Republican candidates generally see former President Donald Trump’s backing as the key to their nomination.
Yet, at least one well-known GOPer considering a run in the competitive state of Ohio has privately expressed that the weight of Trump’s endorsement is exaggerated.
At a recent closed-door campaign gathering, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a potential challenger to Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, told a group of Ohio Republicans that while Trump’s endorsement “matters,” it doesn’t carry the same weight it once did. He estimated that only 20% of Republican voters would “vote for whoever” Trump supports.
“There is another 20 percent that care about who he endorses but that’s not going to be the decision maker. And then there’s probably another 60 percent of the party that doesn’t care who he endorses” LaRose said. The remarks were made to Cuyahoga Valley Republicans in late April and secretly recorded.
Should LaRose run for office, he believes he would win Trump’s support. He didn’t, however, believe that “begging for it” would be that helpful.
“There’s also this game some play where they hire a bunch of former Trump people and then they think, ‘Oh, if I hire this person, I’ll get their endorsement.’ The president is generally smarter than that, he’s not going to fall for that,” said LaRose. “He’s going to endorse the candidate who has the best chance of beating Sherrod Brown.”
LaRose is thinking about running against Brown in the Republican primary for the Ohio Senate in 2024. Although Brown is running for re-election for a fourth term, he is considered to be one of the more vulnerable Democrats this time around.
Republican candidates Matt Dolan, a moderate state senator from Ohio, and Bernie Moreno, a businessman from Cleveland, have already declared their intentions to run.
Trump has not backed anyone in the race. However, he did openly urge Moreno, whose daughter is wed to Max Miller (R-Ohio), a former Trump White House staffer, to enter the race.
The audio recording provides a rare glimpse into the thoughts of prominent Republicans who are running for office concerning Trump and the influence he has within the party. Also, it offers a glimpse into the dynamics of political wooing.
LaRose stated in his private remarks that he thought Miller, whom he referred to as a personal friend, was attempting to assist his father-in-law in gaining Trump’s support.
LaRose noted, “Max has been making trips down to Mar-a-lago saying hey Mr. Trump, President Trump, can you endorse my father in law? Notice that [Trump] didn’t endorse him but he said nice things about him.”
“Knowing how this goes,” LaRose continued, “I can even picture it in my mind they’re sitting in the president’s office in Mar-a-Lago and he says, ‘You know, I’m not ready to endorse yet, you got a lot more time, you don’t have strong name ID, you haven’t any raised money yet, I’ll just say some nice things about your father in law on Twitter or Truth Social or whatever and then let’s talk about an endorsement six months from now.’”
When asked for a comment, LaRose declined.
Someone close to him, who requested anonymity in order to discuss the remarks, claimed the secretary “simply said what we already know.”
“Endorsements are great, but you won’t unseat a 48-year incumbent politician with a list of endorsements. We need a candidate who can win, and we need to wage a contest of ideas and vision that not only unites the entire Republican party but also a majority of Ohioans. If he runs, that’s what he’ll offer,” said the source.