WASHINGTON – James Gillespie is a lifelong Democrat campaigning for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump this year who sees Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton as an instrument of corporate donors who will lead the country into yet another ill-advised war.
Benjamin Garrett is a fiscally conservative Republican who can’t bring himself to vote for Trump in November and who sees Clinton as a capable and sensible alternative to a disgusting GOP candidate.
Both are Hamilton County voters who promise to disrupt conventional political calculus in this Bellwether County – a multi-vote region that will determine whether Clinton or Trump win the 18 votes in Ohio. And the campaigns know: Trump will hold a rally here on Thursday evening and former President Bill Clinton will be back on Friday.
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With Cincinnati as an anchor, Hamilton County helped include Ohio in Republican candidate George W. Bush’s column, catapulting him into the White House in 2000 and 2004. In 2008 and 2012, the county’s voters leaned to the left in helping Democrat Barack Obama, