Kasich Hopes for a Lifeline from the State He Governs

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – As the presidential nominating contest moves onto Gov. John Kasich’s home turf next week, the state’s Republican governor comes out of Michigan with a close third-place finish and looking for a lifeline.

Businessman and reality show host Donald Trump won Michigan with 36.5% of the vote, giving him one of his three wins in Tuesday’s four contests. Kasich, one of four remaining major candidates in the contest for the GOP nomination, finished just behind U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, with 24.3% of the vote to Cruz’s 24.9% with 99% of the vote counted early this morning

Kasich finished a distant third in Mississippi, with 8.8% of the vote, behind Trump and Cruz but ahead of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, and fourth in Idaho and Hawaii behind his three opponents.

John Weaver, chief strategist for the Kasich campaign, pointed out that the Ohio governor had been “dead last” in Michigan less than two weeks ago and “surged to an unexpectedly strong finish” last night, putting the campaign ahead of schedule.

“Our campaign has always said that as the race goes deeper into the calendar and the field narrows, Gov. Kasich’s positive message and proven record will begin to break through,” Weaver said.

Kasich, who also placed second in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont, looked to use a strong Michigan finish as a springboard for Ohio’s winner-take-all March 15 primary.

“If we don’t do well here and we don’t win in Ohio we’ll be in trouble,” Tracey Winbush, vice-chairwoman of the Mahoning County Republican Party, said Tuesday afternoon. Winbush, who sits on the state central committee for the Ohio Republican Party, was in Michigan making calls and stumping for the governor.

“The more they know about John Kasich the more they like him,” Winbush said. “A lot of people who said they voted early wished they hadn’t.”

Late deciders went to Kasich, according to the Kasich campaign.

Voters “are fed up with the theatrics and long for a responsible candidate,” Winbush said. “People are tired of the fighting. We’re the United States of America, not the Divided States.”

Kasich has been touting his endorsement Sunday by actor and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his campaign committee, Kasich for America, announced a “major statewide” television and digital ad buy in Ohio for its new ad, “Rise.” The ad “praises the tenacious and innovative spirit of Ohioans” who worked with Kasich and challenges them “to rally behind” Kasich again “to change America like they’ve changed Ohio.”

Public Policy Polling’s most recent poll shows Trump leading Kasich, 38% to 35%.

With early voting under way, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted reported Tuesday that 328,620 absentee ballots had been requested by mail and in person by Friday, and 173,497 voters had already cast ballots.

Of those, 149,296 Democratic ballots had been requested and 84,824 ballots cast, and 167,697 Republican ballots had been requested and 84,446 cast. .

Mark Munroe, Mahoning County GOP chairman, reports activity is heavy at the party’s Boardman office. “I’m fielding lots of phone calls and talking to lots of people who walk into the office,” he remarked.

Most of that interest he attributed to Trump. About 80% of the calls he gets are about the candidate.

“What’s been remarkable is the interest in so many Democrats who want to vote in the Republican primary and we’ve seen evidence of that at the board of elections,” Munroe reported. “Maybe 10% of the Democrats who are asking for absentee ballots are asking for a Republican ballot.”

In addition, a lot of people identified as unaffiliated are requesting GOP ballots “in large numbers,” he said.

“There’s a lot of people choosing Republican ballots this time,” affirmed Joyce Kale-Pesta, director of the Mahoning County Board of Elections. Some are switching their party registration from Democrat and others have never voted in primaries before.

“Most of them coming in are saying they’re going to vote for Trump,” she remarked.

So far, there have been 5,314 requests for Democratic ballots and 3,354 Republican ballots, according to Chris Rakocy, information technology manager at the Mahoning County board.

In 2008, the last presidential election without an incumbent on the ballot, 15,000 total absentee ballots were cast, and this year’s election is running on pace with that, Rakocy said.

In Columbiana County, 657 requests for Democratic ballots have been made and 1,033 requests for GOP ballots, reported Adam Booth, director of the county elections board.

The county isn’t seeing as many crossover requests from Democrats as from people who are unaffiliated, Booth said. “There’s a large number of those people requesting Republican ballots more so than Democrats, almost two to one,” he said.

A few said they wanted to vote in the GOP primary because of Trump. “A couple even claimed it was to vote against him,” he added.

The director of the Trumbull County Board of Elections, Stephanie Penrose, reports 3,871 requests for Democratic ballots and 2,546 for Republican ballots.

“If you look at 2008, we’re a little bit behind the numbers,” Penrose said. “It’s actually surprising to me.” Numbers are ahead of 2012, which had an incumbent president running for reelection.

A few individuals have said or even written on their ballot request that they wanted to vote for Trump, but for the most part they don’t say anything, Penrose said.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.