The announcement last week by House Freedom Caucus member Rep. Warren Davidson of Ohio that he would not seek the Republican U.S. Senate nomination next year had a profound impact on the GOP's chances of unseating three-term Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown.
Davidson, a swashbuckling conservative, was considered someone who could motivate both traditional conservatives and newer backers of former President Donald Trump. However, there was also concern on the right that he would split the right-of-center primary vote with fellow conservatives and ensure the nomination of a more moderate Senate hopeful, state Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls.
Last year, running as an "establishment" Republican in the mold of since-retired Sen. Rob Portman and the late Sen. George Voinovich, both of whom represented Ohio, Dolan alone among a seven-candidate primary said Donald Trump should "stop talking about the 2020 election."
(Another reason for animosity on the right toward Dolan is that his family owns the Major League Baseball team in Cleveland and oversaw its recent name change from the Indians to the Guardians — a politically correct move urged by liberals in Ohio and nationwide.)
In a primary race won by current Sen. J.D. Vance, Dolan came in third with 23.3 percent and carried only three counties. Dolan announced in January he would make another Senate bid in 2024.
Davidson's exodus leaves the primary to Dolan, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, and wealthy businessman Bernie Moreno, who briefly ran and then exited the 2022 Senate primary (and is the father-in-law of Rep. Max Miller, R-Ohio). Already Moreno has the backing of Vance and Charlie Kirk's Turning Point USA political action committee.
A U.S. Army Special Forces veteran and Bronze Star winner for his service in Iraq, LaRose has been elected twice by big margins as Ohio's top elections official. He is best known for purging the voters' lists throughout the state of inactive voters and strengthening cybersecurity to protect voting.
The lone Democrat in statewide office for more than a decade, Brown, 70, is known for maintaining a decisive left-of-center, pro-union voting record in a state that both Trump and GOP Gov. Mike DeWine carried twice.
"As far as Sherrod Brown is concerned, he is a chameleon," a former lobbyist and state official told Newsmax. "He morphs his messaging skillfully to fit the situation and always strikes a populist tone. He's very similar to Howard Metzenbaum [Ohio's Democratic senator from 1977-95]. As an example, he very quickly jumped on the bashing of Norfolk Southern and the derailment in East Palestine. He constantly jumps on any high-profile issue and ratchets up the populist rhetoric. This is why he has appeal to the new Republican voters."
The same source said, "The Brown name in either primary is gold in Ohio and in general. I'm fairly certain there has been a Brown on the ballot statewide for almost a century here. [Republican Ted W. Brown was secretary of state from 1951-79 and Democrat William J. Brown was attorney general from 1971-83]. He will be tough to beat, in my opinion."
Perhaps. But with Davidson deciding not to make the primary more crowded and very likely splitting the conservative vote, the chances are a little better that the eventual nominee will unseat Brown.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.