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Republicans target Valley for big gains

The Republican National Committee says it has the infrastructure in place to keep Ohio a red state for years to come and to continue to make gains in former Democratic strongholds such as Mahoning and Trumbull counties.

In addition to the dozen staff members it has in Ohio, the RNC has trained about 4,000 volunteers in the state in this election cycle through its Republican Leadership Initiative to help with voter outreach, said Preya Samsundar, the RNC’s Midwest regional communications director.

“The idea was to create a permanent infrastructure with people in their own community,” she said. “Those are the conversations that are important. Those people are in the community.

“It’s 10 times more impactful to hear from them than listening to some 20-something-year-old kid in college or fresh out, who maybe has not lived in the state or lived in the community, that’s been dropped in and paid by the RNC or whatever three months before Election Day — telling you Joe Biden is a bad guy and you shouldn’t vote for him, or Tim Ryan is going to raise your taxes, you shouldn’t vote for him.”

Those volunteers have made close to 2 million contacts with voters, Samsundar said.

That infrastructure is in place “to get volunteers and get support for their candidates,” she said.

“It’s something that’s permanent. They’re able to use those skills and train other folks how to make voter contact.”

Samsundar described the grassroots effort as putting “the Cadillac together piece by piece, and now we’ve essentially handed the keys over to J.D. Vance and Gov. (Mike) DeWine.”

The effort will play a big role in the U.S. Senate race, she said, between Vance, the Republican nominee, and Ryan, the Democratic candidate.

“J.D. Vance will have access to the information we’ve gathered,” Samsundar said.

Vance, who won the May 3 Republican primary, said he has not spent “a whole lot of time with national party people” and is focused on spending “time with county officials to try to ensure we have a good statewide strategy.”

THE DEMOCRATS

Ryan said he is working with the Ohio Democratic Party and is prepared for whatever assistance the RNC provides Vance’s campaign.

“We’re building through our (joint campaign) fund, hiring regional organizers, recruiting volunteers,” he said. “I feel really good about our grassroots effort.”

Matt Keyes, spokesman for the Ohio Democratic Party, said the party is “making sure the voter rolls are updated, we’re granting access to our voter file to our candidates and the party infrastructure is in place.”

The party’s coordinated campaign, called Workers First Campaign, has community organizers working to elect Democrats up and down the ticket.

The organizers have been working since November in their communities talking with Ohioans, hearing their stories and showing them that Democrats are on their side, Keyes said.

Ryan has pledged more than $3 million of money raised through a joint campaign fund to the ODP to help with downticket candidates.

“The goal is to organize voters up and down the ballot,” Keyes said “Rep. Ryan recognizes what’s at stake in Ohio. The idea of the coordinated campaign is to help each other and make sure voters know what’s at stake. J.D. Vance and DeWine are looking out for themselves compared to Rep. Ryan and Mayor (Nan) Whaley (the Democratic nominee for governor) who are looking out for the people of Ohio.”

ODP Chairwoman Elizabeth Walters said: “We’re not taking any community for granted as we look to show Ohio voters’ we’re on their side and elect Democrats up and down the ticket come November. We’re investing in organizing earlier than ever this cycle, and we’re grateful for the support of our Democratic candidates as we work together to get boots on the ground early, put Ohio workers first and turn Ohio blue.”

‘ENTHUSIASM GAP’

Samsundar said the May 3 primary shows there’s a “huge enthusiasm gap” between those voting for Republicans and those for Democrats.

Republican turnout in the Ohio primary was more than double the Democratic turnout.

Samsundar pointed to Trumbull and Mahoning as prime examples of what has happened in what were once reliable Democratic counties.

In the 2018 primary, Democrats had about 10,000 more voters cast ballots in Trumbull than Republicans. In this month’s primary, more Republicans voted than Democrats.

Four years ago, Republicans trailed Democrats by about 13,000 ballots. But more voters pulled Republican ballots in this primary in Mahoning than Democrat.

It is believed to be the first time that has happened for a primary in either county in almost 80 years.

“We’ve seen the Mahoning Valley shift toward Republicans in recent years, but there is more work to do,” Samsundar said.

Ryan has represented large portions of Mahoning and Trumbull in the U.S. House for nearly 20 years. While he was re-elected in 2020, he lost Trumbull, his home county, for the first time.

“We’ve been slugging away for 20 years,” he said. “People in the Valley, even though they may not agree with me on everything, they know I love our community. People are going to support me.”

Statewide, Samsundar said, “Democrats had the lowest turnout in two decades for statewide races and Republicans had the highest turnout in two decades. Yes, we had a competitive primary, but Democrats had two top-level governor candidates and Tim Ryan as a former presidential candidate should have been able to inspire folks to vote (Democratic), and that didn’t happen. Democrat turnout was so bad that it’s a problem for Democrats.”

Samsundar added: “Tim Ryan is trying to distance himself from (President) Joe Biden. He says, ‘I don’t need anyone to help me.’ That’s the sitting president of the United States and he doesn’t want to share a stage with him. That’s very telling to the issues Democrats are facing and it’s why they had such poor turnout in the primary. Folks can see through what Tim Ryan is trying to do.”

Ryan said: “I want this race to be about me, my record and what I’m going to do for Ohio and what I’ve done. I just don’t want that being obscured by anybody. A part of me is like, look, I am the face of the campaign. It is my race for Senate in Ohio, and I really want that to be the focus.”

Also, Keyes said Republicans “poured more than $70 million for their nasty, chaotic Senate race. More people voted against J.D. Vance and Mike DeWine in the primary than for them.”

Neither candidate reached 50 percent in their primary races.

Keyes added: “The Republicans have more to do to get their base on board and convince independent voters and others to vote for them. I’d argue the Republicans have more work to do in November than the Democrats.”

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