Donald Trump's Ohio campaign rolls out statewide tour to court women voters

Posted at 6:41 AM, Sep 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-09 07:35:55-04

CINCINNATI -- Donald Trump’s campaign has hired paid staff in Ohio, opened more offices here and Friday launched a statewide touring featuring D-list celebrities who will work to win over women voters on his behalf.

Those are the typical trappings of a presidential nominee’s Ohio ground game that were glaringly absent from Trump’s campaign operation just weeks ago.

With just 60 days to go until Election Day, Trump’s strategy in Ohio is beginning to look like a more traditional campaign -- of sorts.

Republican women will gather Friday morning Downtown at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza to sip coffee and hear from a female roster featuring Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump and The Apprentice personality Omarosa talking up the GOP nominee.

Cincinnati is the first stop in a three-day “Women for Trump Ohio Tour” the campaign announced Thursday. In Dayton, female Trump enthusiasts will meet with a local pastor to talk about services for inner-city youth. The following day, they will head to Akron to tour a homeless shelter.

Past presidential nominees would have hosted similar tours dozens of times at this point in the year, but it’s a tactic Trump has rarely deployed in the state until now, instead relying on rallies and national television appearances to drum up support from voters across the country, including crucial battleground states such as Ohio.

"Donald Trump’s approach to this race is different," said Mack Mariani, a political science professor at Xavier University. “He’s a non-traditional candidate in a lot of ways – he doesn’t really rely on a lot of (campaign) surrogates. His goal is to reach out to people who are sitting at home, listening on the radios, on TV."

That strategy could be changing after last month, when Trump started showing big losses in national polls, fired his campaign manager and put a new staffer in charge. Most polls found Democrat presidential nominee Hillary Clinton enjoying at least a five-point lead in August.

In Ohio, for example, the Trump campaign opened 15 new offices, trained volunteers and hired a handful of new staffers during the last four weeks.

"Look, at a certain point, you look at polling, you look at the path to victory, see that it’s narrow and realize you do have to change things up," said Jared Kamrass, a Cincinnati-based political strategist who works on Democratic campaigns.

Campaign visits from reality TV stars and the candidate’s family members don’t garner as much excitement or media coverage as an appearance by the candidate himself, but the events do serve to rally the troops.

YouTube stars Lynette “Diamond” Hardaway and Rochelle “Silk” Richardson, sisters known as “Diamond and Silk” who broadcast their love for Trump in videos they post to Facebook and Twitter, will tour with Omarosa and Lara Trump throughout Ohio this weekend.

The duo is a favorite of Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Alex Triantafilou, who will be at the Cincinnati breakfast to see them Friday morning.

“It makes a difference. It lifts your spirits to see them out there," Triantafilou said of visits from campaign surrogates, people who lobby for voters on the candidate’s behalf. "When you get a chance to see and hear from the nominees, or others, there’s a certain energy about it. You walk away with a greater enthusiasm."

Trump’s slow start to building a campaign apparatus in Ohio still might hurt him, however.

Clinton’s campaign opened campaign offices and hired paid staffers in Ohio early this summer. Celebrities, including television star Kristin Davis and Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan, campaigned around the state for her early last month.

Small-scale campaign events throughout the state often help to get voters registered and put them on the campaign’s mailing or phone bank lists. That’s what campaigns use to bombard potential voters with door knocks or phone calls reminding them to trek to the polls on Election Day.

The Trump campaign is just now launching some of those grassroots efforts -- a month before voters must be registered on Oct. 11. Early voting starts the next day.

And, Trump is also at a disadvantage in Ohio because some of the state’s most popular Republicans -- Gov. John Kasich and Sen. Rob Portman -- either haven’t endorsed him or have refused to travel around the state to excite voters for him, Wright State University political science professor Lee Hannah pointed out.

"When you have big-time political or pop culture types of icons going out there … they have an opportunity to register like-minded voters, mobilize them," Hannah said. “Your ground game is carrying your supporters to the finish line. When you lack that, and think it can be done from a distance, you may be persuading some people. You’re not actually ensuring they go out and vote."