Four years after carrying bellwether Ohio and winning the US presidency, Donald Trump again needs the support of disenchanted Democrats in the critical state if he is to earn a second White House term.
Ohio has been a political prize for generations of candidates wooing the state’s diverse voting demographic, which closely mirrors the nation and has offered a reliable quadrennial gauge of American sentiment.
Trump has visited twice in six weeks. And while Ohio might have been low on Biden’s priority of states that give him a path to electoral victory on November 3, it nevertheless remains a tantalizing opportunity.
Biden has launched campaign TV ads in Ohio, and he and Trump converge on Cleveland Tuesday for their first presidential debate.
Trump’s pledge to bring manufacturing jobs back — a ploy that helped him flip several Rust Belt states in 2016 — has largely failed to materialize, and he finds himself in a nail-biter with Biden in Ohio.
“At this point in time, I really don’t know who I’m going to vote for,” Joe Rosky, a retired firefighter and lifelong Democrat who backed Trump in the last presidential election, told AFP.
“He’s making claims that he can’t possibly back up,” Rosky, drinking coffee at a diner near Youngstown, said of Trump’s insistence that he has reinvigorated economically depressed corners of the state.
Job flight in and around Youngstown — a historically blue-collar, Democratic region — began in the 1970s with the closure of massive steel mills, and it hasn’t stopped.
Thousands of Democrats in the Youngstown area flipped to Trump, helping him win Ohio by eight percentage points in 2016.
“Donald Trump tapped into people’s emotion of being frustrated about their lot in life,” said David Betras, a former Democratic Party chairman in Youngstown’s Mahoning County.
“When you’re thirsty, you’ll drink dirty water, because at least it’s water.”
In an interview Betras expressed bitterness over his party’s 2016 failure to speak directly to the “outrage” of working class Ohioans who lost their jobs to Mexico and China.
Biden has run a strong campaign and courted Ohio voters with his economic revitalization plan, Betras said. But it might be too late in the Buckeye State, where many crossover voters continue to support Trump.
“I hope that great blue wall stands up, but I don’t think he’s going to win Ohio,” he said of Biden.
Ohio is at the nation’s heart. It has produced seven US presidents and boasts a unique regional diversity as well as mixes of urban, suburban and rural populations.
It has voted for the presidential winner in every election since 1960, and no Republican has ever won the White House without carrying Ohio.
“Ohio is extremely important for Donald Trump,” said University of Akron professor David Cohen, who heads the Ray Bliss Institute of Applied Politics.
“If he loses Ohio, he’s done.”
Like Betras, Cohen sees signs of a tilt rightward, including the GOP’s strong performance in the 2018 midterms in Ohio, where Republicans won nearly all statewide offices despite a nationwide election that trended strongly Democratic.
“That tidal wave stopped at the Ohio border,” Cohen said.
Cohen predicts Ohio is likely to go for Trump even though Biden narrowly leads in state polls and is favored to win the presidency.
Some anti-Trump Ohio Republicans are working actively against him.
“Our goal is quite simple: We’re trying to reach reasonable Republicans throughout the state and ask them to put country over party,” said lifelong Republican Phil Heimlich, a former prosecutor and county commissioner who co-founded Operation Grant, a collection of Ohio conservatives backing Biden.
“The good news is Ohio is in play, and we don’t have to change that many hearts and minds to win this,” he told AFP in Youngstown.
Democrat Tony Hickson, an African-American on disability, was on a similar conversion mission with people he knows turned to Trump.
Hickson, 59, seeks to “get them back on the Democratic side,” perhaps by convincing them of the president’s bungled response to the pandemic, he said as he picked up Biden yard signs at the party’s Youngstown office.
Ohio officials have said the effects of pandemic lockdowns could reverberate for years.
But some Trump supporters remain optimistic.
As for manufacturing jobs, “they’re coming back,” insisted retired electrician Tim Fresch before entering Monday’s Trump rally near Toledo.
“Here’s how we do this in Ohio,” the 64-year-old said. “We vote our wallets, and my wallet is full.”
‘Truly grotesque’: On way out the door, Trump prioritizes bringing back executions by firing squad and electrocution
Among the slew of potentially destructive policy changes the Trump administration is rushing to implement on its way out of power is a rule that would authorize the return of electrocutions and firing squads for federal executions, an effort critics slammed as a twisted priority amid deadly public health and economic crises.
ProPublica reported Wednesday that the rule, first published in the Federal Register by the U.S. Justice Department in August, "has raced through the process with little notice but unusual speed—and deadly consequences."
"This rule could reintroduce firing squads and electrocutions for federal executions, giving the government more options for administering capital punishment as drugs used in lethal injections become unavailable," ProPublica noted. "The Justice Department surfaced the proposal in August and accepted public comments for only 30 days, instead of the usual 60. The rule cleared White House review on Nov. 6, meaning it could be finalized any day."
Americans ‘won’t stand’ for election results not being honored: Biden
US President-elect Joe Biden said Wednesday that Americans "won't stand" for the results of the November 3 election not being honored.
"Our democracy was tested this year," Biden said in a Thanksgiving Day address in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware. "And what we learned is this: The people of this nation are up to the task.
"In America, we have full and fair and free elections, and then we honor the results," he said. "The people of this nation and the laws of the land won't stand for anything else."
Biden did not mention Donald Trump by name but he was clearly referring to the president's refusal to accept the results of the election.
The strange truth about our Trump addiction
Are we addicted to Donald Trump? It's a question that's haunting journalists and political commentators, most of whom hate Trump but cannot deny that his name drives traffic and ratings. Even though Trump lost the election and Joe Biden will be the next president, Trump continues to be the big attention draw for political websites and cable news networks.
Part of that is completely understandable. Trump is still big news. He literally spent the past few weeks attempting a coup. While he failed, that doesn't change the history-making fact that he even tried, or that he got so much support. Certainly Biden, whose main activity is finding boring-but-competent people to staff his administration, can't compete with that, and there's no real indication that he wants to. (Unlike Trump, Biden views governing as a job and not just an opportunity to get attention.)