President Joe Biden is wasting his time if he believes he can help Democrats flip House and Senate seats in Ohio, according to state Republicans.
Biden is flying into Ohio for the third time of his presidency on Wednesday afternoon for a televised town hall. The Cincinnati trip coincides with a critical Senate vote on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal brokered, in part, by outgoing Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman. And some in the GOP predict the White House’s attempt to mount a pressure campaign will stumble as well.
It is “baffling” that Biden is investing time and money in Ohio over Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, according to Lorain County Republican Party Chairman David Arredondo.
“You know, some of the other borderline states that they’ve got to try to hold on to, especially for the Congress and the Senate next year,” he told the Washington Examiner.
Biden lost Ohio to former President Donald Trump last year by 8 percentage points. That is the same margin of Trump’s victory over 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
“There still is interest and activity on our side. I’m not seeing any on the Democrat side,” Arredondo said, listing the economy, the pandemic, immigration, racial tensions, and crime increases as priority issues.
“When you get to the point of Lorain County or Mahoning County, which were formerly blue-collar, union strongholds, when you start slipping in those areas, I think it’s saying something,” he added of the counties west of Cleveland and covering Youngstown, respectively.
Ohio has two special elections this year. One of the contests is for Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge’s old 11th Congressional District. That encompasses Democratic-leaning Cleveland. The other is for former Republican Rep. Steve Stivers’s GOP-safe seat south of Columbus. Stivers resigned in May to become the Ohio Chamber of Commerce’s president and CEO.
Yet, it is the race to succeed Portman in 2022 that presents Democrats with a solid opportunity to expand their slim majorities on Capitol Hill. Ohio Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, the most high-profile declared contender, is hoping to replicate Sen. Sherrod Brown’s success statewide so the party can override the 50-50 deadlock in the chamber. Vice President Kamala Harris can currently break the tie.
“There’s a little chaos right now in terms of GOP candidates racing to be the staunchest pro-Trump candidate,” said Miami University politics professor Bryan Marshall, who teaches and researches Congress.
Marshall named former Ohio state Treasurer Josh Mandel, ex-Ohio Republican Party Chairwoman Jane Timken, and venture capitalist-turned-Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance among the leading contenders.
“I think if this ends up being a really bruising primary, Democrats are hopeful they’ll be in the hunt. But as I’ve mentioned before, Ohio is not the purple state it used to be,” he said.
Cuyahoga County-based Main Street Patriots co-founder Ralph King joked Biden may not even know what state he is in.
“The people in Ohio, they’re not thrilled with them,” he said. “I’m paying, you know, just today, $3.10 for gas, which is absolutely ridiculous.”
King, who has worked in construction for 24 years, panned Biden’s infrastructure plan for the bureaucracy it was bound to create.
For Democratic strategist Jeff Hewitt, there is no better backdrop than Ohio for Biden to pitch his “hard” and “soft” “human” infrastructure agendas, even if it simply pushes Republicans to compete. He encouraged the administration to make the direct link between infrastructure, jobs, and the economy.
“Ohio is a good symbol of ‘here’s what we need to fix.’ If you look at a road map of Ohio, it’s crisscrossed by interstates, more so than almost any other state,” he said. “Also, because we have the Ohio River, you have lots of crumbling bridges that need to be replaced.”
Cuyahoga County Republican Chairwoman Lisa Stickan understood Biden’s strategy, given Ohio’s status as a bellwether state and its influence every presidential cycle. She urged her colleagues not to “take the foot off the pedal, even with gains made.”
“Candidly, I don’t think it’s going to be enough to move the needle, these visits, no matter what topics he’s coming to message on,” she said.
Biden’s earlier Ohio itineraries included Cleveland and Columbus. Ohio is a frequent stop, second only to his four jaunts to battleground Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is conveniently close to his home in Delaware.
Biden has traveled to Michigan and Virginia three times each. Virginia, which neighbors the District of Columbia, is hosting state elections in the fall. He has been to Wisconsin twice, not concealing his focus on the swing states that cost Clinton the White House four years ago.
Biden has been to Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Texas once apiece too.
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Original Author: Naomi Lim