COLUMBUS, Ohio — On the eve of an Ohio Republican Senate primary awash in resentment and rage, two leading candidates stuck close to their tribes Monday, reinforcing battle lines in a race that has become a referendum on former President Donald Trump.

Allies of Trump and his preferred candidate, Bernie Moreno, barnstormed the state, warning that a vote Tuesday for state Sen. Matt Dolan would deal a blow to their MAGA movement. Dolan, meanwhile, campaigned here with Gov. Mike DeWine, who despite feuding with the right-wing base has remained popular among moderates and independents key to Dolan’s coalition.

The last-minute rush followed a weekend rally that Trump headlined for Moreno and reflected a contest that many see as a tossup for the GOP nomination to face Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown in November. Polls have shown a two-way race between Moreno and Dolan, with Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose falling back in the pack and large numbers of voters undecided.

“The person we nominate has to win in November,” DeWine, a mainstay of Ohio GOP politics who lost his Senate seat to Brown in 2006, told a crowd crammed into the backroom of a bar in Columbus’ German Village neighborhood. “This is not going to be an easy race, folks.”

“I’ve run against this man, so I can speak that it will not be easy, but it’s doable,” DeWine added. “Very, very doable. And of the three candidates, look, they all could win. But the person clearly has the best shot at winning in the fall is Matt Dolan. I think our common sense tells us that.”

DeWine’s event with Dolan drew an after-work crowd of roughly 75 Republicans in the state capital, including several allies of former Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Kasich, an NBC News contributor, has been a vocal critic of Trump since losing to him in the 2016 GOP presidential primary.

As guests sipped beers and snacked on appetizers, DeWine argued that Dolan is the primary’s true conservative, citing policies he has championed as the Ohio Senate’s budget chief. Neither he nor Dolan attacked anyone by name, though Dolan emphasized how he has outperformed Trump with voters in heavily Democratic Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland.

“There’s a lot of different factors in a campaign,” DeWine told reporters after the event. “This campaign ultimately is not about Mike DeWine. It’s not about Donald Trump. It’s really who’s going to represent Ohio.”

Dolan has presented himself as a champion of Trump policies but acknowledges having a much different, milder personality. He drew several subtle contrasts Monday that seemed to apply to Trump and the band of MAGA world followers who rushed into Ohio over the last week to campaign for Moreno.

“I have fought and gotten results, because if you’re not getting results you’re just shouting and we’ve had too much shouting in our country,” said Dolan, following DeWine on stage at the bar.

“This is what we have to do as Republicans — we have to recognize that civility in politics is not a weakness and we should judge strength not on how loud we are, but how much we get done for the American people,” he added as he concluded his remarks.

Asked afterward if he was leveling those critiques at Trump and Moreno, Dolan asserted that he was making a “critique of Washington.”

Moreno and his allies have been much more direct in their attacks on Dolan. Following Trump’s combative cues Saturday, Moreno closed with a message of sharp insults and imagery.

Mitt Dolan,” Moreno and Arizona Senate candidate Kari Lake, a prominent MAGA figure, emphasized at campaign stops. The jab was meant to evoke Mitt Romney, R-Utah, the GOP’s nominee for president in 2012 and now a prominent Trump critic loathed on the right.

Moreno also has branded Dolan as a “swamp RINO,” or Republican in name only. He has complained that old-guard GOP leaders “stab us in the back.” At one event, Moreno called on voters to “stab it right in the heart and make it clear that in Ohio, we put America first.” At another, he encouraged them to make old-guard establishment Republicans “finally extinct here in Ohio.”

At a tiny coffee house Monday morning in Ottawa, in western Ohio, roughly 75 voters crammed inside for a glimpse of Lake and Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio, both of whom have built national followings, with Moreno essentially serving as their warm-up act. Lake and Vance continued the assault on Dolan and the establishment.

“I call him ‘door Matt,’ because I found out he is a doormat to the woke mob,” Lake said, picking up a Trump line of attack over how the Major League Baseball franchise owned by Dolan’s family changed the team’s name from the Cleveland Indians to the Guardians.

Dolan has said he was not involved with the rebranding, which came amid concerns that the previous name was offensive to Native Americans.

After the event, Moreno, a wealthy businessman who has loaned his campaign more than $4 million, brushed aside questions about the threat presented by Dolan, who has loaned himself $10 million.

“It’s not that he has appeal,” Moreno said. “It’s that he’s got an infinite amount of resources. When Kari and I have to raise money, we have to pick up the phone and start calling friends. He picks up the phone and calls mom. And then picks up the phone and calls dad.”

“When you have the sitting governor and a prior senator that are weighing in on a race because they want to protect the old establishment, it’s hard to overcome that,” added Moreno, referring to DeWine and former Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, another Dolan backer. “Especially when you’re somebody who’s never been in public office, never been on a ballot.”

Neither Moreno nor Dolan has seemed concerned about unifying the party after a divisive primary.

“The more important question is the reverse, because the reality is Matt Dolan has called the base election deniers and conspiracy theorists,” Moreno said Sunday when asked how he would keep Dolan supporters in the fold if he wins the nomination. “It’s my opponent that has spent unlimited resources bashing me. … And the reality is on March 20, we’re going to be one fully united — although maybe a slightly dysfunctional — Republican family.”

Dolan also used a family analogy.

“Actually, I think the media makes more out of that than I do,” he told NBC News on Sunday after guest bartending at a St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the Cleveland suburb of Willoughby. “We’re asking them to pick among family. I get that this is tough. But when they make their choice, and I win, they’ll rally.”

But at Moreno’s Sunday rally near Cincinnati, several voters vowed to not support Dolan in the general election if he wins the nomination.

“I won’t vote in that race,” Claudia Harrod said. “I can’t vote for Sherrod Brown, but I don’t think I could vote for either LaRose or Dolan. … They talk out both sides of their mouth. And they’re RINOs.”

Added Nancy Sparks: “I would sit the Senate race out.”

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