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Campaign Notebook: Dueling bus tours in Central Ohio




Gov. DeWine addressing reporters in Columbus along with the Republican slate of statewide candidates. From left, Treasurer Robert Sprague, U.S. Sen. nominee J.D. Vance, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Attorney General Dave Yost, Gov. Mike DeWine, Fran DeWine, Supreme Court justices Pat Fischer and Pat DeWine. (Photo by Nick Evans, OCJ).

Brightly colored tour buses ferried Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Tim Ryan and the entire slate of statewide Republican nominees through Central Ohio campaign swings Thursday.

Ryan reiterated his message about the “exhausted majority,” and defeating extremism, while Republican Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted boasted about income tax cuts, Intel and police funding while slamming Washington, but not acknowledging national funding they’ve used to send money to law enforcement, nor the role of national legislation in securing Intel’s new New Albany microchip facility.

Republican Bus Tour

The Republican statewide ticket got a dramatic send off for its two-day bus tour. A red tour bus blanketed with the GOP slate’s names rolled up to the Boat House in Columbus through a thick bank of fog.

The candidates poured out — governor to treasurer with supreme court and U.S. Senate along, too — and headed for a get out the vote rally inside. About seventy-five of the party faithful sat in rows before the stage. Nearly that many staffers milled around in the back of the room.

Issue 1

Ohio Supreme Court justice Pat DeWine addressing the crowd, flanked by Justice Pat Fischer (left) and Justice Sharon Kennedy. (Photo by Nick Evans, OCJ.)

The Ohio Supreme Court candidates took the stage first proclaiming the importance of “tak(ing) back conservative control” on the bench. With Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor barred by age limits from seeking reelection, Democrats could take control of the court with this election. But despite Republican complaints to the contrary, conservatives already hold the majority. They’ve controlled the court since 1986.

O’Connor herself is the root of Republican frustrations. The chief justice infuriated many within the party when she sided with Democratic justices during the fight over redistricting. But the justices are just as upset about a different case where she broke ranks.

“If anyone wants to see the danger of an activist court, they just need look at the DuBose decision,” Justice Pat DeWine argued.

The majority in that case determined that, while judges can consider “public safety” when setting bail conditions like monitoring, they can’t use it as a factor in setting the cash amount. DeWine’s concerns about an “activist” judiciary notwithstanding, he and other Republicans have campaigned to overturn that decision at the ballot box.

“The three of us wrote dissents in that case, and Issue One is going to overrule the decision by the majority in that case,” DeWine said. “The reality is we cannot afford to have to amend the Constitution every time the Ohio Supreme Court decides a case. That’s why it’s critical that the three of us win this race.”

Ohio vs. Washington

The other Republican nominees all offered variations on a predictable theme. They readily took credit for every success in the past few years while laying every challenge at the White House door.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted touted low unemployment in Franklin County and massive income tax cuts. With more than a decade of complete Republican control at the state level, he argued “We got our fiscal house in order, and in Washington? Trillions and trillions of debt.”

Husted said the DeWine administration “funded” police. The money came from the federal American Rescue Plan. Prior to its passage, DeWine voiced opposition, and said he wouldn’t have voted for it.

Husted alleged that President Joe Biden’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline and restrictions on refineries are responsible for inflation.

“The inflation that you experience at the pump and in your back pocket when you’re in the grocery store is a completely Washington created problem — completely,” he argued.

Energy experts, however, contend the Keystone XL pipeline wouldn’t have kept gas prices down. Even with Biden’s suspension of new leases on public land, existing energy producers still have a “deep inventory of exploration opportunities.” And while oil refineries are closing, that move is seemingly a response to long-term profitability trends. The president has actually urged refiners to expand production.

Gov. Mike DeWine took credit for the deal that brought Intel to Ohio. He described how complimentary they were about his signature water initiative. But DeWine didn’t bring up how vital Intel officials said the federal CHIPS Act was to the project’s long-term success.

