COLUMBUS, Ohio — President Trump played a key role in U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci's decision to leave the Ohio governor's race for a U.S. Senate bid.
Without a show of support from Trump's political advisers, Renacci was content to remain in the governor's race, where he was challenging Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor for the GOP nomination.
However, in announcing his U.S. Senate bid to supporters Thursday, that he was at a White House meeting where "I was asked to help protect the future of President Trump's agenda by entering Ohio's 2018 race for the United States Senate. While my strong distaste for Washington and the political establishment is as fervent as ever, so too is my commitment to advancing the President's agenda for a stronger and more prosperous America."
The decision came less than a week after Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel abruptly dropped out of the Ohio Senate race to focus on his wife's health.
Renacci was persuaded to leave the governor's race after a talk with Trump's political advisers Wednesday.
Trump's team was pleased with Renacci's support of the president both on the campaign and in Congress, said a person close to the White House with knowledge of the meeting. Trump was not present at the meeting.
The president has faced criticism for endorsing U.S. Senate candidates. In Alabama, he first supported Luther Strange and then Roy Moore, who both lost.
Renacci might not have a clear path to the GOP nomination, though. Cleveland banker Mike Gibbons has been in the race for months and has committed to spending $5 million of his own money. On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was pitching Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance on running for the position.
The Republican nominee will face Democratic incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown in the general election. Brown's campaign announced Wednesday that he had raised more than $2.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2017 and he ended the year with almost $10 million in the bank.
Ohio Democrats feel good about the matchup.
"Rep. Jim Renacci is the poster boy of Washington Republicans who’ve spent their time in office betraying middle-class workers to make life easier on the wealthy and well-connected," Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Jake Strassberger said.
Renacci had $285,000 in his House re-election account at the end of September, according to his most recent campaign account. He can transfer those funds to a Senate campaign account. In the governor's race, Renacci loaned his campaign $4 million, and he may dip into his own pocket again for the Senate race.
Renacci had picked Cincinnati City Councilwoman Amy Murray as his running mate.
"I was honored to be Jim Renacci's running mate for the Governor of Ohio and have great respect for him," Murray said in a tweet.
Follow Jessie Balmert on Twitter: @jbalmert