1) Taxes - $2.2M 

2) Anti-Clinton - $1.4M 

2) Public Safety - $1.4M 

3) Voting - $808K 

4) Anti-Trump - $3K 


As is typically the case, MAGA was outspent. However—unlike the 2018, 2020, and 2022 races in which Trump-backed candidates lost—that did not matter in this election. The Moreno campaign and Club for Growth Action Fund spent nearly $7M in pro-Trump advertising, further demonstrating the former President’s influence on the GOP. 

Widely held Republican concerns over immigration, public safety, and Joe Biden featured prominently in ad messaging in this race. However, as we have seen in the presidential primary; in a race targeted towards the party’s base, Trump is the difference-maker. It remains to be seen how viable this dynamic will be in November when the broader electorate is consulted.