CLEVELAND – Two of Ohio's top Republican elected officials – Attorney General Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Jon Husted – agree that if Donald Trump is to win Ohio, he must lean on the party organization to do it.
"Ohio is always a crucial state in a presidential election and Trump is going to have to understand what he must do to win it,'' said DeWine, who is an announced candidate for Ohio governor in 2018.
"Sure, you can come into Ohio and give speeches, but that's not enough,'' said DeWine, a veteran of five decades in Ohio politics. "Here, you have to have grassroots organization. You have to have people on the ground, turning out the vote."
The Ohio Republican Party, DeWine told WVXU, has the machinery in place to do that, as do most county party organizations. But Trump must take advantage of it.
In an impromptu meeting with reporters outside the delegation hotel's ballroom, Husted – who is also a possible candidate for Ohio governor in 2018 – said Trump's base consists of voters who are angry and disillusioned with government in general, many of whom have never been involved in politics before.
But, Husted said, he must broaden his base beyond those voters who cast ballots for him because of anger with the system.
"If he refuses to do that, he is not going to win,'' Husted said.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who won the Ohio primary in March over Trump, tried to broaden the GOP brand to include non-traditional Republican voters, Husted said.
"We have a great team in the Republican Party, but it’s not a united team,'' Husted said. "If we could take the best of John Kasich, the best of (House Speaker) Paul Ryan and the best of Donald Trump, then we could unite."
But, Husted said, "Donald Trump has to be the one who is the healer."
Both DeWine and Husted were enthusiastic supporters of Kasich for the nomination.
DeWine said he "made it clear during the primary that I don't agree with everything Donald Trump said during the primaries. But the fact is, you have only one other choice for president; and that is Hillary Clinton. And none of us want that.''
Trump's campaign has to understand, DeWine said, "that in Ohio, elections are won county by county, city by city, town by town. Trump needs to tap into the Ohio GOP's grassroots organization."
DeWine said Trump has a good campaign director in Bob Paduchik, who ran George W. Bush's Ohio campaigns in 2000 and 2004, as well as Sen. Rob Portman's successful campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2010.
"Bob Paduchik knows what it takes to win Ohio,'' DeWine said. "If I were Donald Trump, I would listen to him."