Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Donald Trump, John Kasich and a year of Ohio political surprises: 2016 takeaways

Say this about 2016: It was full of political surprises. None bigger, of course, than the election of reality television star Donald Trump as president.

I was wrong -- a lot -- about Trump's improbable candidacy. And like many others, I underestimated his chances against the far more politically seasoned Hillary Clinton.

As the year ends, here are five other stories I didn't see coming. Most trace their roots, even if in a roundabout way, to Trump. Each made 2016 an exciting year to cover politics in Ohio.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Keith Faber farewell tour

The Keith Faber farewell tour is the talk of Columbus.

The lame-duck Ohio Senate president has ruffled feathers in his final days. Even allies -- from Gov. John Kasich to fellow lawmakers and lobbyists -- have their grievances.

To be fair, Faber's controversial initiatives met with wide approval in his caucus. Most of the grumbling, as is common for Statehouse intrigue, is vented not in votes or showy floor speeches but, rather, in idle chitchat, text messages and not-for-attribution telephone calls.

But in many ways Faber is not a typical lame duck. Term-limited in the Senate, the Celina Republican will resurface next month in the Ohio House and immediately begin angling for higher office. Critics believe Faber's recent behavior is all about setting up his political future -- be it a run for state auditor or a federal appointment by President-elect Donald Trump.

A few things to keep in mind as one Faber reign ends and another possibly begins ...

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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Can John Kasich and Donald Trump forge a truce? The future of the Ohio GOP rides on that question.

The case against Matt Borges boils down to a few perceptions.
  • Critics believe the Ohio Republican Party chairman undermined President-elect Donald Trump.
  • They believe that between Borges and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who unlike Borges refused to vote for Trump, someone has to go. (And they know it can't be Kasich, who has two years left on his term.)
  • In other words, they believe that keeping Borges around as Kasich's handpicked party boss would hurt the state's political clout in a Trump administration.
It's this last part that has allies of Borges and Kasich most concerned as a civil war breaks out among top party activists. They fear Borges is in danger of becoming collateral damage.

Jane Timken, an influential Republican from the Canton area who helped raise money for Trump's campaign, has launched a bid to dump Borges at a Jan. 6 meeting of the Ohio GOP's 66-member Central Committee. At the moment, Borges backers say he has more than the 34 votes needed to prevail. But Timken's challenge is enough of a disruption to have them discussing the best ways to shatter the perceptions that have him on a very hot seat.

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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Jane Timken launches bid to unseat Ohio GOP Chairman Matt Borges

Jane Timken, an influential Canton Republican who helped raise money for President-elect Donald Trump, is angling to unseat Ohio GOP Chairman Matt Borges, whose lukewarm support of Trump's winning campaign upset some party activists this year.

Timken has been working the phones for several days, according to several Republican sources. She made her intentions clear in a letter sent Sunday to members of the GOP State Central Committee, a 66-member body that will determine Borges' fate next month.

"In fairness to Chairman Borges, this was a difficult year to be Chairman," Timken wrote. "In a Presidential election year, there are many competing obligations that must be balanced. I supported Governor [John] Kasich's two campaigns for Governor and his campaign for President. For many Ohioans, his loss was heartbreaking. Once the nomination was settled, Chairman Borges had the obligation to fully support the nominee and his campaign. He did not, and his actions have divided the state party leadership. This was his choice."

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Friday, December 2, 2016

'Hillbilly Elegy' author J.D. Vance talks about the Donald Trump wave and his new Ohio project

Almost by accident, J.D. Vance became the truest pundit of 2016, the year when just about everyone else had Donald Trump all wrong.

Vance's "Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis" tells the story of his tough -- and often traumatic -- childhood in Middletown, Ohio, and Jackson, Kentucky.

The New York Times bestseller also supplies something that was missing from the media's coverage of Trump: An empathetic and thoughtful look at the white working-class communities that helped carry the Republican populist to the White House.

And now Vance, 32, is returning to Ohio to head a nonprofit organization that will seek solutions to the challenges facing the working-class. He has enlisted public affairs strategist Jai Chabria, the former top adviser to Gov. John Kasich, to help. The effort could be off the ground by the new year, though during an interview in Cleveland this week, Vance fussed over a tiny detail.

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

5 thoughts as Tim Ryan takes on Nancy Pelosi

With Democrats down in the dumps in Ohio and beyond, there's a lot to unpack in U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan's bid to unseat House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Let's start with the element of surprise ...

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Thursday, November 10, 2016

A big reason why Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in Ohio: He ran up the score in Appalachia

With Rich Exner

Slowly but surely, Democrats had been losing their foothold in eastern and southern Ohio. On Tuesday, Donald Trump delivered the knockout blow.

Trump, now president-elect, ran at least 10 percentage points better than 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney in 42 counties, most of them situated in that Appalachia-encompassing region, according to a analysis of unofficial election results.

All told, Trump outperformed Romney, who lost the Buckeye State to President Barack Obama by 3 points, in all but five of 88 counties. But data suggest Trump owes his statewide win over Hillary Clinton - 8.5 points - to huge gains in these rural and blue collar areas.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Trump's victory spoiled Kasich's plans. So what's next for the Ohio governor?

As Election Day turned to Election Night, two of Ohio's top Republicans sat on big plans largely contingent upon Donald Trump going down in flames.

Gov. John Kasich, who fell short in his own bid for the GOP presidential nomination, was preparing a Thursday speech in Washington, where he would outline a Trump-free vision for his party and country. It would be an early first step toward another run in 2020.

Matt Borges, the Ohio Republican Party chief and a Kasich ally, was angling to be the next Republican National Committee chairman. He would build his case on his success in a key battleground and on his ability to navigate messy political circumstances. But for this to work, Trump probably had to win Ohio and lose the Electoral College to Hillary Clinton.

Trump took care of the first by blowing out Clinton here. No one could say that Kasich, who refused to campaign or vote for Trump, or that Borges, who clashed with Trump's team and was viewed suspiciously by some because of his loyalty to the governor, cost Trump a crucial state.

But Trump's unanticipated national victory crushed their plans.

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Donald Trump pulls off an upset for the ages -- and brings Republicans another identity crisis

Donald Trump realigned the country the same way he realigned the Republican Party - with an improbable takeover that many political professionals saw as hostile, but one Middle America embraced as a chance to swing a sledgehammer at the status quo.

In a year full of surprises, Trump, a wealthy New York real estate mogul who once had his own reality television show, won the White House by romping through the Rust Belt.

His pitch, tailored to disillusioned blue-collar workers, helped him win battleground Ohio comfortably and, according to calls by the Associated Press, put Wisconsin and Pennsylvania in the GOP column for the first time since the 1980s.

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