U.S. Senate nominee J.D. Vance picked up on Intel as an example, too, arguing it represents a “smart decision” standing in contrast with federal policy “where for 30 years we have shipped out manufacturing and industrial base off to China.”

Tim Ryan in Delaware County

LEWIS CENTER, OH — NOVEMBER 03: Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate Tim Ryan greeted by supporters at a meet and greet campaign event, November 3, 2022, at the Little Bear Golf Club in Lewis Center, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal)

The fog had long burned off when Tim Ryan’s bus rolled into a golf course parking lot Thursday afternoon. Still, he made a dramatic entrance of his own with half a dozen IBEW union members on Harleys escorting him.

Addressing a crowd of about fifty Ryan was pure positivity and optimism. He talked about visiting deep red counties and finding Republicans how are open to his message.

“We’re connecting with people on an American level on a human level,” he said. “And we’re talking about things like we want to leave our kids a dignified future, right?”

“Because Ohio,” he said, “Ohio can be conservative, but it ain’t crazy, right? Ohio is not crazy.”

A woman who was walking around with the help of hiking poles set up a folding chair. Part way through Ryan’s speech, the poles fell to one side where she couldn’t reach them. Without a word, Ryan’s 8-year-old son Brady walked over to pick them up.

At the same time Ryan is reaching across the aisle, though, he’s drawing lines as well. He called Donald Trump Jr. joking about the attack on Paul Pelosi “grotesque” and insisted some conservatives have gone beyond the bounds of what voters should accept.

“These are not Republicans, these are extremists,” Ryan said. “And it’s the Democrats, Republicans and independents, the exhausted majority who have to put the extremist movement to bed. And that’s why I go on the FOX News townhall because you have to go into that room, and you have to confront it where it stands.”

During that townhall, his opponent Vance condemned the attack on Pelosi. Ryan also acknowledged as a poor choice of words his framing of rejecting extremism as needing to “kill” the MAGA movement.

Ryan also came out in favor of Issue 1. It puts him at odds with the state Democratic Party, and Vance’s team was quick to criticize the move. They argued it’s incompatible with past statements Ryan has made about eliminating cash bail.

Speaking to reporters after Thursday’s event, Ryan explained his support in terms of local control.

“The judges get elected locally, they know the community best,” he said. “They’re the best barometer for public safety, and they should maintain that authority”

Despite criticizing extremists, Ryan also put a bit more emphasis on the outreach side of the ledger. He argued voters in rural areas think Democrats look down on them, and when Democrats don’t show up it only reinforces those suspicions. Ryan described events at farms where he and his wife were the only Democrats in the room. He said just showing up and listening makes a difference.

“It’s a human being business,” he said. “It’s a people business, and you have to understand that.”

What’s next?

The Republican bus tour continues Friday in Western Ohio with stops from Toledo to Cincinnati. Next Monday Donald Trump will visit the Dayton area for a last minute campaign rally.

In a notable shift, Gov. DeWine said he would attend the rally. His opponent Nan Whaley sent out a sort of ‘I told you so’ statement, reiterating what the campaign said after Trump endorsed DeWine in September .

“It’s been clear for years that Governor Mike DeWine goes whichever way the political winds blow, looking out solely for himself regardless of what’s best for our state,” that statement read. “After avoiding being seen with Trump for years, he’s happy to take his endorsement now that he needs it.”

Vance meanwhile dismissed any suggestion that Trump’s visit it meant to buoy his campaign stubbornly deadlocked with Ryan.

“I think the President feels the same way I do about the race, which is that we’re gonna win,” Vance insisted. “We’re in a position to win but you can only win if people actually get out there to vote, so we’re trying to inspire the troops, make sure everybody gets out to the polls.”

Ryan’s campaign is jogging back and forth between the Dayton area and Columbus before visiting Chillicothe and Cincinnati Friday. Over the weekend, he’ll launch canvass operations in Cincinnati, Medina and Columbus. He’ll attend a Souls to the Polls event in Columbus as well.

This story was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.

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