CLEVELAND -- Every candidate in Ohio's crowded Republican Senate Primary would do almost anything to get former President Donald Trump's attention, except one.
The one who would -- Matt Dolan -- caught Trump's eye within hours of his campaign's launch.
Trump stated in September that he knew of at least one person in that race whom he wouldn't be supporting. He also criticized Dolan for being part of the family that controls Cleveland's Major League Baseball team, which recently changed its name from the Guardians.
Dolan is a state senator and is running an unusual campaign for a Republican 2022. Dolan's pitch to primary voters is grounded in traditional conservative ideas, compromise, and not in the election conspiracy theories or right-wing cultural grievances Trump uses and expects to echo.
Dolan's strategy is to create a narrow lane of Trump-ambivalent or anti-Trump voters. He can then cobble together a plurality, a majority not necessary to win. While his rivals battle on the margins.
Dolan stated this week in an interview with NBC News that "I think the Republican Party and the Republican voter wants to move forward." "And I'm the only one who is moving on."
As difficult as this path may seem, Dolan's strategy has proven to be disruptive enough for Trump and other candidates to try to stop him.
Dolan's polling has improved since he spent more than $10,000,000 of his own funds and aired his first TV ads. The endorsement of the Franklin County GOP in Columbus indicated that Dolan was making progress with the same establishment forces that helped John Kasich beat Trump in the 2016 Ohio presidential primary.
"Can it work?" "He's moved up the polling," stated an unaligned Ohio Republican strategist. He is split between Jane Timken and Dolan, a former chair of the state party. The requester, who requested anonymity because of divisions, said that he was able to move up in the polling. He's increasing his vote share but there's still a large chunk that's undecided."
The strategist said that he is able to communicate intelligently about issues, rather than just using emotional dog whistles. I think that this will be appealing."
His recent moves are also instructive.
After huddling up with Trump , Bernie Moreno quit. Moreno stated that he had discussed the race with Trump and that they agreed that there were too many Trump candidates. He also acknowledged that Trump could split votes among them.
Timken received an endorsement by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), is not running for re-election. Portman and Timken have been friends since his wife was raising money to support her campaign. His endorsement had been expected. The timing was right as Dolan's rise to prominence, his eagerness for a Portman-like candidate, and his efforts at persuading past Portman donors to support his campaign.
Trump's super PAC could allow him to air TV ads criticizing Dolan. Dolan could also choose to attack any of his four opponents. Timken, Josh Mandel, ex-state Treasurer, Mike Gibbons, an investment banker, and J.D. Vance, Timken, and Josh Mandel were all independent wealthy. The possibility that the May 3 primary is delayed by delays in drawing new congressional districts is a risky one. Dolan, who has self-funded only Gibbonss, stated that he would not have any problem keeping ads on air if that happens.
Taylor Budowich, Trump's spokesperson, rejected the notion that Dolan had a viable path. Budowich stated to NBC News that Dolan cannot win the race without President Trump's endorsement. "You have a better shot of winning the endorsement than he does."
Dolan has struggled to be noticed.
He was the fourth child in six children from a wealthy family in Cleveland's suburbs. This gave him an opportunity to compete at an early age. His extracurricular activities included school plays and sports. In a 2010 interview with The Plain Dealer, Cleveland , his father recalled making jokes about Dolan's sister who scored higher on The Law School Aptitude Test.
Dolan was a conservative Republican in the Ohio House of Representatives in the 2000s. However, he did occasionally break ranks. For example, he voted with Democrats to end the state's income tax cut or he supported legislation banning discrimination against transgender and gay people.
Dolan stated, "When I decided to become a public servant, I committed that I would be true and honest to myself, be truthful to the issues facing our state, our nation, and to do what is right." "That is not always the right decision politically."
Dolan made a few mistakes on the political ladder. Dolan kept an eye on the 2008 state House speaker's podium and controlled the GOP caucus campaign funding that year. Dolan was reelected after Republicans lost the majority. His 2010 campaign for Cuyahoga County executive, a new position in an area overwhelmingly Democratic at the time, ended with a double digit loss.
Dolan was criticized for taking flak when his family lost or failed to land better baseball players. His parents also gave at most $2 million in radio ads to promote their candidacy. According to a financial disclosure Dolan received a salary of approximately $14,000 from Guardians last year. However, he stated that his involvement was limited to budget work as well as charitable efforts. An adviser stated that Dolan was granted a secured credit line against his personal investments in order to release campaign funds.
Dolan's campaign focuses more on his legislative record. He highlights tax cuts and his recent work as chair of Senate Finance Committee. Dolan is the only Republican candidate who has ever held elected office.
"You have a few candidates that look and sound the same and act the same and they're letting Matt get the serious lane to themselves," stated Jay Hottinger, a Republican who is a friend and longtime supporter of Dolan. "The other candidates are trying to out-Trump each other -- "No, I know him more than you do." "No, I have been to more rallies that you have.
Dolan isn't outwardly anti Trump. Dolan has stated that he would vote in his favor if he were the GOP nominee for President in 2024. His messaging sometimes overlaps with Trump's base. One of his ads warned of a "cold War" between China and the United States. Another is about border security. It opens with Dolan pointing to a sharpened tip that he claims can hold a fatal dose fentanyl. "I'm Matt Dolan">.
Dolan stated that he would let the voters decide whether this is a vote for the Republican Party. "What motivates us to run is to ensure that Republican ideas are reintroduced into law and implemented so that we don't see the Biden administration continue to destroy our country," Dolan said.
Kasich, a former governor who is strongly anti-Trumpmp, has not commented on the Senate race. However, Dolan is supported by several of his closest advisors, including Beth Hansen , former campaign manager, and Doug Preisse (long-time strategist). Hansen stated that Dolan represents a return to "traditional Republicanism," as expressed by Kasich and George Voinovich (an ex-senator and governor of Ohio who managed the 1998 successful campaign for Senate Hansen).
Hansen stated, "We have five candidates. None of them are doing a poor job." Hansen said that they have all received endorsements and all have money. It's mostly tactical at this point. It's numerical. It would be 20 percent if everyone got a fifth of votes. The man who gets 22 votes wins.