When Republicans convene in Cleveland to nominate Donald Trump president next month, state Sen. Shannon Jones won’t be in the room.
Jones, a Springboro Republican who was a delegate to the convention, said today that she has resigned rather than support the bombastic billionaire’s White House bid.
She said she decided to resign because her and her husband are trying to teach their children about respecting women and valuing diversity — values, she said, Trump does not represent.
“My kids are looking at me now,” she said. “My husband and I want to be an example to them of what’s acceptable and what’s not, and some things just transcend politics.”
She made her comments on the same day that Ohio Gov. John Kasich, appearing on Fox News, acknowledged that it’s possible that he will go to Cleveland next month and not endorse Trump for president. He said it was “hard to say” if he would ever endorse Trump.
He said he and Trump have a “different version, a different value system and a different objective.”
“Why would I feel compelled to support somebody whose positions I fundamentally disagree with?” he asked, adding that the choice between Trump and Clinton “is not a very good choice.”
With roughly a month before the convention, Trump appears to be increasingly alienating members of the party whose presidential nomination he seeks.
Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., earlier this week, rescinded his endorsement. And House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has offered an endorsement, said that Trump’s comments on a judge overseeing a case against Trump University were “the textbook definition of a racist comment.” Trump had said the judge — who has a Hispanic surname — was biased against him because he is a Mexican. The judge is from Indiana.
’It’s not unusual’
Even as that dynamic plays out, others are sending regrets to Cleveland. Rather than the all-star cast of Republican luminaries the city had hoped to attract when it first won the convention, they’re watching many high-profile Republicans say no thanks.
Sens. Roy Blunt and Kelly Ayotte, Republicans from Missouri and New Hampshire respectively who both face tough re-election bids, won’t go, figuring their time is best suited shopping for votes back home. The past two Republican nominees – former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain of Arizona — are also passing.
By contrast, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio — who also faces a tough re-election bid — said he’ll go. But he’ll have many events outside the hall, including an event with Habitat for Humanity and a kayaking event with Wounded Warriors.
“I never planned to spend all that much time in the convention hall,” Portman said.
He said despite the tumultuous nature of the presidential race – and the possibility of protests in Cleveland – the convention is still a win for the city.
“I think this is going to be an opportunity for us to showcase Cleveland,” he said. “That’s why I think it’s important to have a convention there…I think this can be very positive.”
He joins all Republican House members in his decision to attend.
“While I may not always agree with our presumptive presidential nominee on everything, I am a Republican, and I’m excited to go interact with thousands of Republicans from around the country,” said Rep. Steve Stivers R-Upper Arlington.
On the statewide level, Attorney General Mike DeWine will go, said a spokesperson. And Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted will be in Cleveland the week of the convention, though it’s unclear whether he’ll actually go to the convention site.
Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics said the convention will have less allure this year for Republicans who are running in tough races.
“It sounds like spin, but when a member says, ‘I want to spend time in my district doing events,’ to me, that’s not a crazy argument…going to the convention does not seem like a vitally important thing for House members.”
He said it won’t necessarily hurt the members who do show up, though he acknowledges it’s a “powerful statement” for the members who say they’re not showing up specifically because of Trump.
But Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Genoa Township, disagrees, saying lawmakers in tough fights often skip conventions.
“There’s always members who choose not to go for political reasons,” he said. “I know members here who haven’t gone to any conventions. It depends on the year. It depends on your own race. It’s not unusual.”
Dan Birdsong, a political science professor at the University of Dayton, said the culmination is that it “does send a signal of disunity” that could resonate in the fall. He said the traditional grassroots supporters may be a little more loathe to spend their time and money on a candidate that polarizes voters.
He wonders if the level of dismay “is sending a signal to some within the electorate that ‘we don’t support this nominee fully and we’re maybe going to sit this one out.’”
He said Portman runs a risk, primarily among independents who might be turned off by Trump. “If he’s standing next to Trump or being perceived as a Trump Republican, that could move people away from Portman to his opponent,” he said. “That’s a gamble he has to take.”
Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges said the state party will work with the Kasich campaign in order to decide whether to appoint a new delegate or use an alternate to replace Jones. He said it’s not unusual for a delegate to resign. He said a few delegates for Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania resigned in 2012 rather than support eventual nominee Mitt Romney.
Jones, meanwhile, said she had little choice but to resign as a delegate.
“Conscientious objection has been in our political discourse since the founding of our nation,” she said. “I just believe the American people are better than the choices we have.”