May 15, 2019
Donald Trump super PAC lists Ohio as 2020 priority
CLEVELAND, Ohio – The primary super PAC backing Republican President Donald Trump’s re-election has pegged Ohio as a must-win state in the 2020 election.
Alone, the news is unsurprising. But coupled with the recent report that Priorities USA, one of the most prominent Democratic super PACs, downgraded the state’s importance, the designation from America First Policies illustrates the crucial standing of the state for Republicans compared to its lessened status for Democrats.
“The reason why Ohio is on our radar is it’s a must-win state for us,” said Kelly Sadler, spokeswoman for America First Policies. “How we’re viewing these six states is they’re the states with the most electoral votes and the most expensive media markets to play in.”
The group is planning a significant investment in Ohio and five other states – Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan – with a goal of spending $300 million.
Like Priorities USA’s decision, the ranking comes down to simple math. Both groups are trying to find the quickest, most effective way for their respective candidates to reach 270 electoral votes and win the election.
For America First, that includes Ohio and its 18 electoral votes. The president also has a firm base of support in the traditionally purple state.
For Priorities USA, it does not. The group listed Ohio as a “GOP Watch” state in its target ratings, essentially meaning it is possible to win but not a requirement.
Since the 2016 election – and increasing after the 2018 election – politicos have debated whether arguably the most notable swing state in the nation is still even a swing state. Trump won handily in 2016 by 8 percentage points over Hillary Clinton. Republicans also won every statewide partisan race in 2018, save for Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown’s successful re-election.
The parties and candidates on both sides have maintained that they view Ohio as important to national electoral politics. But it’s unlikely that they would say otherwise out of concern for deflating their supporters or alienating donors.
However, where big political money is being spent is an indication that national interests view Ohio as lurching Republican -- if not already there.
America First is not allowed to coordinate with the Trump campaign and will instead follow the president’s lead on most messaging, but some concrete plans were shared with cleveland.com by a person knowledgeable about America First’s plans.
Vice President Mike Pence has been a mainstay at the group’s events promoting Trump’s agenda. He’ll continue to do so in the run-up to the election, with his first event scheduled for Monday in Jacksonville, Florida.
America First will also heavily focus on the USMCA, the proposed trade deal between the United States, Mexico and Canada to replace NAFTA.
Trump and the leaders of the other two countries have reached a preliminary agreement on the deal, but final ratification has been delayed over several sticking points. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, has said without stricter enforcement mechanisms, the proposed treaty is a nonstarter.
Voters in the states listed by America First were drastically affected by NAFTA. Many of them voted for Trump based on his promise to renegotiate the trade deal, a fact America First will push.
Mostly, though, America First plans on doubling as an allied attack dog for the president against his rivals.
Instead of using broad issues, however, the group plans to micro-target messaging and issues and develop a strategy based on the results. It’s currently in the stages of collecting data – mostly through polling and focus groups – to better identify which issues resonate most.
The 2020 election is still more than a year away, and Ohio’s swing status has been somewhat mixed.
Trump has telegraphed that he covets the state personally, with numerous official White House and campaign visits since his election. Plus, he’s consistently played a role in GOP politics in the state, hand-picking Ohio Republican Party Chairman Jane Timken for that role and playing a role in coordinating the statewide ticket last cycle.
Democrats are in a much more precarious situation. The drubbing in 2018 left party members deflated, and national observers have questioned whether Ohio is worth the investment any longer.
Some candidates have visited the state, but with big political money hesitant to craft a plan for 2020, those candidates might abandon the state as well, opting instead to target more promising areas.