Ohio Republican Party Chairwoman Jane Timken credited President Trump’s visit with helping push Mike DeWine over the top in a hard-fought gubernatorial race Tuesday but the party’s vaunted “ground game” sure didn’t hurt.
An army of volunteers and paid staff worked as hard in 2018 as they did in 2016 when Trump was on the ballot. Not only did DeWine win but so did all of the statewide candidates for secretary of state, attorney general, state auditor and treasurer. Every GOP congressmen who was targeted by the Democrats for a “blue wave” also came away victorious, in some cases despite huge funding advantages for the Democrats.
Timken told Ohio media that her party made 300,000 phone calls Tuesday and sent 500,000 text messages to encourage its voters to get to the polls. That was preceded by weeks of set-up work carried out by trained volunteers making personal contact with voters.
Learning from Obama
The success of the GOP ground game can be traced, ironically, back to a painful lesson delivered by President Obama and the Democrats.
Mandi Merritt, the Ohio spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said the GOP learned how to run a successful ground game in Ohio by studying President Obama’s organization in the state in 2012.
“Republicans have been refining our ground game since 2012 after a painful defeat,” she said. “President Obama’s ground game was the most successful ever fielded up to that point, so we adopted it wholesale. No more focus on offices and massive deployments of people from outside areas into targeted neighborhoods, instead our door-to-door efforts became community based, and our investment in targeted states became permanent. ”
Before Tuesday, GOP activists – actual Ohioans – knocked on more than 2 million doors, and made over 3 million phone calls, Merritt said. “We activated over 10,500 volunteers that helped to engage voters across the state. Our superior ground-game is a direct testament to our dedication, enthusiasm and investment in securing Republican victories. And clearly, Democrats can’t match it.”
And while the Republicans are celebrating, the Democrats are left with lots to think about heading into 2020.
Dems bring in celebs
The Democrats seemed to rely heavily on celebrity star power. This same strategy backfired in Georgia, where Democrat Stacey Abrams lost the governor’s race despite bringing in President Obama, Oprah Winfrey and a slew of hip-hop artists.
Watch the video tweeted by Richard Cordray on Election Day and you will see the strategy in play — vote for Cordray because John Legend, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Eric Holder say that’s the best decision for Ohio.
Thank you to so many of our friends for helping us build a campaign that will take Ohio into its future. Now @BettySutton and I need your vote – please make your voice heard! pic.twitter.com/uO7RAmi1Q0
— Rich Cordray (@RichCordray) November 6, 2018
The Cincinnati Enquirer mused that big changes may be ahead for the Democrat Party in Ohio. It assessed the party’s performance with this stunning rebuke:
Some people on social media were calling for Cincinnati’s David Pepper to step down as Ohio Democratic Party chairman late Tuesday night. It’s a thankless job, and Pepper put a respectable group of statewide candidates on the ballot. It’s on the individual candidates to go out and appeal to voters, and their campaigns ultimately failed from Mercer to Meigs counties. Looking back, maybe Jerry Springer should’ve run for governor. His populist appeal might’ve helped Dems fare better out in the boonies.”
The Enquirer also called out Ohio progressives as one of this week’s biggest losers. The paper pointed out that the night’s only real Democrat winner, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), had a much tougher time beating “a weak opponent” than pollsters had predicted. Most polls showed Brown beating Jim Renacci by 10 to 20 points. Brown won by only six points.
“These folks were loud and vicious in the social media echo-chamber during another election cycle,” the Enquirer said of Ohio’s progressives. “But once again, they were silenced on Election Night. For the second straight year, the progressives’ chosen candidate was served a big helping of humble pie. Yvette Simpson lost to Mayor Cranley last year. [Aftab] Pureval was the latest Cincinnati progressive to be overly ambitious and have his inexperience exposed by a veteran campaigner.”
This from a newspaper that showed no love for conservatives. Enquirer political reporter Jason Williams referred to Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH-1) as a “career politician.” As for Renacci, the paper said “good riddance to this guy” and accused him of running a “shallow campaign” that included “unfounded sexual assault allegations” against Brown.
Whatever the cause of their disappointing performance, the Democrats just could not match Trump’s star power, nor could they overcome the GOP’s stellar ground game.
– – –