CINCINNATI (AP) — Ohio Democrats are happy for businessman Donald Trump — that is, happy for the prospect of the brash presumptive Republican presidential nominee topping the opposition ticket in November.
Party Chairman David Pepper said Thursday that Democrats are preparing for a tough campaign in the swing state, but think Trump could lift turnout for Democrats while complicating other Republicans’ campaigns.
“Every candidate will have to win their own race, but I think the broader environment is one that puts people like (U.S. Sen.) Rob Portman in a very difficult position, not just because I think a lot of Republicans will be torn about the top of the ticket; I also think the tone that Donald Trump is setting makes it very hard,” Pepper said.
As Pepper spoke, an aide held up a poster with a large Portman photo with a smaller one of Trump calling on him to “denounce Trump.”
Portman had hoped Ohio Gov. John Kasich would be the nominee. After Kasich bowed out Wednesday, Portman’s campaign reiterated he intends to support the GOP nominee as he battles for re-election against Democratic former Gov. Ted Strickland.
During a stop at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station on Thursday, Portman was asked about the impact a Trump nomination would have on his Senate race. “I think it will be positive in the end,” he told reporters, noting the votes Trump attracted from Ohioans who had never voted for a Republican.
“I have a lot of friends frankly who normally don’t vote and they came out and voted for him,” Portman said, according to a transcript of his remarks provided by his campaign. “They don’t consider themselves Republicans normally but they are strongly supportive. So he will bring some new people to the party — no question about it.”
Strickland campaign spokesman David Bergstein says Trump’s nomination will be Portman’s “election nightmare.”
A Portman campaign spokeswoman said Thursday that Democrats want to “distract from (Strickland’s) record” during an economic downturn that helped cause his 2010 re-election loss to Kasich.
“Ted Strickland will not win this race. Period,” spokeswoman Michawn Rich said by email.
Democrats state Rep. Denise Driehaus, running for Hamilton County commissioner, and Aftab Pureval, an attorney of Asian descent running for county clerk of courts, joined Pepper and said Trump’s insulting comments about women and immigrants will hang over other Republicans.
State GOP spokeswoman Brittany Warner said Democrats will have their own top-of-the-ticket issues, calling front-runner Hillary Clinton “a toxic candidate” with negatives and a record “voters won’t forget” in the fall.
Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, recently told reporters that GOP legislators can emphasize Ohio’s economic improvements during a time of Republican domination in Columbus and predicted their supporters will work for them in the fall regardless of whether Trump was the nominee.
“Our record is strong,” he said. “Turnout happens more than just at the top of the ticket.”
Ann Sanner in Columbus contributed to this story.
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