Here’s a figure Republicans say should worry Ohio’s Democrats: 2,014,396.
That’s the number of Republicans who flocked to the polls during Ohio’s March 15 primary.
Republicans far outmatched the nearly 1.26 million Democrats who showed up to the polls on that day. The GOP showing looked similar to the enthusiasm Democrats had at the primary polls in 2008, when President Barack Obama took the White House.
Republicans say it’s a sign that they have the upper hand headed into November and proof that presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump is attracting new voters to the party.
“Those are the fundamentals of an election we should win,” Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges said of the GOP’s voter advantage.
Not so fast, though, Democratic leaders say.
“I’ve enjoyed watching the Republicans gloat about their number (of primary voters) but, the truth is, a whole lot of people showed up because they wanted to stop Donald Trump,” Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper countered. “To me it shows there’s a lot of energy in Ohio to stop Donald Trump.”
Pepper and other Democratic leaders argue that many Republicans hate-voted against Trump in March. Now, they hope to capitalize on voters’ dislike of him in November. They’ll target independent or Democrat voters who voted for Ohio Gov. John Kasich in an attempt to withhold the GOP nomination from Trump.
Kasich picked up nearly 230,000 more votes than Trump in the Ohio primary and won by large margins in urban areas throughout the state.
But Pepper acknowledges that the areas where Trump did win – such as the eastern, rural part of the state – highlight some weakness for the Democratic Party. He said the party will focus on steering blue collar, union workers away from a Trump ballot.
The party, he said, plans to highlight Trump’s flip-flopping on minimum wage as well as the foreign labor he used to manufacture the clothing he sold in the U.S.
“There were some Democrats in some parts of the state that voted for Trump, largely on the issue of trade,” Pepper said. “There may be some appeal because he has talked about trade in the way he has recently. We have to make sure we’re fighting on that record. He’s certainly had a long record of supporting things that have hurt workers.”
And those are the voters the Republicans will fight for, too, said Hamilton County Republican Chairman Alex Triantafilou.
He believes white, working class voters will stick with Trump in the fall, and that could have a big impact on other Republican races around the state, including Ohio Sen. Rob Portman’s race against former Gov. Ted Strickland.
“They’re going to be the ones who have a harder sell,” Triantafilou said of the Democrats. “A lot of white, Democrat, union voters are sick of Hillary Clinton (and) Obama.”
Triantafilou believes Republicans will have momentum on their side when November rolls around, pointing out that a few polling locations in Hamilton County ran out of ballots because of the unexpectedly high turnout.
“I don’t think that record turnout had anything to do with the Democrats,” Triantafilou said. “A little part of it was Donald Trump.”
The other part that drove high turnout? Kasich. Some believe excitement for Republicans will soon fade, especially in Ohio, when the state’s governor is no longer on the ballot.
More than 115,000 previously Democratic Ohio voters switched to the Republican Party in March. Ohio Rep. Denise Driehaus, a Democrat who is also running in a competitive race for a Hamilton County Commission seat this fall, said some Democrats switched parties to vote for Kasich and keep Trump from the nomination.
“I was out at the polls and people were telling me that they had switched over – these are Democrats,” Driehaus said. “There was some enthusiasm for John Kasich – especially in Hamilton County – and without him on the ticket, that enthusiasm goes away. “