WASHINGTON, D.C. — Ohio Republican Senate candidate Bernie Moreno is hoping $4 million in TV ads will help boost his standing with voters.
“They’re getting richer, you’re getting poorer. I’ll stop Biden before he destroys America,” Moreno said to the camera, in an ad focused on inflation.
Moreno, a luxury car dealer, released his first ad on Wednesday to kick off a six-week advertising blitz. He’s loaned his campaign at least $3 million.
“We have to do a shock and awe strategy to make certain that people know who I am,” he told Spectrum News in an interview.
It’s the latest spending spree from the crowded field of Republicans hoping to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman.
According to recent financial disclosure forms, five of the six top Republican candidates are millionaires.
Former Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel is worth at least $2 million; former Ohio GOP Chairwoman Jane Timken is worth at least $40 million; investment banker Mike Gibbons is worth at least $83 million; Moreno is worth at least $20 million; and author and venture capitalist JD Vance is worth at least $4 million. Per filing rules, Senate candidates can disclose their assets in a broad range, so these numbers could be higher.
The sixth is State Sen. Matt Dolan, who most recently entered the race and doesn’t have to file his disclosure form until January. But he also comes from money — he’s part of the family that owns the Cleveland Guardians.
Gibbons has poured at least $8 million of his own money into the race so far, and is pledging to spend $10 million on TV ads through the primary.
“Leftists are destroying Trump’s work, your safety, and our democracy,” Gibbons says in one recent TV spot.
Timken has funneled at least $2 million of her family’s wealth into her campaign to be on the air, too.
“Joe Biden and the left are teaching our kids to hate America,” she says in one ad.
Sarah Bryner of OpenSecrets, a nonpartisan group that follows money in politics, said this level of spending on ads this early in a primary is unusual. But she said wealthy candidates across the country are spending earlier and earlier in races.
“People know that they're going to need to use their own money to combat the sort of super PACs and party spending that can enter races at really the drop of a hat,” Bryner said in an interview on Wednesday.
At a candidate forum in October, Gibbons told Spectrum News that he would self-fund until it became clear he was a frontrunner.
“Until I can look that guy in the eye and say 'donate to me because I’m going to win this,' and have it be believable, I just don’t feel comfortable doing it,” Gibbons said on Oct. 24. “It’s a personal thing.”
At the same event, Moreno said the $3 million of his own money he’s committed so far was necessary.
“What I realized is that we have to put money in now because people are paying attention to this race a lot earlier and we have to start really getting our message out,” Moreno told Spectrum News.
Dolan said he’s open to bankrolling at least part of his campaign too.
“I’m not going to self-fund the entire campaign, but my wife and I are investing in myself, I believe in myself, I’m asking others to believe in myself, so we will put money in to make me a very viable candidate,” Dolan told Spectrum News on Oct. 24.
The frontrunner status of two of the millionaire Republicans — Mandel and Vance — has allowed them to raise money instead of spend their own fortunes. Vance loaned his campaign $100,000 when he launched.
On the Democratic side, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan and attorney Morgan Harper have not loaned their campaigns anything.
Bryner, of OpenSecrets, said the race could easily attract over $100 million from donors and outside groups, which would make it one of the most expensive in the country.
As for the big self-funders, she offered a note of caution.
“Fundraising is a much more predictive element of whether or not a candidate is successful electorally,” Bryner said.