Ohio Delegates Enjoy Prominence as RNC’s Host

CLEVELAND – It felt like a scene out of a family reunion, only in tighter confines. As the Ohio delegates to the Republican National Convention flowed into their breakfast meeting at the DoubleTree by Hilton this morning, there were handshakes and congratulations and hugs aplenty.

Updates on the kids’ last swim meet or tales from a grandparent’s birthday party were mixed in with pressed-for-time interviews in front of red, white and blue balloons and a TV interview backdrop proclaiming “A Party United. A State of Freedom.”

Some delegates talked about what had happened at their committee meetings and conferences over the weekend while others discussed the thunderstorms that rolled through downtown early Monday morning. By the time the doors were closed and the first speaker took the podium, however, everyone’s focus was on politics and convention business for the rest of the week and, looking ahead, the remainder of the election season.

For longtime convention attendees, the scene in Cleveland isn’t too different from conventions past. The grandeur and attention given to the quadrennial event has grown over the years, but inside the buildings hosting official events, the atmosphere is largely the same as it’s always been.

“You’ve got the political leadership from all over the country together, talking about the issues. I don’t see much of a difference,” said David Johnson, chairman of the Columbiana County Republican Party. “Everybody’s upbeat and positive. I think it’ll be a close race but I do see a path to winning. Everyone thinks [Indiana Gov. Mike] Pence was a good decision balancing out the ticket.”

Johnson said his first GOP convention was in 1988 convention in New Orleans, when George H.W. Bush was chosen as the nominee. In the meetings in hotels, conference centers and Quicken Loans Arena, what the convention provides, he observed, is a forum to exchange ideas.

“It’s the Super Bowl of politics. Everyone that’s here is either a county chairman or a legislator or a congressman or someone who volunteers for the party. These are the party’s true believers,” he said.

As the host delegation, Ohio Republicans are lodged at one of the hotels near the Quicken Loans Arena and were expected to seated in a prominent place when the convention is called to order at 1 p.m. But instead, the delegation found itself seated at the back of the room in an apparent snub to the state’s governor, according to media reports.

Still, Matt Borges, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, was quick to tout this big week for Cleveland and the Buckeye State.

“What an honor it is to bring our party’s convention back to Ohio for the first time in 80 year. Ohio is the center of the political universe, everyone knows that,” he said.

Borges noted the GOP’s first primary debate was held last year in Cleveland and the first general election debate will be this October in Dayton at Wright State University.

During interviews with news organizations before the breakfast event, Borges pointed to a public opinion poll that found 60% of Ohioans surveyed most associated the word “liar” with Hillary Clinton.

“We don’t want to a career politician in the White House. We don’t want to put a liar in the White House, we’re going to have to make sure we carry Ohio for Donald Trump,” he said.

“We have a million new registered Republicans in Ohio. We know we need to carry the state for Rob Portman and our presidential candidate if we’re going to keep control of the U.S. Senate and put a Republican in the White House.”

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Editor’s Note: This story was updated to reflect reporting that Ohio’s delegation was seated in the rear of the convention hall, not up front.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.