Published daily by the Lowy Institute

What they're thinking in Ohio as the polls tighten

What they're thinking in Ohio as the polls tighten

When Donald Trump ran a distant second to Ohio governor John Kasich in the Republican primary, few would have imagined that six months on Trump looks an even chance to win the Buckeye State in the presidential election. Sure, Kasich lost his bid to be the GOP presidential nominee but it's not as if he capitulated. The popular governor is one of the party's absolute hold-outs on Trump, but even without his support, Trump has pulled ahead of Hillary Clinton, according to the poll average calculated by RealClearPolitics. Across the country, polls tightened last week after Clinton labelled Trump supporters 'deplorables' and was then forced off the campaign trail for three days by pneumonia. By Saturday, commentators were describing the race to the White House as neck and neck.

All those who contested the GOP nomination pledged to support the eventual nominee, but in June, when it was clear it would be Trump, Kasich said he just couldn't do it. This week he earned the ire of GOP chairman Reince Priebus, who said those who didn't support the chosen nominee risked being barred from taking another run at the presidency. The Kasich camp quickly bit back, with an aide declaring the governor would not be bullied.

The good folk of Ohio, however, don't seem to care one way or the other about party machinations. Ohio newspaper The Columbus Dispatch had this to say on voters' intentions:

Buried in the data of recent polls showing Trump with as much as a 5-point lead in a four-way race are indications that after months of skepticism, GOP voters are unexpectedly supporting Trump to a greater degree than Democratic voters are backing their nominee, Hillary Clinton. And the surveys also indicate Ohio voters now believe that Trump is more “honest and trustworthy” than Clinton.

Meanwhile it seems the Clinton camp is unable to take a trick. After eight years in the White House, the incumbent Democrats could reasonably claim some credit for a recovering economy. Data from the US Census Bureau last week suggests middle class incomes are on the up and up. There's no doubt about it, the chart looks good. [fold]

But good news can be a hard sell. Here's one Ohio voter, businessman Mike Perry, speaking to the Financial Times.

'What we have had is not a recovery - it is pockets of some things getting better and other things getting worse.' the Trump supporter said. Mrs Clinton, he argues, 'would be a disaster for the well-being of this country' because she does not have the business background that Mr Trump does.

This Bloomberg poll data gathered in Ohio last week shows that of the 44% who said they lean toward voting for Trump, 49% do so because they like Trump while 45% are primarily motivated by stopping Clinton. And only 26% overall said it was realistic to think Trump would build a wall along the Mexican border and make Mexico pay for the same.

So in this election campaign, at least in Ohio, people are not always impressed by what is but they're willing to back someone they don't believe, often mainly because they dislike the other candidate more. No wonder it feels surreal.

Photo: Getty Images/Jeff Swensen

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