Well, at least we know who George Conway is going to be hate-tweeting about in 2022: Bernie Moreno.
If you follow politics and you don’t know who Moreno is, well, you’re about to. He’s one of four declared GOP candidates to replace retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio. Moreno, a Cleveland businessman, doesn’t quite have the name recognition of either former state Treasurer Josh Mandel or ex-Ohio Republican Party Chairman Jane Timken.
He does, however, have a bit of star power on his side in the personage of Kellyanne Conway, the former White House adviser to Donald Trump and architect of his successful 2016 presidential campaign.
On Thursday, Trump’s ex-campaign manager announced via a statement that she would be a senior adviser to the Moreno campaign.
“Bernie’s not a politician. He is a conservative, a political outsider, and a successful businessman, just like President Donald J. Trump,” Conway said, according to Fox News.
“He has lived the American Dream and wishes to protect it for future generations. Ohioans need a fighter like Bernie Moreno to speak up and stand up for them in Washington.”
In a statement, Moreno praised both Conway and her former boss.
“President Donald J. Trump fought for the American people and delivered tremendous victories for us on taxes, judges, rebuilding the military, and taking on the cancel culture,” he said.
“That’s the kind of team we’re building. I’m thrilled that Kellyanne is joining us in our own fight to defend the gains President Trump has made and to stop the Socialist agenda.”
According to Politico, Moreno is a tech executive and former luxury car dealer.
“When I was five years old, I (legally) came to America from a country surrounded by the ideology of socialist dictators. I learned the language. Worked really hard. Took over a struggling car dealership in Ohio. Found success. Started investing in Ohio schools, hospitals, non-profits, and people,” Moreno’s bio on his campaign website said.
“Now (with your help) I may have the honor of representing the great state of Ohio in the U.S. Senate. That’s only possible because my Mom brought us to America. Now I see powerful elitists trying to ruin the first free place on earth. It scares me to death, and I have to fight back.”
Yes, Conway’s announcement means Moreno will have one of the best outsider campaign architects in recent memory on his side.
After Trump’s 2016 effort shed two campaign managers — Corey Lewandowski and Paul Manafort — Conway engineered one of the biggest upsets in presidential history. She then transitioned into an advisory role to the president — much to the chagrin of her husband, social media superstar and Lincoln Project co-founder George Conway, who made headlines mostly by feuding with Trump and his wife. At least now he has another target.
However, the symbolism of Conway joining the Moreno campaign is perhaps more helpful than whatever advice she might give.
Portman’s seat is bound to be one of the most competitive in the midterm cycle, and not just in the general election. However, even though the seat leans the GOP’s way, there’s the potential for competition from the left.
According to Ballotpedia, three major indices — The Cook Political Report, Sabato’s Crystal Ball and Inside Elections — all rate the seat as leaning Republican or a solid Republican hold. However, Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, a high-profile House Democrat and long-shot 2020 presidential candidate seen by many as the Next Big Thing because he’s really into blue-collar cosplay, is said to be planning a run, The New York Times reported in February.
In the Republican primary, the odds-on favorite would ordinarily be Josh Mandel, who was slated to challenge Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown in 2018 before he pulled out due to a health issue his wife was facing, according to CNN.
Jane Timken, the former chair of the state party, is also a credible candidate. And, to add some competition in the outsider bracket, businessman Mike Gibbons announced his candidacy on Tuesday, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
However, as the Cincinnati Enquirer reported in February, both Mandel and Timken were already fighting over who would get former President Trump’s blessing. Timken has described herself as “hand-picked by President Trump to run the Ohio Republican Party,” while Mandel has said he was “proud to carry the Trump banner when others were hiding in the closet.”
In March, Politico reported Trump flew all four candidates — including the then-undeclared Gibbons — down to West Palm Beach, Florida, to sit with him around a table.
Politico being Politico, the meeting was described as “a scene right out of ‘The Apprentice'” and “[o]ne person familiar with what transpired in Wednesday evening’s huddle [who] described it as ‘Hunger Games,’ an awkward showdown that none of them were expecting.”
Right. Well, if this was indeed “The Hunger Games,” one way to ensure the odds are ever in your favor is to score not just an endorsement from Kellyanne Conway, but also have her accept a senior position advising your campaign — which is what Moreno did.
And, keep in mind, she’s not the only individual in the Trump orbit to join Moreno’s campaign; as the Cincinnati Enquirer noted, former Trump ambassador to Germany Ric Grenell is head of Moreno’s steering committee.
Granted, this doesn’t assure a Trump endorsement for 2022, and it’s unlikely the former president would endorse someone this early in the game. However, Moreno is an outsider who’s promised to “crack down on China” and has a close Trump ally behind him. Not bad for this point in the game.
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