The Kiss Of Death Comes To Youngstown Today
Ohio has veered hard into red territory over the last decade. It stretches the imagination to recall that Obama won the state twice. The statewide PVI is R+6, worse than Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona, Florida. Of Ohio’s current 16 members of Congress, just 4 are Democrats. The state Senate has 25 Republicans and 8 Democrats and the state House consists of 64 Republicans and 35 Democrats. The state Democratic Party is, at best, moribund and for the last decade had caused Democrats more problems than it has caused Republicans. In 2016 Ohio’s 18 electoral votes went to Trump after he definitively beat Hillary 2,841,005 (51.31%) to 2,394,164 (43.24%). Half a million Ohioans who voted for Obama 4 years earlier, didn’t vote for her. In 2020, Trump beat Biden 53.27% to 45.24%. Over 300,000 more Ohioans voted for Trump in 2020 than in 2016.
No wonder so many Democrats are ready to just give up on the state altogether. And yet, incredibly, Tim Ryan has kept the race between himself and Trump candidate J.D. Vance very competitive. Although lately Vance has begun noticeably pulling ahead, the FiveThirtyEight polling average still shows Ryan ever so slightly in the lead.
Ryan has certainly enormously outraised his rival— $21,516,464 to $3,623,477. Ryan has spent 9 times more and still has $3,567,175 in the bank, compared to Vance’s puny $628,611. Today, Trump will be holding one of his MAGA rallies at the Covelli Centre in Youngstown. It’s like a Grateful Dead show and the MAGAheads from Indiana, Tennessee, Connecticut, Florida— who call themselves the “Front Row Joes”— were already on line at dawn. These rallies give them a sick sense of community based on shared grievances and bigotry. Opening acts include Gym Jordan and Marjorie Traitor Greene. Many were hoping the My Pillow Guy and treason dog Mike Flynn would also show up. Trump goes on at 7 tonight and aside from Vance, he’ll be promoting 3 of his extremist MAGA candidates, former Trump roadie Max Miller, Madison Gesiotto Gilbert and J.R. Majewski.
Trump wasn’t exactly invited by Vance; he just announced he was showing up. “Never mind,” wrote Michael Bender and Maggie Haberman this morning, “that Trump while viewed heroically by many Republicans, remains widely disliked among crucial swing voters. The question of how to handle Trump has so bedeviled some Republican candidates for Senate that they have held private meetings about the best way to field the inevitable calls from his team… This awkward state of affairs reflections the contortions many Republican candidates are going through as they leave primary season behind and pivot to the general election, when Democrats are trying to bind them to the former president.”
Some of Trump’s chosen candidates, after pasting his likeness across campaign literature and trumpeting his seal of approval in television ads during the primaries, are now distancing themselves, backtracking from his positions or scrubbing their websites of his name.
The moves reflect a complicated political calculus for Republican campaigns, which want to exploit the energy Trump elicits among his supporters— some of whom rarely show up to the polls unless it is to vote for him— without riling up the independent voters needed to win elections in battleground states.
…In Wisconsin, Tim Michels, the Republican nominee for governor, erased from his campaign home page the fact that Trump had endorsed him— but then restored it after the change was reported, saying it had been a mistake.
“The optimal scenario for Republicans is for Trump to remain at arm’s length— supportive, but not in ways that overshadow the candidate or the contrast,” said Liam Donovan, a Republican strategist and a former top aide at the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Donovan, as well as consultants and staff members working for Trump-backed Senate candidates, said the former president could be most helpful, if he chose, by providing support from his powerful fund-raising machine.
“A big part of the problem is that these nominees emerged from messy fields where the party has been slow to unify,” Donovan said. “But to fix what ails, what these GOP candidates need isn’t a Trump rally, it’s a MAGA money bomb.”
But linking arms with the former president could create problems for candidates in close races.
Even though he hs been out of office for nearly 20 months, Trump has remained a constant presence in news headlines because of mounting criminal and congressional investigations into his role in the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, his refusal to hand over sensitive government documents that he took to his Florida home, and whether he and his family fraudulently inflated the value of their business assets.
On Thursday, when asked about the possibility of his being indicted in the document inquiry, Trump told a conservative radio host that there would be “problems in this country the likes of which perhaps we’ve never seen before.”
Polls suggest these controversies could be taking a toll. Among independent voters, 60 percent said they had an unfavorable view of Mr. Trump, compared with 37 percent who had a favorable view, according to a NY Times Siena College poll released this week. President Biden was also underwater among these key voters, but by a far smaller margin of eight percentage points.
Asked whether Trump had “committed any serious federal crimes,” 62 percent of independent voters said they believed he had, and 53 percent said he had threatened American democracy with his actions after the 2020 election.
Republican candidates appear to be aware of such sentiments, backing away from Trump’s fixation on the 2020 election. While he has said that election fraud is the most important issue in the midterms, polls show that voters are far more worried about economic issues and abortion rights.
Three days after Trump’s rally in Pennsylvania, Dr. Oz, the Republican Senate nominee, told reporters that he would have defied the former president and voted to certify the 2020 presidential election.
Dr. Oz, a former TV personality, leaned on Trump’s endorsement to win a bitter primary. Since then, he has removed prominent mentions of the endorsement from his campaign website and has swapped out Trump-themed branding from his social media.
Republican campaigns said that they would not reject Trump’s help out of hand, but that accepting it created a whole set of other problems: Where, for instance, could a rally be held to energize the conservative base, while minimizing the damage among independents?
When Trump’s team called to say that the former president wanted to come back to Pennsylvania for a rally this month, Mr. Oz’s campaign guided him to Wilkes-Barre in Luzerne County. The county was one of three that voted twice for Barack Obama and flipped to Trump in 2016. It was also the only one of those three counties that backed Trump again in 2020. The other two— Erie and Northampton— supported Biden.
…[H]is endorsement of Vance’s Senate bid has been widely viewed as the clearest example of his enduring political influence. Vance, an author and venture capitalist, was trailing in the polls before Trump backed him with just over two weeks left in the race. Vance won the crowded primary by nearly 10 points.
For the rally [today], Vance’s team directed the former president to Youngstown, a blue-collar area that had been a Democratic stronghold until Trump ran for president. The rally, at the 6,000-seat Covelli Centre, is also squarely in the congressional district represented by Tim Ryan, the Democrat running against Vance.
The event is scheduled to start at the same time as kickoff for an Ohio State University football game. Buckeyes games regularly draw huge statewide audiences, and the matchup on Saturday is against the University of Toledo, an in-state team.
The timing was not viewed as ideal by either Vance’s campaign or Trump’s team, and Trump was ultimately consulted on the decision, according to people familiar with the discussions. In the end, the two sides determined that it was more important to hold the rally on a Saturday night, when Trump has the easiest chance of drawing a strong crowd.
Ohio politicians have long tried to avoid competing for attention with Ohio State football games. In an interview, Ryan said holding a rally at the same time suggested that Vance— an Ohio State graduate— was out of touch with the “cultural things” important to Ohioans.
“It just says a lot,” Ryan said. “These little things just sometimes reveal a lot more about a candidate than it appears.”
Trump’s MAGAhead rally for Oz last week, hasn’t helped turn around Oz’s disastrous polling numbers against John Fetterman.