CINCINNATI — Jerry Springer hasn’t run for public office in Ohio for more than two decades – he’s been busy hosting a daytime talk show – but Democrats hope he can help turn the state blue next year.
Springer has been on a tour of Ohio during the last two weeks, trekking up north to Bowling Green and making a stop at Miami University to speak to the college’s Democrats.
His talks have targeted young Ohioans that Democrats hope to convert into believers and, more importantly, voters.
“We worry that young people today are watching politics and getting turned off,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper. “If you hear (Springer) speak, he has one of the most powerful voices.”
On Wednesday, Springer, the host of The Jerry Springer Show, had a homecoming in Cincinnati.
State representatives, City Council members and party leaders were packed wall-to-wall to hear the 71-year-old speak in the basement of MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine. Some approached him, cell phone in hand, asking for a picture. He was greeted with applause and a few faint chants of “Jerry! Jerry!”
The noise grew louder when Springer turned the subject of his speech to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump Wednesday.
“The reason the Republican Party is having such a problem with Donald Trump is because he really is the face of the party,” Springer said. “They don’t know how to deal with him because they’re saying what the base (of the party) really believes but they don’t want to say in public.”
Springer was Cincinnati’s mayor in 1977, at the age of 33, and he lost the Democratic primary to be Ohio’s governor in 1982.
While he hasn’t held public office since then, he’s been influencing politics and elections in Ohio behind the scenes.
He’s donated more than $142,000 to statewide Democratic races since 2010, including a $50,000 check to the Ohio Democratic Party before the last presidential election, state records show. He records a weekly podcast every Tuesday at a coffee shop in Ludlow, Kentucky. He’s more known around the country for his TV show, but in these parts, politicos still gather to hear him wax political.
“He’s actually in Cincinnati, quietly, every year,” said Hamilton County Democratic Chairman Tim Burke of Springer’s work on Ohio campaigns. He said Springer has helped the party sign up campaign volunteers in exchange for his autograph on Fountain Square, for example.
Springer will likely be back to Ohio again during the next year. As all eyes soon turn to Ohio, the notorious swing state, for the 2016 presidential election, he'll push for voters here to pick the Democratic candidate on the ballot box.
“He told me, ‘David, I have no bigger priority in my life than keeping Ohio blue again,” Pepper said of next year’s election.