Race for Ohio Senate Primary Tightens: Dolan and Moreno Neck and Neck

March 16, 2024
Mainstreet Research
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As the Ohio Republican primary for the U.S. Senate intensifies, Matt Dolan is slightly ahead at 25 percent compared to Bernie Moreno’s 24 percent, according to a new FAU PolCom and Mainstreet Research poll released today.

While the race is too close to call, with only one percentage point separating the candidates, Dolan appears to perform best among higher-income and college-educated Republican voters, while Moreno leads with non-college-educated white voters.

A gender gap appears as a clear difference between support for the candidates, with Dolan leading among males (28 percent) and Moreno as the more popular choice among females (28 percent). Meanwhile, contender Frank LaRose trails behind with 15 percent of the vote; his supporters also reveal noteworthy gender distributions: LaRose carries 10 percent of the female vote versus 20 percent of the male vote.

The race remains tight between Dolan and Moreno when undecided voters are analyzed, with Dolan at 31 percent and Moreno at 29 percent. Among likely voters, Dolan maintains a slight lead at 40 percent to Moreno’s 37 percent, although the margin of error renders the race too close to project definitively.

“The race may be decided in the last few days by which candidate can more effectively mobilize their supporters to the polls,” said Kevin Wagner, Ph.D., professor of political science at FAU and PolCom Co-Director.

Endorsements, including from former president Donald Trump, may be key to the outcome.

“If Moreno wins, it will be a testament to the importance of a Trump endorsement,” Wagner said. “With no candidate above 30 percent and more than a third of voters still undecided before the primary, this nomination fight remains completely up for grabs.”

Brown Holds Edge in Potential General Election Matchups, But Senate Race Still Up for Grabs

Looking beyond the primary, incumbent Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown maintains a lead against all potential Republican nominees, although the margins vary. Brown leads all three GOP candidates, with margins ranging from 45 percent to 41 percent over Dolan, 47 percent to 36 percent over Moreno, and 48 percent to 37 percent versus LaRose, with around 10 percent undecided in each case.

“With these poll numbers, Dolan appears to be the strongest challenger for the incumbent senators,” said Robert E. Gutsche, Jr., Ph.D., associate professor in the School of Communication and Multimedia Studies at FAU and strategic lead at PolCom Lab. “However, the GOP lean in the state means that the race will not be easy for Brown no matter which Republican emerges from the primary.”

Although Ohio is no longer a swing state, the Senate race will be heavily contested once again.

“Re-election can never be taken for granted, including for Brown,” Gutsche said.

Brown benefits from support among young and Black voters, as well as an edge among college-educated white voters. Interestingly, Brown draws almost 14 percent of GOP voters against Moreno, suggesting some internal partisan divisions with the candidate among Republicans.

“Sherrod Brown is one of the few Democrats who has kept his blue-collar brand intact,” Gutsche said, “but Ohio has continued to trend Republican at the federal level, so he’ll need to maximize his base while chipping away at Republican strengths with white working-class voters.”

Trump Leads Biden in Ohio Presidential Race

In the presidential race, Donald Trump commands a solid lead over incumbent Joe Biden among likely Ohio voters, with Trump at 51 percent and Biden at 40 percent. While Ohio leans towards Trump, Biden’s campaign aims to rally support and appeal to moderate Republicans to shift the dynamic.

“It would be a stretch to call Ohio competitive for Joe Biden at this stage, but it is not a lost cause if Biden can generate a stronger turnout and reach more of the moderate Republican voters,” Wagner notes.

A partisan breakdown shows Biden winning around 90 percent of Ohio Democrats but getting hurt by defections from his 2020 coalition. Just under 50 percent of college white voters back his re-election at this early stage.

“For Biden to reverse this trend, he would need to generate high Black voter turnout while running up his margins with college white voters in demographically shifting suburbs,” Wagner said. “Of course, a badly damaged Republican nominee or depressed GOP turnout could open up a different path as well.”

The analysis is based on the results of a survey conducted on Wednesday, March 13, with a sample of 818 adults, 18 years of age or older, registered to vote, and living in Ohio. The survey was conducted using text message recruitment and interactive voice response to complete the survey. The margin of error for the poll is +/- 3.4% at the 95% confidence level. Margins of error are higher in each subsample. View the poll and report at

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