We’re just one week away from the March 15 primary, and Ohio is somewhat silent when it comes to television advertisements for the GOP presidential candidates. You may hear radio ads and see some bumper stickers or yard signs, but the overall ad reach seems to be subdued.
Why would this be? Ohio is a significantly important swing state in November and if history is any guide, we will be seeing mountains of advertising in the fall. But there are two aspects of the GOP primary that makes this year a bit more unique: John Kasich’s campaign and the move to a winner-take-all primary. This appears to have caused other candidates, specifically Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, to give up the fight for second and concentrate their resources elsewhere.
Polls today will show that Gov. Kasich is close to the lead in Ohio, but this wasn’t always the case. In October, a poll showed him with support only in the teens behind Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. The latest Quinnipiac poll from a couple weeks ago had Trump at 31, Kasich at 26, Cruz at 21, Rubio at 13, then Carson at 5. So Kasich, with the backing of the Ohio GOP machine, is returning to the top tier in Ohio but still behind Trump who is attracting Democrats and independents who will vote as Republicans in Ohio’s open primary. (Read the Vindicator story about the Trump effect in Mahoning County.) There simply appears to be no path for an Ohio victory for Cruz or Rubio and there is no prize for second place.
Of course, this is upsetting for all of the Cruz and Rubio supporters in Ohio. Ohio Conservatives United, the group that has been tracking presidential preferences for the last nine months, has illustrated that a solid number of tea party and liberty-minded activists prefer Ted Cruz. Marco Rubio received the endorsement of Ohio Treasurer John Mandel, who risked his own political capital by not endorsing Gov. Kasich, and Rubio made a number of stops in Ohio during the summer and fall of 2015. What should you do if you support one of these two candidates?
The answer is that these activists and supporters need to go old-school. There was a time when candidates did not need millions of dollars to run a campaign simply to get 30-second spots on TV. If you support Cruz or if you support Rubio, do not be discouraged by the lack of campaign resources coming to this state. You are a resource! Recruit like-minded friends to be resources!
This year has been very volatile and sometimes surprising in presidential politics. Some polls have been close, but some polls and conventional wisdom has underestimated the support a particular candidate may have. Make sure you express the necessary energy to get your candidate as much support as you possibly can.
P.S. Ohioans need to look at this primary, as we do every primary, and see what we can learn from it. For instance, look at early voting. When early voting started on Feb 17, Jeb Bush and Ben Carson were still candidates. Early voting in the November 2012 election began before ANY of the presidential debates. Four weeks before an election is an extremely long time and anyone who is in the least bit undecided should wait as long as possible… like Election Day… before casting a ballot.
Secondly, we should discuss the open vs. closed primary. On the one hand, it allows anybody who has a development of political perspective to vote in the primary with which they feel most aligned. On the other hand, it allows for an “Operation Chaos” where opponents of a party will vote to change the outcome of the competition.
And lastly, the proportional vs winner-take-all primaries need to be reviewed. By June, we will see what effect the winner-take-all states had on the GOP Primary outcome. In the past, the winner-take-all method has allowed a candidate with only 35% of the vote to get 100% of the delegates. The proportional method in the Democrat Party allows Bernie Sanders to continue picking up delegates. In the Republican primary, it had previously allowed Ron Paul to gather delegates even after it was clear he was not going to win.
The candidates for Ohio House and Senate may have a chance to amend the laws for the 2020 primary, and it would be a good question to ask them before they earn your vote.