Days earlier than the Could 3 major, Dolan seems to be experiencing a late burst of momentum. Whereas J.D. Vance — who acquired Trump’s endorsement final week — has surged into first place in accordance with the most recent Fox News poll, Dolan was the one different prime contender to achieve floor within the ballot since final month. A separate ballot released Tuesday by Blueprint Polling truly positioned Dolan in first place with 18 % of the vote, adopted by Vance at 17 %.

No matter momentum Dolan is driving, it was sufficient to immediate Trump to launch an announcement Tuesday suggesting that the state senator is “not match” to serve within the Senate.

“I believe there’s mounting proof that he’s in a situation the place he’s working up the center, unmolested, with a singular message and a few issues in his favor,” mentioned Mike Murphy, a Republican strategist who lives out of state however donated $250 to Dolan’s marketing campaign in October. “Does it imply he has a lock on the race? No approach. But it surely’s a aggressive race, and he’s in it. He’s obtained the momentum, as of final week.”

Dolan doubtless has a low ceiling of assist, given his dependence on Republican voters who’re keen to maneuver on from Trump — a minority of the celebration. However in a splintered subject of candidates, that may very well be sufficient.

“After I made my resolution to get into the race, I knew that it was going to be a tricky slog, at the least publicly, for some time,” Dolan mentioned in an interview. “I knew that I’d not be doing properly within the polls till a lot, a lot later within the marketing campaign. I believe it’s taking part in out as I assumed it was going to play out.”

Inside Dolan polling exhibits him “monitoring to second place,” in accordance with an individual accustomed to the information who mentioned the marketing campaign has a “glide path to getting a plurality of the vote.”

Extensively seen as a longshot, Dolan has averted any actual assaults from his opponents, who took turns going after each other for months in a cutthroat major that has generated practically $70 million in advert spending. The Membership for Progress — an excellent PAC supporting former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, who has led in polls all through many of the major — took out adverts focusing on Vance, Jane Timken and Mike Gibbons as every noticed positive aspects in assist in latest months.

However they and different campaigns and outdoors curiosity teams by no means focused Dolan, who has spent closely on tv adverts along with his personal constructive message since January.

Dolan is the lone candidate who refuses to toe the Trump line. He has accused the previous president of “perpetuat[ing] lies concerning the end result” of the 2020 election. He referred to as the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol a “failure of management” by Trump and an “assault on democracy.” At a March 21 debate, Dolan was the one candidate to lift his hand when the moderator requested who believed it was time for Trump to cease speaking concerning the 2020 election.

But Dolan has been cautious to spotlight that he considers himself a Trump supporter. All through the marketing campaign, Dolan’s workers has been “dogged” about in search of corrections to any information stories that referred to Dolan as anti-Trump or a By no means Trumper, in accordance with an individual engaged on the marketing campaign. They might clarify to reporters that Dolan had twice voted for Trump — in contrast to Vance — and that Dolan has mentioned he would accomplish that once more if Trump had been the nominee. Dolan has additionally mentioned that he wouldn’t have voted to convict Trump in an impeachment trial.

Although Dolan’s marketing campaign was as soon as dismissed as an arrogance venture, Trump has lengthy paid attention to a possible rise by the candidate. On Tuesday, he attacked Dolan not as an opponent of his America First agenda, however as a result of the Main League Baseball staff Dolan and his household personal, the Cleveland Guardians, modified its title from the Indians after the 2021 season.

“Anyone who modifications the title of the ‘storied’ Cleveland Indians (from 1916), an authentic baseball franchise, to the Cleveland Guardians, just isn’t match to serve in the USA Senate,” Trump wrote. “Such is the case for Matt Dolan, who I don’t know, have by no means met, and could also be a really good man, however the staff will all the time stay the Cleveland Indians to me!”

An individual near Trump insisted there was no explicit purpose the previous president launched the Dolan assertion Tuesday, and that it was unrelated to polling knowledge circulating on Twitter that day putting Dolan within the lead or in second place. The particular person famous that the message was one thing Trump “has been saying for months” — at the least since Dolan entered the race in September — and that Trump simply needed to “remind folks” concerning the Dolans’ function within the staff title change.

All through the marketing campaign, Dolan has mentioned he was not a part of the choice to vary the title, however helps his household.

Whereas his marketing campaign occasions this week haven’t drawn high-profile supporters — similar to Trump, who held a rally Saturday to assist Vance, or Donald Trump Jr., who has visited the state twice in latest days to stump with Vance — Dolan has earned endorsements from three newspaper editorial boards and dozens of municipal workplace holders across the state. Native surrogates have additionally engaged in an aggressive letters-to-the-editor marketing campaign on his behalf.

Mandel, in the meantime, has stored a low profile after touring to marketing campaign stops final week with Michael Flynn, Trump’s former nationwide safety adviser and a number one advocate for efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. This weekend, Mandel will seem at occasions with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Dolan’s marketing campaign is properly conscious that Trump’s approval score amongst Republican voters within the state is as excessive as 85 %. Its method has been to string the needle between assist for Trump’s agenda — Dolan joined different candidates within the major in working an advert about closing the southern border — and his unapologetic denunciations of Trump’s baseless election fraud campaign.

“What we sought to do from the outset was illustrate to people that this race must be about Ohio,” mentioned Chris Maloney, Dolan’s marketing campaign advisor. “You might be for pro-Trump insurance policies and never share his persona, and that’s what’s taking maintain amongst Ohio Republicans.”

In distinction with Dolan, whose giant funding within the race for months appeared futile as he failed to achieve important traction, Gibbons, a rich enterprise proprietor, has taken a dive after peaking earlier this yr and loaning his marketing campaign greater than $16 million.

Murphy, the Republican strategist, famous a number of components are serving to Dolan now. Along with rising unscathed after the opposite candidates spent months hurling insults at one another, Dolan matches the mildew of pragmatic conservatives whom Ohio Republicans have historically chosen for Senate, together with retiring Sen. Rob Portman, former Sen. and Gov. George Voinovich and present Gov. Mike DeWine.

“He’s not an alien species in any respect to the conventional consolation zone of the Ohio Republican Get together,” Murphy mentioned.

Dolan and Timken have had marketing campaign workers out on foot for greater than two months, permitting them to have a longtime floor marketing campaign. However Timken has been darkish on broadcast tv and cable for weeks in a number of markets, and has been fully off broadcast statewide the previous week, working solely $15,000 price of cable adverts. A brilliant PAC supporting her, Profitable for Girls, now has solely a small variety of cable spots working.

Dolan’s marketing campaign and the Membership for Progress are main in tv adverts proper now, adopted by the pro-Vance tremendous PAC Defend Ohio Values, an outdoor expenditure group that has acquired $13.5 million in donations from billionaire tech government Peter Thiel.

At a latest debate, Dolan was requested whether or not he might win the Republican nomination with out Trump’s assist.

“After all I can win,” Dolan mentioned, pivoting to his document within the Ohio Legislature. “The irony of this complete factor is I’m the one one who has applied Republican Trump concepts.”