After meeting with Trump, Moreno leaves Ohio US Senate primary

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally at the Lorain County Fairgrounds, Saturday, June 26, 2021, in Wellington, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Republican Bernie Moreno has left the crowded Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Ohio after a meeting with Donald Trump.

The Cleveland luxury car dealer and blockchain executive said in a statement late Thursday that he and the former Republican president “agreed this race has too many Trump candidates and could cost the MAGA movement a conservative seat.”

As of Wednesday’s filing deadline, nine candidates were vying for the GOP nomination to succeed U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, who is retiring.

Moreno, who had been a leading contender and fundraiser in the primary, said he will back whichever candidate receives Trump’s endorsement.

There’s a chance Moreno and Trump discussed the possibility that the one Republican in the race who isn’t touting Trump’s Make America Great Again message, state Sen. Matt Dolan, could win if the pro-Trump vote is splintered in May.

Dolan, who fashions himself a Portman-style moderate, recently bolstered his primary campaign with $10.5 million in personal cash and loans.

But Moreno mentioned 10-term U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, who Democrats nationally are looking to as a strong contender to flip a Republican-held Senate seat this fall. Ryan also has a primary.

“We must regain control of the United States Senate and eliminate the possibility of career DC politicians like Tim Ryan from representing Ohio,” he said.

Trump praised Moreno’s effort and thanked him.

“His decision will help ensure the MAGA Ticket wins BIG, as it is all over the Country,” he said in a statement.