- By Laura A. Bischoff Columbus Bureau
Just days after his former campaign chairman was convicted and his former lawyer pleaded guilty, President Donald Trump returned to Ohio to rally the Republican Party faithful for the statewide ticket in the 2018 midterm elections.
In a speech that ran nearly an hour, Trump served up red meat attacks on Democrats Richard Cordray, Sherrod Brown and those who want to eliminate the Immigration Customs Enforcement agency.
“Democrat immigration policies are destroying innocent lives and spilling innocent blood,” he said. “We believe that any party that puts criminal aliens before American citizens should be voted out of office, not into office.”
Trump was the keynote speaker at the Ohio GOP state dinner — a fundraiser where tickets started at $250.
Trump peppered his speech with shout-outs to Republican candidates, Fran DeWine and her campaign cookbooks, and Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. He said that Cordray, who is running for governor against Mike DeWine, “was groomed by Pocahontas” — a reference to U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a close Cordray ally.
“Cordray will destroy your state,” he said.
Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper responded that Cordray took on the fight against Wall Street greed and cronyism that destroyed lives.
“Let’s be clear: by attending tonight’s dinner and campaigning with Donald Trump, DeWine and Ohio Republicans are publicly aligning themselves with Trump and his agenda and look out for the wealthy and special interests,” Pepper said. “Their presence at tonight’s dinner is simply a slap in the face of working Ohio families.”
Trump ripped on the North American Free Trade Agreement and promised he’d renegotiate a better deal or end it — a statement met with a handful of claps and otherwise silence. And he boasted about the strength of the economy and signs that the American steel industry is roaring back.
“While Democrats delay, obstruct and resist, Republicans actually deliver,” he said.
Trump won Ohio in 2016 by 8.5 percentage points and he successfully engineered replacing the state party chair with his own pick — Jane Murphy Timken — but Ohio Gov. John Kasich and his wing of the party remain a thorn in the president’s side.
Kasich skipped Trump’s speech, saying this week that he’d rather spend time with his daughter before she moves to college. On Sunday political talk shows, Kasich regularly dishes out criticism of Trump’s policies and style. He and he is considered a potential challenger to Trump in 2020.
State Rep. Scott Lipps, R-Franklin, said Trump’s speech helps rally the troops ahead of the midterms. “In my district, President Trump is extremely popular and seen as a strong leader,” he said. Lipps added that Trump’s visit is designed to “energize the base. We’re only 75 days out from the election and President Trump is thanking us and we are going to thank him.”
State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, agreed, saying Trump’s appearance helps unify the party ahead of the 2018 midterms and going into the president’s 2020 re-election bid. “He wants a strong Ohio Republican Party for 2020,” he said.
On Tuesday, the president’s former personal attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight criminal counts and said he and Trump arranged to pay hush money to two women in an attempt to influence the 2016 election. The same day, Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman, was convicted on tax- and bank-fraud charges.
A new poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows 60 percent of Americans disapprove of Trump’s job performance. A majority of Americans are negative about Trump’s handling of North Korea, taxes, trade negotiations, the federal budget deficit, immigration, health care, foreign policy and the Russia investigation. Fifty-one percent approve of how Trump is handling the economy, the survey showed.
In a strange juxtaposition, an anime convention was held at the same time at the Columbus Convention Center. Republicans in dark suits and fancy dresses and anime fans dressed as cartoon and video game characters strolled the hallways together before the GOP dinner.