Dueling Campaign Stops Show Paths for Winning a Divided Ohio

  • Trump campaigns in southwest Ohio, Biden in the northeast
  • Buckeye State could be key to which party wins the presidency

Donald Trump Stresses 'America First' in Ohio Speech

The fight for Ohio in the 2016 election is a showcase for how Republicans and Democrats are navigating a deeply divided electorate.

The presidential campaigns of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton descended on Thursday, giving a glimpse of their approaches in one of just a handful of states that will be decisive in the presidential race and which party controls the Senate.

Vice President Joe Biden gave speeches at union halls in the Democrat-rich Youngstown and Cleveland areas for Clinton and walked door-to-door in a Youngstown neighborhood, greeting and hugging residents after visiting a county fair. He acknowledged Clinton’s unpopularity among working-class voters but tried to blunt Trump’s appeal by questioning whether he understands their plight because of remarks the Republican candidate has made about wages.

“This is a guy born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and now he’s choking on it because his foot is in his mouth along with the spoon,’’ Biden said during a speech at the United Autoworkers Local 1714 hall near the General Motors Lordstown plant.

Trump’s Pitch

Trump spoke at the American Legion’s national convention in Cincinnati a day after Clinton addressed the group, and he also held a rally in Wilmington, in southwest Ohio, where he hammered the former secretary of state over her use of private e-mails and her family’s foundation. He said that she doesn’t offer the kind of change in Washington that he would bring.

“We are going to win Ohio, no doubt about that,’’ Trump said.

Ohio is one of the most competitive battleground states, voting twice for Republican George W. Bush and twice for Barack Obama. No Republican has won the presidency without carrying the Buckeye State and it has sided with the winning candidate in every election since 1964.

Clinton has a lead of 3.8 percentage points over Trump in Ohio, according to an average of recent polls compiled by RealClearPolitics.

Disaffected Democrats

Trump is counting on appealing to enough white, working-class voters and disaffected Democrats to carry Ohio. He’s promising to bring back manufacturing jobs and to renegotiate trade deals that he blames for work leaving the U.S.

During the past decade, Ohio has lost 115,400 manufacturing jobs, the third-most in the U.S. during that time, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Biden sought to shore up the Democratic base in Trumbull and Mahoning counties, which were among the 32 of 88 that Trump carried in the March 15 Republican primary won by home-state Governor John Kasich. Some Democrats said they took Republican ballots to vote for Trump.

The UAW and other unions that endorsed Clinton say they are telling their members that Trump is a “fraud’’ on trade because while he talks about the loss of jobs and companies moving to Mexico or overseas, he has clothing and other products made outside the U.S.

“We’ve got to call B.S. on you, Donald Trump,’’ Democratic Representative Tim Ryan said while helping to introduce Biden near Lordstown.

Auto Industry

Biden touted the Obama administration’s 2009 federal bailout of the auto industry, which the president emphasized in Ohio during his re-election campaign in 2012. It helped him carry the state and win because Republican nominee Mitt Romney struggled to explain his opposition to it.

Tim O’Hara, vice president of UAW Local 1112 at Lordstown, estimated that about 20 percent to 25 percent of his members will support Trump, and that it’s probably not worth Democrats trying to turn around die-hard Trump supporters. Rather, the key is getting those supporting Clinton to vote, he said.

“Even if they personally don’t like Hillary, they should still look at the fact that what party saved the auto industry,’’ O’Hara said.

Kasich’s Outlook

Kasich, who has refused to endorse Trump and wouldn’t participate in the party’s convention in Cleveland, has said Trump will do well in parts of the state. The question will be what happens in the urban areas and whether Clinton can generate excitement there, he said.

“If she can, she’ll win,’’ Kasich said in an August 26 interview on CNN. “If she can’t, she won’t win. But it’s really, frankly, still early to know.’’

At his campaign rally in Wilmington, Trump did his best to sour any excitement for Clinton. He said contributors to the Clinton Foundation got favorable treatment from the state department under Clinton, which her campaign denies.

Clinton has a decided advantage in field operations and get-out-the-vote machinery in Ohio, building on the successful campaigns that Obama ran in the state in 2008 and 2012 with some of the same personnel.

Clinton’s campaign has been active in Ohio for months and said it has more than three dozen field offices across the state with more to come, compared with the 16 regional office locations that Trump’s campaign announced opening on Aug. 12.

Ground Game

Bob Paduchik, Trump’s state director who ran both of George W. Bush’s successful campaigns in Ohio and Senator Rob Portman’s winning 2010 Senate campaign, promised “a very sophisticated ground game’’ in the state.

Still, the Ohio Republican Party is loyal to Kasich and mobilized to help him win the state’s Republican primary. It’s unclear how much the party will do to help Trump beyond efforts by the Republican National Committee and Trump’s campaign.

“It’s definitely going to have an impact on this race that Donald Trump doesn’t have Kasich people on board,’’ said Jai Chabria, a former senior adviser to the governor.

Even so,Portman is waging an active campaign in the state with a robust voter mobilization to defeat Democrat Ted Strickland, and his efforts could help turn out Republicans that also vote for Trump.

Trump is also making a strong pitch for Democrats and independents who are not enamored of Clinton. Trump has been in the state multiple times since June, and most of those appearances have taken place in traditionally Democratic areas, Paduchik said.

“The biggest takeaway from the election here is our ability to go after disaffected Democrats and independents,’’ he said. “It allows us to go out and get people who’ve never considered voting Republican in any other election.’’

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