Ohio Senate hopeful Mike Gibbons is latest to score Trump meeting at Mar-a-Lago

CLEVELAND — Mike Gibbons, whom polls show emerging as a top contender in Ohio’s Republican Senate primary, was scheduled to meet Tuesday with former President Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, two sources familiar with the plans said.

Gibbons, an investment banker, is the latest candidate in the race to seek a private audience with Trump, who has not endorsed anyone but has shown increasing interest in the GOP field.

And meetings with Trump can be consequential, even without an endorsement. Businessman Bernie Moreno ended his campaign last month immediately after he huddled with Trump, saying they had agreed that “too many Trump candidates” were running.

Two other Republican candidates — former state Treasurer Josh Mandel and author J.D. Vance — also met with Trump in recent weeks. The primary is scheduled for May 3, but it could be moved back because of delays finalizing new state legislative and congressional maps.

Several recent polls, both public and private, have shown Gibbons pulling into a tie for first place with Mandel, the longtime front-runner. A Fox News survey released last week had Gibbons at 22 percent, followed by Mandel, at 20 percent, and Vance, at 11 percent. Also competing are Jane Timken, the former state party chair, and state Sen. Matt Dolan.

Gibbons, who is largely self-funding his campaign, also leads the field in advertising, having spent more than $8 million through Tuesday, according to the ad tracking firm AdImpact. He has also been touring the state for months in a large charter-style bus emblazoned with his name.

“I don’t think I could do more, because I am on the road every day,” he said in an interview last week. “I’m going to go to every nook and cranny in this state that will listen to me.”

Trump and other Republicans have shown particular concern about the candidacy of Dolan, the only leading contender who is not aggressively competing for Trump’s endorsement. Moreno’s exit hinted at concern about Dolan. A self-funder whose family owns the Cleveland Guardians, Dolan is running as a traditional Republican in the style of Sen. Rob Portman, whose decision not to seek re-election has opened the seat. And Dolan’s poll numbers have improved since his ads began blitzing Ohio’s TV and radio airwaves.

On the Democratic side, Rep. Tim Ryan is the front-runner in a primary that includes the progressive activist Morgan Harper.