Several top Ohio Republican officials chose to stand with Donald Trump on Thursday rather than put some distance between their political fortunes and the president’s recent racist attacks on minority lawmakers and a major mid-Atlantic city with a majority black population.
Trump was on a rally stage, this time in Cincinnati, for the first time since Greenville, North Carolina, on July 18, when a mostly white crowd chanted “Send her back,” referring to Somali-born Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar.
That prompted Trump to criticize his own supporters, which he rarely does, a day later. (He stopped short when asked by reporters earlier Thursday as he left the White House of saying he would try to stop any repeat of that racist chant. As of 8:10 p.m. Eastern time, that hadn’t happened in Cincinnati.)
Several prominent Ohio Republican officials opted against shying away from the controversial president. Gov. Mike DeWine, a former senator, and Rob Portman, the state’s junior senator, were among those who greeted Trump after Air Force One touched down at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in Hebron, Kentucky. Also present inside the U.S. Bank Arena was Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin — Trump told him to find a “big arena” so he can hold a rally on his behalf as Bevin seeks reelection in the Bluegrass State this November.
DeWine spoke at the rally, bounding onstage to introduce Vice President Mike Pence, who then gave a condensed version of his stump speech before introducing the president. The governor didn’t seem to have any reservations about speaking at a Trump rally.
“Donald Trump and Mike Pence have kept their promises,” DeWine said. “They … told us that they would appoint conservative judges for the conservative bench.”
“And what about this roaring economy? The lowest unemployment in almost 50 years of this country. Unbelievable. What an amazing story that is,” the governor said.
Trump later returned the compliments, saying DeWine has “done a fantastic job.” Trump also pleaded with Portman to craft voter ID legislation. “Please, Rob,” the president said.
On Wednesday, Chabot, who represents a Cincinnati-area district that Democrats are targeting, said he hoped the crowd would avoid repeating the Greenville chant.
“I would discourage the crowd from doing anything inappropriate, and I think saying something like that would be inappropriate,” Chabot said, according to The Associated Press. “I would hope that the president would silence the crowd, tell them, ‘Hey, don’t do that, there’s no place for that. It’s not helpful, it’s not right.’”
Eyes on Ohio
The president stepped on stage just after 7 p.m. Eastern time, as is his campaign-trail custom, to Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” Trump is hoping to again securing the Buckeye State as he seeks to rebuild his victorious 2016 Electoral College map. He wasted almost no time criticizing the list of 2020 Democratic White House hopefuls, saying they spent “more time” criticizing former President Barack Obama than himself.
A few minutes later, he called the Democratic Party “rage-filled” and accused its elected officials with trying to “tear down” the United States and its economy. He lambasted “Democratic politicians” for mismanaging America’s inner cities, but said he wanted to avoid being “controversial” by not naming names.
“The Democratic record is one of neglect, and corruption and … total decay. The Democrats have taxed and regulated opportunity out of these cities” he said. “They’ve squeezed the blood out of them. … So many of these [Democratic] mayors, you know where they are, they’re in jail, that’s where they are.”
The president ripped into Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, accusing her of trying to “lie and cheat” her way to the 2020 Democratic nomination.
Democratic and Republican political strategists say the Trump reelection operation appears to be, for now, just aiming to chart the exact same Southern-and-Rust Belt path to a second term as it did last time. And that includes Ohio and its coveted 18 Electoral College votes.
Polls suggest the 2020 Buckeye Battle again will be tight.
For instance, a new Quinnipiac University poll found former Vice President Joe Biden leading Trump by 8 points in Ohio, while Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders trailed the president by a point. Trump was tied with California Sen. Kamala Harris.
On Thursday, Trump mocked Biden as old and “sleepy,” saying he would sign a bad trade deal with China in a groggy state.
The former reality television host won Ohio in 2016, besting Hillary Clinton by 8 points. Though Clinton won Cincinnati’s Hamilton County by 10 points, the president and his campaign team are eager to use the rally to drive up turnout in the deep-red counties surrounding the state’s third-most populous city and in lighter red ones in northwest Kentucky.
Since Feb. 11, Trump has held rallies in Texas, and expected 2020 swing states: Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
His campaign organization announced an Aug. 15 campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire. (Clinton won that state by one-third of a percentage point.) With the 2020 race expected to be tight, the Granite State’s four Electoral College votes could prove important.
Meantime, the Cincinnati rally marked Trump’s first since injecting race into his reelection bid.
First came his repeated attacks on four female House Democratic freshwomen — all minority lawmakers — that included tweeted for them to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” (Of the four, only Omar was born outside the U.S.)
Next came last weekend’s Twitter attacks on House Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah E. Cummings after he targeted Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner over their admitted use of personal electronic accounts to carry out their White House duties.
The president, in a Sunday tweet, wrote of Baltimore residents: “No human being would want to live there.” (African Americans constitute 63 percent of Baltimore’s population, according to Census Bureau data.)