CINCINNATI (AP) — Ohio’s Republican delegation starting with Gov. John Kasich is giving Donald Trump the cold shoulder at the GOP convention in Cleveland.
Kasich, an also-ran in the presidential sweepstakes, hasn’t endorsed Trump and won’t speak at the convention, a stunning rebuke by the most senior home-state elected official. Sen. Rob Portman, locked in a tough re-election race, is planning other events in Ohio rather than speaking at the four-day festivities.
“We all share concerns about Donald Trump,” said state Rep. Niraj Antani, a first-time delegate from southwest Ohio, where one of his legislative colleagues and fellow delegate, Shannon Jones, is staying home in an act she described as “conscientiously objecting” to Trump.
It’s a troubling sign for Trump’s candidacy in a state with 18 electoral votes that is historically crucial for Republican nominees. Winning over Republicans should be the easy part for the party’s standard-bearer.
Loaded with loyalists to Kasich, the delegation had geared up for an open-convention battle after he won the state’s primary and 66 delegates in March. But Trump kept winning primaries and Kasich didn’t, dashing their hopes.
The state party chairman, Matt Borges, who heads the delegation, said there was a period of mourning for Kasich, followed by acceptance and resolve to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton in November.
“We very much wanted John Kasich to be our nominee; we didn’t win the nomination,” Borges said. “It took a while, probably, to adjust to that reality.”
Kasich says he dislikes Trump’s attacking style. Instead of the convention, he plans to address the NAACP gathering in Cincinnati on Sunday, a meeting Trump is skipping, and the governor will hang out with Ohio’s delegates at the Rock and Roll of Fame and Museum at a reception Tuesday.
Portman says he supports Trump, but has a busy schedule of outside events including kayaking with wounded veterans and working in a Habitat for Humanity project. Portman at least plans to drop by the convention floor, something Kasich hasn’t committed to doing.
“I think Gov. Kasich is going to do what he thinks is right and more power to him,” Antani said.
Janet Weir Creighton, a Stark County commissioner in northeast Ohio, said the voters have spoken.
“My own personal opinion is just one vote,” she said. “We started out with 17 (candidates) a year ago. I would have not put my money on him, and I may not always agree with him, but that’s the process. I respect the process. I am Republican, and I will not vote for Hillary Clinton.”
Delegate Alex Triantafilou, chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party, said as soon as Kasich suspended his campaign, he started focusing on helping organize his county for Trump. Barack Obama in 2008 carried the county that includes Cincinnati over Sen. John McCain, a first for a Democrat since Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 landslide election over Barry Goldwater, and Obama repeated the win over Mitt Romney in 2012. Obama also carried Ohio both times.
“He’s different from McCain and Romney,” Triantafilou said of Trump. “I guess there’s a part of me that hopes this works.”
He noted that Trump drew an enthusiastic, overflow crowd in a visit this month to the northern Cincinnati suburb of Sharonville, and he said Trump has cross-over appeal that can augment the Republican vote.
Portman also thinks Trump will draw disaffected Democrats and can carry Ohio. He’s in a tough battle for re-election with former Gov. Ted Strickland, whose campaign frequently calls on Portman to disavow Trump’s latest contentious comments and take back his endorsement.
Portman knows he’ll be fielding plenty of questions about the nominee-to-be next week regardless of where he is in Cleveland.
“I do it every day. I did it today,” Portman told Ohio reporters in a recent conference call from Washington. “Just as I’m talking to you now and do every week about Donald Trump and I do on the floor, in the halls of Congress every day, I mean every day, that I’m here. …”
Associated Press reporter Kathleen Ronayne in Cleveland contributed to this report.
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