Monday, September 12, 2016

Donald Trump fans have been sending me racist, hateful messages for months. Here's a sampling.

For 15 years, my ethnic last name has appeared above all of my stories. Which means, for 15 years, some readers have judged me only by that ethnic last name.

I have heard their voice mails and read their emails. Smirked at their keyboard courage in the comments section. Told myself not to take the Twitter mentions too personally.

Call it bigotry. Call it racism. Call it xenophobia. As a writer – especially one who covers national politics – you chalk it up as coming with the territory, as hurtful and as menacing as it can be. This year, though, it is coming far more frequently. There is no mystery why.

Maybe you don't believe Donald Trump is a bigot. Or a racist. Or a xenophobe. But the Republican nominee for president certainly has won the support of people who are.

Read the full essay

Monday, September 5, 2016

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump kick off their fall campaigns in Cleveland

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump began their final sprints toward November similarly Monday, touching down here for some swing state stumping.

Labor Day, the first mile-marker of the fall campaign, saw Clinton and her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, rallying with fellow Democrats at Cleveland's Luke Easter Park. Meanwhile, Trump and his No. 2, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, met with a smattering of union leaders in nearby Brook Park before darting to a fair in a Youngstown suburb.

At one point, the planes for all four sat on the tarmac of Hopkins International Airport. And Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, campaigned downstate in Cincinnati.

"This is the home stretch," Kaine said in Cleveland. "We have to come to Ohio. You all know this. You're used to this. You're used to the fact that you're one of the two or three most important states in any presidential election going back since there were presidential elections."

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Thursday, September 1, 2016

How John Kasich's snub of Donald Trump could help Rob Portman win re-election

It's early, but Ohio's big U.S. Senate race seems just about over.

Republican incumbent Rob Portman is running a very smart re-election campaign. He has kept Donald Trump, his party's erratic nominee for president, at arm's length.

He and his allies have spent their money wisely. (To the point where national Democrats appear to be giving up and the pro-Portman Koch brothers are easing off the gas, too.)

Meanwhile, Ted Strickland is running a surprisingly poor campaign.
Democrats thought the former governor's name-recognition would be an asset in a competitive contest. But Strickland is eating Portman's dust, at least according to several recent polls.

There's a third person who deserves mention: John Kasich.

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Rob Frost warms to Donald Trump

Donald Trump won the Cuyahoga County Republican Party's endorsement over the weekend. On the surface, this is dog-bites-man news -- to be expected, given that the New York businessman is the Republican nominee for president.

But let us use the moment to reflect on Rob Frost, the local party's chairman.

Like many other GOP leaders across the country, Frost took to heart the lessons of Mitt Romney's loss four years ago to President Barack Obama. He had a particularly useful vantage point. Being the top Republican in an overwhelmingly Democratic county can be a lonely job. Romney, for example, didn't collect a single vote in nine Cleveland precincts.

When the Republican National Committee chose Cleveland to host its convention this summer, it was a recognition that the party had to establish a foothold in America's large urban centers. In the meantime, Frost did his part, by cultivating relationships with the black community.

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Hillary Clinton finds herself on the defensive as Donald Trump seizes on foundation fallout

At times Hillary Clinton seems on the verge of victory.

The Democratic presidential nominee has skated ahead in most polls since her unifying convention in Philadelphia. Republican Donald Trump, meanwhile, can't quite escape the hole he dug for himself at his dark and divisive show a week earlier in Cleveland.

Clinton has more traction in swing states, including Ohio. Trump is wasting time in GOP gimmes Mississippi and Texas when he should be worried about Georgia and North Carolina.
Trump also continues to raise eyebrows with overheated rhetoric and borderline racist comments. The real estate mogul ordered another shake-up of his campaign's high command. By all measures, the race for the White House headed toward disaster for Republicans.

But it's only Aug. 25. Even if Trump can't totally recover from all of his self-inflicted wounds, he at least will have a few good days over the 75 between now and Election Day.

He is having some this week, amid a heavier mix of partisan scrutiny and aggressive reporting on the Clinton Foundation, which continued its charitable work abroad during Clinton's tenure as the United States' top diplomat. Stories have focused on how many foreign governments gave to the organization and donors who sought access to Clinton while she was secretary of state.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Donald Trump meets his Etch a Sketch moment

Say hello to the new, nuanced Donald Trump.

