At RNC, Ohio Delegation Begins Coming to Terms with Donald Trump

Ohio delegates remove their sign from its pole.
Ohio delegates remove their sign from its pole. (Nick Castele / ideastream)
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by M. L. Schultze and Nick Castele

The Republican National Convention came to an end last night.

With balloons popping all around, state GOP Chairman Matt Borges and other Republicans pulled up the Ohio sign that marked their delegation on the convention floor. On each side of the marker, they added their signatures for posterity. Borges said he was giving the sign to the state historical society. 

“Let’s face it. This convention is going to be talked about for generations.”

As part of WKSU and ideastream's election collaborative, Nick Castele and M. L. Schultze recap how Ohio delegates have been processing the week.

SCHULTZE: “It really has been a convention as so many have said unlike any other. Especially for the Ohio delegation, which has struggled all week long, committed to Kasich, comes in with 66 delegates, fervently believing that Gov. John Kasich should become the next president of the United States, and it all went off the rails. And a lot of them, all week long, have been talking about, ‘I just don’t know what it’s going to take. I’ll have to hear his speech to decide.’”

CASTELE: “And it was definitely a mix. There were some people I talked to who were willing to say, ‘I’m for Trump now. I wasn’t before, but he’s our nominee, so I’m going to do it.’ But there were other people I talked to who said, ‘I’m not convinced yet, and he’s got to earn my vote.’ One of those people is a delegate named Matthew McAuliffe. And he said that he wanted to hear a Republican who’s more like the late Sen. George Voinovich. And he wasn’t yet convinced that Trump could promote that kind of message. I spoke to him after this speech, and he said he’s still not there yet, and here’s how he explained himself.”

MATTHEW MCAULIFFE: “It’s light on any specifics. It’s still binary, it’s still, ‘You’re, in you’re out, you’re us, you’re them.’ Where’s the unity? But there’s a tone of inclusiveness which surprised me. LGBT, I was impressed he addressed and talked about that.”

CASTELE: “But he’s only one delegate, and we’ve been watching numerous delegates as they were sitting there, watching Donald Trump’s speech, watching the leadup to his speech. Was there anything you noticed?”

SCHULTZE: “Body language spoke volumes tonight. The Ohio delegation, for the most part, stayed in their seats. A few got up and danced a few times, but it was not the electric atmosphere that you see at a convention where everybody is on their feet so totally behind the candidate. That’s not to say other parts of the room, he was playing exactly that way. But for the Ohio delegation, there’s still a lot of reservations.”

CASTELE: “And we’ve been trying to talk to some of the statewide officials who are elected right now, many of them probably going to seek other offices in 2018, to see how are they fielding this Trump phenomenon while they’re thinking about what are they going to do two years from now. And you talked with Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor. What’d she say?”

SCHULTZE: “Well, beyond not saying whether she’s running for governor or not, what she said is what many of them said: It is a choice bewteen Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and given that choice, I have to go with Donald Trump. But then when you say, ‘Okay, so what does that mean, what are you going to be doing for the next four months,’ it  comes down to Rob Portman.”

MARY TAYLOR: “I think that it’s important to support Republicans. I’m really concerned and interested in reelecting Rob Portman. And so I really want to focus a lot of effort there.”

CASTELE: “And I talked with Mike DeWine, the attorney general, who also is likely going to be running for governor in 2018. And he basically followed the exact same script.”

SCHULTZE: “And that’s very much the theme all the way through. All week long, I’ve been attending those breakfasts of the Ohio delegation, and the one name in the room that was rarely mentioned was Donald Trump. Overnight, that changed when Matt Borges, the state party chairman, got a call from Donald Trump. And they talked, and they apparently, following that line, said, ‘Well, it’s Hillary or it’s Donald Trump, let’s put our energy together and go after Hillary Clinton.’”

CASTELE: “Do you think that Borges is going to be trying to change his approach to running the Republican ship here in Ohio now that Trump is the nominee?”

SCHULTZE: “Well, he says right now, what he looks at is the 1 million dollar number. That’s the number of people who came over and voted in the primary, in the Republican primary. Some of whom were former Democrats, some of whom had never identified with either party.”

MATT BORGES: “And so, lot of new people in the process, lot of Democrats that came over to vote Republican. And it’s our job now to work on those folks to try to keep them in our column, keep them voting Republican down the line.”

SCHULTZE: “And of course to get to those million people, to get the message to those million people, the Republican Party and Donald Trump need a lot of organization…But Matt Borges did say that they expect to have some announcements soon on additional hires.”

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