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GOP Rep. Jim Renacci meets with White House officials, plans to run for Senate seat in Ohio

Rep. James B. Renacci (R-Ohio) plans to end his campaign for governor and instead run for Senate, two Republicans familiar with his plans confirmed Wednesday, joining a contest that was upended last week when top GOP recruit Josh Mandel abruptly ended his bid for a rematch against Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown.

Renacci discussed his political future at a Wednesday White House meeting that political director Bill Stepien also attended, according to a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private conversation. The White House meeting should not be interpreted as an endorsement of Renaccci, the official said. But the official did not rule out that possibility in the future.

Renacci also met Wednesday with officials at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, according to one of the Republicans familiar with his plans, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Renacci could officially announce his plans as soon as Wednesday night or Thursday morning, the Republicans familiar with his plans said. A campaign representative for Renacci did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The White House did not immediately comment.

His decision comes as Republicans are scrambling to find a top candidate in Ohio. Mandel told supporters last week that he was ending his campaign, citing an unspecified health issue with his wife as the reason for his decision.

Mandel, who lost to Brown in 2012, was seen as the top choice of GOP officials. He had built a national network of donors and had established some name recognition in the state as treasurer and a previous candidate for Senate.

The candidate filing deadline in Ohio is Feb. 7, giving Republicans little time to decide whether to enter the race. Wealthy businessman Mike Gibbons is in the race. A slate of other Republicans have been mentioned by Republican operatives as potential candidates, including “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance.

Brown’s Senate seat is one of more than two dozen that Democrats are defending this year. Ten of those, including Ohio, are in states President Trump won.