In the first top-of-the-ticket GOP primary since Ohio’s hard-right turn for Donald Trump in 2016, Mike DeWine and Mary Taylor continued to forage Saturday for votes in their quest for the party’s nomination for governor.
In Westerville, the heavily favored DeWine dispatched about 65 volunteers on door-to-door rounds on behalf of his ninth run for statewide office, proclaiming, “We’re going to have a great victory” in Tuesday’s primary election.
Lt. Gov. Taylor, who has draped herself in all things Trump and attempted to run to Attorney General DeWine’s right as “the only true conservative,” was deemed unworthy of mention as he talked of the front-running Democrat and the November election.
“We can’t go back to the days of (Ted) Strickland and (Richard) Cordray,” DeWine said of Ohio’s most recent Democratic governor and Cordray, the man he narrowly ousted from the attorney general’s office in 2010 and who he considers a likely fall rematch.
Near her home turf in northeastern Ohio, Taylor decried DeWine as a “liberal,” defended her association with two-time ticket mate Gov. John Kasich and had a much different read on the electorate than the polls’ suggestions she is a decided underdog to the more-familiar DeWine.
“We feel great,” Taylor said after speaking to about 20 people at the Auburn Inn at the Geauga County crossroads of Auburn Corners. “This race is a dead heat, and we’re changing hearts and minds with these events. Conservatives are coming home.”
Taylor told her audience: “Now is the time for choosing,” embracing Trump’s fight against immigration and sanctuary cities — and for building the border wall — while opposing Kasich’s “gun-control measures” and continually questioning DeWine’s conservatism.
The GOP primary fight has been a nasty, sometimes personal affair, with DeWine’s campaign airing millions of dollars in TV commercials to counter Taylor’s claims in commercials that DeWine is a lackluster Trump supporter and was not a reliable “no” vote on pro-immigration issues in the U.S. Senate.
Taylor’s TV spots rankle Franklin County Republican Chairman Brad Sinnott, who introduced the state party-endorsed DeWine in Westerville.
“He’s not a conservative? That’s ridiculous. No one in this state has better conservative credentials. This election is not going to be a squeaker.”
Taylor and running mate Nathan Estruth continue undeterred in a series of small retail events dubbed the “Mary Taylor Made Tough Tour.”
DeWine sent off twice as many volunteers Saturday as Taylor attracted to her two events, which included remarks to a dozen supporters at a Tallmadge restaurant.
Her supporters on Saturday had no use for the Trump-critic Kasich, who is toying with another presidential bid in 2020 and strikes them as a pariah. Taylor tells them the governor she knew lost his conservatism along the way, including on expanding Medicaid health care to the poor.
Asked by one voter about her ties to Kasich, who has endorsed her but has not campaigned for her, Taylor replied: “I can’t change him. You’re my boss.”
Neither candidate joined Trump for his Saturday event in Cleveland, with Taylor opting for Cleveland TV interviews instead and DeWine attending his youngest son’s master’s degree pre-graduation ceremony at the Fisher School of Business at Ohio State University. DeWine has not appeared with Trump at his Ohio appearances. Taylor has made three of Trump’s events.
In a potential acknowledgement of Tuesday’s results, both the DeWine and Taylor camps say their candidates will offer remarks about 9 p.m. on Election Night, only 90 minutes after the polls close. Such an early victory (and concession) speech would not speak to an election much in doubt.