In recent weeks, the Republican nominee for president has made a hash out of his hard-line positions on immigration – the signature issue of his White House campaign.

Trump launched his bid by characterizing most Mexican immigrants as violent criminals and pledging to build a border wall at the Mexican government's expense. He pressed on by calling for mass deportations, overseen by an ominous-sounding "deportation force." He also proposed an immediate, all-encompassing ban on foreign Muslims entering the United States.

But the New York real estate mogul seems to be softening his stance on deportations. And he has revised the Muslim ban in favor of a more-targeted – though equally-hard-to-enforce policy – that would restrict travel by those from regions known for fostering terrorist activity.

For Trump, an unpredictable candidate who plays by his own rules, these shifts are stunning. Perhaps the shifts also signify a belated recognition that what helped him steamroll through the primaries will not help him win a general election. Mitt Romney would be proud.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Who will be Ohio's next governor?

The Buckeye State is once again a prime battleground in a presidential election and home to one of the nation’s most competitive Senate contests.

But much of the chatter among political insiders these last few weeks has focused on Ohio’s 2018 race for governor. And both parties are in a bind, but for different reasons.

Gov. John Kasich is not eligible for another term, and at least four prominent fellow Republicans are sending signals that they would like to succeed him. Glass half-full, it’s an embarrassment of riches. 

Glass half-empty, it’s an ugly free-for-all that will drain the GOP donor pool, bruise the eventual nominee, and leave the losers limping toward an uncertain future.

At least the Republicans have options. Democrats haven’t quite recovered from their Ed FitzGerald shipwreck of 2014. Best-case scenario, a charismatic congressman gives up a safe seat and runs. Worst-case scenario, they end up with a lower-tier retread or rookie.

So, without further ado, let’s handicap the already crackling race for governor.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Does Jim Renacci want to run for Ohio governor?

Jim Renacci wants another term in the U.S. House this fall, but someone already is assessing whether he would be a strong candidate for Ohio governor in 2018.

A pollster – armed with favorable facts about the Wadsworth Republican – recently dialed Buckeye State voters, according to two GOP sources who were surveyed by telephone.

The poll's questions were phrased in ways that emphasized Renacci's background as a businessman and volunteer firefighter while downplaying his six years in Congress, the sources said. Though the poll did not specify which higher office Renacci might be interested in, he was tested alongside Attorney General Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Jon Husted and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor – three leading Republicans who are openly weighing gubernatorial bids.

The call characterized DeWine, Husted and Taylor as "Columbus insiders," the sources said.
Of this foursome, Renacci is the least known and the longest shot. The other three already are better organized for a 2018 run and would start with statewide name-recognition that Renacci lacks. And DeWine recently tapped Dave Luketic, a veteran of Gov. John Kasich's political operation, to lead his preparations. Term limits prevent Kasich from seeking re-election.

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Monday, August 15, 2016

Assessing the semantics and substance of Donald Trump's foreign policy point-of-view

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Donald Trump used his best campfire voice.

In a Monday speech designed to outline his foreign policy proposals, the Republican presidential nominee whispered grave warnings, vague prescriptions and even a few tall tales.

At times, it was as if the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 never happened.

In his introductory remarks, Rudy Giuliani – who was mayor of New York City on 9/11 – said there were no "successful radical Islamic terrorist attacks in the United States" in the eight years before President Barack Obama took office. Those eight years, of course, included 9/11.

And when Trump stepped to the microphone here at Youngstown State University, he painted a picture of a world that was largely peaceful until Obama entered the White House with Hillary Clinton, now the Democratic presidential nominee, as his secretary of state.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Donald Trump's latest relapse is a call to action -- or arms?

So much for that big Donald Trump reset.

The New York businessman was on his best behavior Monday during a big speech on the economy in Detroit, and for a while there he looked like a normal candidate for president.

The Republican nominee's goal? Move past a damaging stretch in which he escalated a public feud with the Muslim parents of a fallen U.S. Army captain and spitefully – though temporarily – withheld endorsements from House Speaker Paul Ryan and other GOP all-stars.

It took 24 hours to remember that, for Trump, there is no normal.

Trump's latest controversy is a biggie. Speaking at a rally Tuesday in Wilmington, N.C., he sounded alarm bells to gun rights advocates worried that a Hillary Clinton presidency would result in liberal Supreme Court justices and a threat to the Second Amendment.

"If [Clinton] gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks," Trump told his audience. "Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is – I don't know."

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