MEMORANDUM: Ohio GOP Primary Leaves Party Fractured
TO: Interested Parties
FROM: David Turner, DGA
RE: Ohio GOP Primary Leaves Party Fractured
The Ohio Republican gubernatorial primary leaves the GOP fractured and broken while Democrats are solidly behind Richard Cordray. While Democrats debated policies, Republicans tore each other apart with a vicious personal campaign that imitated the policies and the tone of Donald Trump.
An early ad in the Ohio Republican gubernatorial primary set the tone for one of the ugliest elections in recent memory. Instead of the typical biographical focus of most introduction ads, Mary Taylor’s Super PAC went right for the jugular by questioning Mike DeWine’s allegiance to Donald Trump.
DeWine promptly responded with a negative ad of his own, attacking Mary Taylor as insufficiently conservative, and it only got worse from there.
In fact, of more than 19,126 total spots, 16,957 or more than 88% of the ads in the GOP primary were negative. With more than $9.5 million of television advertising, DeWine’s image is battered going into election day. Democratic ads were almost entirely positive.
As we have seen in other races – most notably Virginia last year and Illinois in April – this kind of mudslinging does not wash off easily. His task is made even more difficult by the fact he and Mary Taylor shunned John Kasich the entire primary. DeWine attacked Kasich’s Medicaid expansion as “not sustainable” and Taylor called for “ending John Kasich’s Obamacare expansion.”
Mike DeWine now heads into the general election playing the role of Humpty Dumpty and trying to put the party back together again.
And it’s a different party now: John Kasich’s Republican Party is no more. The Ohio GOP is now the Party of Trump.
Watchdog vs. Special Interest Insider
Richard Cordray’s convincing win makes it clear Democrats have rallied behind his values of taking on special interests that hurt consumers, fighting for economic fairness, and being a watchdog for Ohio’s families.
In Mike DeWine, Republicans have nominated a 42 year veteran of protecting profits for special interests while leaving working and middle class families to fend for themselves. The profiles of the two candidates – fighting for families vs. protecting his own donors – could not create a starker contrast.
All About That Trump
The tone of the primary was bad enough, but the great Trump-off was worse.
Mary Taylor and Mike DeWine spent the majority of the campaign arguing over who had stronger allegiance to Trump. Day after day, each candidate effusively endorsed the President and his disastrous policies for Ohio – like stripping away healthcare from hundreds of thousands of Ohioans and giving tax breaks to special interests while leaving the middle class behind.
The grotesque display of one-person-upsmanship was as unseemly as it is a turnoff to voters. In fact, Trump’s approval rating in Ohio has gone from 47% in July 2017 to 41% in recent polling.
DeWine’s cynical play may have worked to win him the primary, but it’s an anchor in the general election.
He spent most of the primary attaching himself to Trump’s policies, attacked Taylor, but never showed up. This middle ground hasn’t worked for others.
The real question is, will Mike DeWine campaign with Donald Trump before November?
Culture of Corruption
Mike DeWine’s other problem is his 42-year career defined by a culture of corruption. From his pattern of doling out state contracts to friends without the requisite experience to being involved in one of the largest ethics scandals in the history of Congress, DeWine has always looked to help himself before helping the people he represents.
Now, this year, two fresh new scandals have enveloped his office. The first involves the now former Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger who was forced to resign on April 11 after an FBI investigation into a suspicious overseas trip last year. DeWine made a ethically questionable call to Rosenberger prior to his resignation. These questions continue to swirl around his campaign.
Yet, this is not even the latest scandal he’s facing. After a whistleblower told the press the state of Ohio overpaid for-profit online school ECOT by $80 million during the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 school years, DeWine’s indifference to the corruption has stepped into the spotlight. He’s taken no direct measures to recoup the taxpayers’ money, nor has he opened a criminal probe into the company. This looks terrible already, but even worse when you account for the fact that ECOT’s founder and donors have sent more than $40,000 to DeWine and Husted over the years.
42 Years of Cronyism
Mary Taylor found a constituency in the Republican primary electorate by attacking Mike DeWine’s 42 years of cutting sweetheart deals for his special interest friends.
Unfortunately for DeWine, this problem didn’t end with the primary, and his history of putting profits for himself, his friends, and his donors over Ohioans will continue to haunt him.
He’s spent 42 years in Ohio politics and created a resume pockmarked with scandals.
At nearly every step along the way, the one consistent theme across his time in office is his propensity to go out of his way to help special interests.
It’s as if he made it his founding governing principle.
Mary Taylor attacked him time-and-again for his close ties to the swamp culture in D.C., and just as those attacks made for a closer than expected race, they are equally as devastating in the general election. This is particularly true as questions swirl around his role in The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow scandal, as well as his involvement in the resignation of Speaker Rosenberger.
Mike DeWine is a man out of his time. As someone who has spent his life in politics, he’s ill at ease in the Trump-era.
Crooked Mike – The Professional Insider
Mike DeWine attempts to be something to all people and ends up being nothing more than a professional insider with a penchant for corruption.
At a time when voters are rejecting politicians like him, he’s facing the task of unifying a Republican Party in the middle of a civil war, a President becoming more and more unpopular, and a history of enriching himself and his friends while hurting working and middle class Ohio families.
It’s a toxic mix voters are sure to reject in November.