Ohio is expected to play a vital role in President Donald Trump's 2020 campaign. No Republican has ever won a race for the White House without carrying the state, and supporters say they plan to win in Ohio again with a common talking point: the economy.
It's no secret that Trump's impeachment will play a big role in the 2020 race. He even addresses it head-on at his rallies, like the one in Battle Creek, MI, where he said, "It doesn't really feel like we're being impeached. We did nothing wrong, we did nothing wrong."
In Ohio, the typically bellwether state, the Trump campaign says all the congressional hearings and investigations only distract Democrats.
"What we found is that that the president's supporters are angry about what the Democrats have done in the house," says Bob Paduchik, Trump 2020 senior advisor and former co-chair of the RNC. "They see that this impeachment effort is nothing - that it is a partisan game; that the rules are changed; that it's being conducted on a partisan level; that there's nothing fair about the process and they're angry and that makes them more motivated."
Ohio Republican Party Chairman Jane Timken says the economy will be a clear reason why voters will be drawn to vote for the president come November.
"The president's delivered. He said he was going to run on an America First agenda; that he was going to bring jobs back; that he was going to make sure the economy was growing," says Timken, who was picked by Trump to lead the state Party after his 2016 win.
Timken says the Trump campaign has a lot more muscle going into 2020 now, starting with the official backing of the Ohio GOP, which Trump didn't have four years ago when John Kasich won the presidential primary. Timken adds that Trump already has a strong campaign presence in Ohio.
"We have almost 20 field staff on the ground and they've been on the ground for the most part since July through the end of the summer. And their job, quite frankly, was to connect with voters," says Timken.
The staff has been building local support around the state by holding "Make America Great Again" rallies, where the campaign connects with volunteers. Trump himself will be in Toledo on Jan. 9 for his very first 2020 rally.
Mike Gonidakis, Trump delegate and executive director of Ohio Right To Life, says Democrats like to target the president on his rhetoric and controversial statements he makes on Twitter. However, Gonidakis argues that the average Ohio voter does not view the president's term under a microscope, but instead zooms out to a larger picture.
"What they want to see at the end of the day is, is the economy doing OK? I do I have more opportunities than I had before?" says Gonidakis. "And is our nation safe? I think those are the foundations that people are looking for and times are good - they're going to pull the lever for the person in power and they did that for Barack Obama, which is why most presidents get re-elected. And the same thing we believe will happen for President Trump."
Critics of the president say America's economy isn't as good as Trump reports, pointing to places like Lordstown which lost the General Motors Chevy Cruze plant and Appalachia where the coal industry is struggling and unemployment is much higher than the state and national average. But supporters push back saying some areas are seeing a resurgence.
Paduchik says the campaign and Republican party feel confident about their message and their game plan, but urges that winning Ohio is critical.
"He cannot get reelected without winning Ohio. It's impossible. There's no real scenario where he loses Ohio and wins Pennsylvania or Michigan. It just doesn't happen. Ohio is a good bellwether of the country. Nothing's changed with that. And I think that you see the investment that's been made early on. We have a couple dozen staffers on board here. They're getting ready, they put plans together to do some hiring early part of next year and the investment's there," Paduchik says.
While Democrats have been touting their increasing support in Ohio's suburbs, Republicans argue the state is still solidly "red." They point to the 2018 election results where the Republican gubernatorial nominee Mike DeWine beat Democratic nominee Rich Cordray by about four percentage points and a turnout of nearly 56%.
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