Massive Rallies, Soul-Searching and Long Bus Rides: Presidential Campaigns Blanket Ohio
Both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates are making frenetic dashes across Ohio in the days leading up to tomorrow’s primary – pushing their messages at nearly two-dozen town halls, rallies and quick stops with supporters. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has these snapshots of some of the events and the people who attend them.
It’s a crisp sunny Saturday morning, and the drone of the security helicopters bounces off the sprawling parking lot of the IX center just south of Cleveland Hopkins airport. It’s filling quickly with thousands of cars, pickups and people who leave no doubt why they’re here.
The crowd roars out: DONALD! TRUMP!
"He's the only one ... who can stare down Putin."
Gregg Young says it’s been a long time since he felt this kind of passion for a candidate.
“Here in Cleveland we’ve seen a lot of things leave. Jobs, factories -- entire factories. I think we’ve just seen opportunity diminish as a whole. We feel like we’re trying to bring this country together.”
Bob Schott looks over a board of buttons for sale, trying to decide between an image of Trump on the U.S. quarter, one that says “Bomb the Hell out of ISIS” and one for “Hillary for … prison.”
He opts for the prison button. But Schott says he’s for Trump, not just against Clinton.”
“He’s the winner, he’s the leader, he’s the only guy that looks like a leader. He’s the only one who has the look of a leader who can stare down Putin.”
But even here in Trump country, there are some mixed feelings.
Connie Mondak comes up to me with a conspiratorial glint, and lifts her sweater to show me the “Hillary for president” T-shirt underneath.
“I’m here for the circus.”
A far different view across town
Olivet Institutional Baptist Church is just 15 miles east, but socio economic worlds away from the massive industrial parks that surround the IX. Many of the surrounding storefronts are boarded up. Others have been converted into tiny churches of their own. It’s gotten a bit chillier and a bit cloudier. Still the line to hear Hillary Clinton snakes around the corner hours before she speaks. And everyone seems very aware of the Trump event cross town.
"He's not the god that I serve. I would never serve anybody like Donald Trump."
And has an opinion. Take mother and daughter teams Tiffany and Barbara Colston and Joyce and Bridget Scott.
“He’s a racist. He’s been connected with the Ku Klux Klan.
But he disavowed that? “It wasn’t quick enough. Saying so doesn’t mean you’re doing it. And he didn’t have the passion about disavowing the Ku Klux Klan like he has about immigration or building his beautiful wall. He’s going to do what he wants to do. I’m afraid of a monarchy… I’m afraid of his ego. He’ feels great within himself. He’s entitled.”
“I can just read him, he’s not sincere and he thinks he’s god and he’s not the god that I serve. I would never serve anybody like Donald Trump."
They women are a little more divided when it comes to which Democratic candidate they’ll vote for. Mothers are sure they’re for Hillary. Daughters are waiting to hear what she has to say crucial issues -- economic disparity, education, criminal justice reform.
So they go inside, sing, pray and listen.
Getting on the bus
It’s a day later, drizzling but still warm for a Sunday afternoon in March. John Kasich’s bus is in between big public events in Strongsville and Youngstown, but makes a quick stop at Luigi’s, an Akron icon that still doesn’t accept credit cards for its thick-crust pizza or homemade Italian sausage.
"This could determine a lot of things about where our country is going."
The back room is packed with the kind of people campaigns rely on – the local party faithful who make the phone calls and knock on doors – and get other people to make the phone calls and knock on doors.
“Ladies and gentleman, Ohio’s favorite son, our comeback governor and our candidate for president of the United States: Gov. John Kasich.”
Kasich, notorious for going off script, takes his time instead in the front room, chatting at tables of people who had no idea he’d be there.
Aides corral him. He starts to make a speech, kind of.
“This is a big deal. This could determine a lot of things about where our country is going. And we’ve get everybody to know to get out there and help because we’ve gotta' have positive solutions in this country.”
Then, a change of course…
“This is really nice that you would all come. How long have you been here? You came here for the food, I know.”
Next: Selfies for everyone as Kasich moves through the room. Then back on the bus – with a fresh supply of pizza – facing a half-dozen more stops in the next two days.