Democrats gather in Columbus as Obama talks policy, Trump

Posted at 10:33 PM, Oct 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-13 23:05:37-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Over 2,000 Democrats came together Thursday night to downtown Columbus for the annual Ohio Democratic Party Dinner to hear a man who only has 98 days left at his job, though many of them might wish he were staying longer.

Obama talked policy and Trump's candidacy but stayed away from outright mentioning recently released video footage and assault allegations, all while Trump spoke at the same time at a rally in Cincinnati.

Obama went after Sen. Rob Portman, but subtly

Obama spoke out against Republican leaders who have withdrawn their support from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump after a 2005 video leaked in which he made inappropriate comments about women.

"There are some people who knew better, but they still endorsed him," Obama said. "So they don’t get credit for when a video comes out that has no decency with being said, that they get to withdraw their nomination."

Many national and state Republican leaders have withdrawn their support from Trump’s candidacy -- about 19 percent of Republican state governors, federal senators and federal representatives don’t support Trump. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman withdrew his support for Trump’s candidacy last Saturday.

Portman said he plans to not support Trump and to vote for current Republican vice-presidential nominee Indiana Gov. Mike Pence for president, presumably as a write-in candidate.

Democrats feel mixed about Clinton’s chances in Ohio

A Wall Street Journal/NBC/Marist poll was released Thursday that showed the presidential election race in Ohio particularly tight, with Donald Trump having a 1-point lead. Presidential election polling in Ohio has been much tighter than on the national level, where Clinton has a 7-point lead.

"There’s a lot of blue collar workers in Ohio, and I think he’s tapped into something in the way he speaks to them that isn’t like other Republicans," Judy Marsh, a registered Democrat from Powell, Ohio, said. "I think Ohio is going to be a big struggle for her. I have been thinking for a while that she might not win Ohio. But she may not need it either."

Ohio Democratic Party chairman David Pepper was confident that Clinton's ground game would eventually put her over the top.

"I think everyone is crazy over polls, I think it’s time to stop going crazy over polls. Everyone knows Ohio is going to be close. We know that," Pepper said. "The better ground game in Ohio is going to win the state, and that’s just how it works. We have the far better ground game from day one."

Trump also held a “millennial” rally seven blocks away from the ODP Dinner

Before the Ohio Democratic Party dinner in the afternoon, Trump bused in college students from Ohio’s major universities ranging from Ohio University (in Athens, Ohio) to Miami University to hear him speak about policy initiatives aimed at younger voters.

The private event was held in the Renaissance Columbus Downtown Hotel, about seven blocks away from the ODP dinner, which was in the Downtown Columbus Convention Center.

"I think the millennial vote is extremely crucial," Daniel O'Connor, Democratic nominee for Franklin County Recorder "Mr. Trump had an invite-only rally today. You can’t compare that to Hillary’s rally at the Ohio State University, which had thousands of students there."

Democrats are trying to shore up Ohio’s Senate race

Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland is currently down by 17 points to Sen. Rob Portman, and state Democrats were trying to make a case for a Strickland win amid the polling deficit.

"Ted has always been a good friend of mine," Obama said. "I remember working with him in the House of Representatives. And we need to elect strong, good leaders like Ted Strickland."

The polls don't matter as long as Strickland gets out his message, David Pepper said.

"I have concerns about outside money attacking a good person, but what I don’t have concerns about is the race," Pepper said. "I think Ted has a real path here. I think the farther Clinton moves ahead, the more Ted moves up."

Sen. Sherrod Brown expects "more tapes" and allegations with Trump

Sen. Sherrod Brown was very vocal about allegations of sexual assault against Trump, even though Obama wouldn’t mention the controversy by name.

“So many women get brought back memories of sexual assault from his comments," Brown said. "I think there will be more tapes and more allegations that come out from this as we get closer to election day."

Who goes where from here?

Obama will be in near Cleveland on Friday to give a speech at the Burke Lakefront Airport. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump will be in North Carolina holding rallies in Greensboro, North Carolina, and Charlotte, North Carolina.

Liam Niemeyer is a fellow in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Statehouse News Bureau. You can reach him at