At the convention center in downtown Columbus Thursday night, President Barack Obama offered a packed room of about 2000 Democrats who turned out for the Ohio Democratic Party’s State Dinner thoughtful remarks that ranged from somber to reflective to between the ferns funny with the kind of rye wit only he can deliver.
At the same time, just blocks away, paramaniac Donald Trump harangued another crowd with complaints aimed at just about everyone, from his chief rival Hillary Clinton to establishment Republicans who have turned on him to media that dares cover him with reporting that dwells on the revelations of many women who have come forward to describe episodes where he forced himself on them in a sexually inappropriate way.
The perennial battleground state of Ohio would be a big feather in Team Trump’s hat if the Donald can win it, and with polls showing the race a toss up, that is possible. Still, while that impossible dream could come true, odds makers who compare the ground games of the two campaigns are giving the final outcome to Team Hillary, whose investment in grassroots campaign resources in Ohio dwarf those by the Trump campaign.
In the span of one week, Hillary Clinton was reported to be leading Donald Trump by as many as nine points, according to a poll by Baldwin Wallace, while Trump had a one point lead in an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. A third poll, this one done by Emerson University, shows Clinton leading Trump 45-43 percent. This kind of back and forth gives credence to both parties who say they give little credence to polling when it flip flops from one to the other.
This seesaw polling gives value to what ODP Chairman David Pepper told his crowd about how elections are won here. “It’s Ohio, it’s going to be close. It’s all about the ground game,” Pepper said. He rejoiced in contrasting the competing party’s ground game efforts, calling the Democrat’s operation “amazing” while saying Trump had “practically nothing.” He asked those attending whether “we’re a Trump state” after reminding them that Barack Obama won it in 2008 and again in 2012? He pointed to Ohio’s “progressive lion,” U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, as someone who has won statewide twice, in 2006 and 2012, as proof Trump can’t win the Buckeye State when voters turnout. He mocked the Donald for not being able to win the primary last March, saying, “this isn’t Trump territory.” States that do turn red this year, he said, are going to struggle when Hillary wins. He called on voters to show doubters that Ohio rejects Trumpism by going blue again.
“We have to win this state for ourselves, we have to get this done,” Pepper said, telling young people that this is not a normal one. He called for a big voter turnout to “run up the score…and turn it dark blue by electing Ted Strickland.” Former Gov. Strickland is trailing Republican incumbent Rob Portman as the two candidates engage each other Friday in the first of three debates over the next week.
That progressive lion Pepper referred to, Sherrod Brown, got a turn at the mic as well. As he always does at such events, Sen. Brown started out thanking organized labor workers and the wait staff, hourly wage earners who never get paid what they deserve. Brown reminded the crowd the economic mess President Obama inherited from eight years of a George W. Bush administration and a Republican controlled Congress that enabled him to tee up an economic recession of massive proportions. He ticked off the president’s accomplishments so far, like adding 15 million jobs and 81 straight months of job growth.
He slammed Donald Trump for manufacturing his products like ties and furniture overseas. “I’ve never seen Trump testify next to me at trade conferences, in the halls of Congress, speaking out against trade agreements when congress was considering them,” he said. “I’ve only seen Donald trump line his pockets with suits made in Mexico, buying steel from china instead of Cleveland…Trump makes his money by gaming the system at the expense of the rest of use us.”
He said Donald Trump is the least qualified person to run for president in his lifetime, while Hillary Clinton is the most qualified to be president. He said Mrs. Clinton’s goals have been the same over the course of her lifetime, to make life better for America’s children and families. He said his two grand daughters and three grandsons will see faces of presidents different than he saw growing up. “They will see Barack Obama, not people that look like me; my granddaughters will see themselves in the face of Hillary Rodham Clinton.”
Ted Strickland followed Pepper in advance of the president’s remarks. The former governor who had the misfortune of taking office just before the Great Recession ravaged the state, ran through the long laundry list of bad policy choices by his Republican opponent, Rob Portman, that included opposing the White House bailout of the auto industry, a desire to voucherize Medicare and privatize Social Security, and wanting to overturn Roe v Wade and defund Planned Parenthood, among other long-held Republican wishes. He lashed Portman for endorsing Trump but refusing to be seen with him, as Trump’s scandalous past of sexually abusing women dominate headlines and news coverage. From pay equity to student debt, Strickland took Portman to task for opposing solutions to fix both.
“Rob Portman chooses the rich, the powerful and bankers over what’s right for students,” he said. Nonetheless, with a little over three weeks left until votes are counted, Strickland trails Portman. Strickland blamed billionaire anti-unionists, like the Koch Brothers, for spending more than $60 million to defeat him. “I’m not giving up, and not giving in,” he said defiantly.
Strickland offered some advice he said Bill Clinton gave to him, that goes back to the 1964 race between then President Lyndon Baines Johnson and Republican Barry Goldwater. Strickland said that Johnson was fighting for more than just winning the election that year, he was fighting to keep the legacy of assassinated President John F. Kennedy and the American Dream alive. In 1964, President Johnson spoke at Ohio University in Athens, telling students there that they needed to get involved. “As I stand in front of you today, the promise of a great tomorrow is real, it is a tomorrow brighter than yesterday, a tomorrow that is more challenging than today…this is not a time for timid souls and we have it within our power to find the best solutions to the worst problems, and we intend to do just that,” Strickland said about LBJ’s comments in Ohio then. He called on Democrats and commonsense Republicans and thoughtful independents to “choose someone who can bring about the right change…Hillary is the best change maker he’s ever known, and Ohio will send her to the White House.”
President Obama, stepping on stage in a white shirt with sleeves rolled up and his tie loosened, said the best case made for Hillary was made earlier in the day by his wife Michelle. “See Michelle’s speech, she was pretty good,” he said. Leaning against the podium like he was standing at a bar, the president said Republicans have been “riding this tiger for a long time…they’ve been feeding their base all kinds of crazy for years, primarily for political expedience.” referring to Republicans’ long time embrace of crazy politics, including him being the anti-Christ and not being born in America, among other apocryphal claims. He said Trump has been caught on tape saying what “no decent person would even think about saying.” He said “we don’t have a reasonable commonsense Republican Party anymore.” This election he said is not just about winning elections but about affirming Democracy.”
He closed his remarks saying, “I’m going to be right there with you, working hard, organizing, mobilizing, making phone calls and voting for Hillary. We’ve got to keep this thing going, the journey is not done yet, because I’m still fired up and ready to go.”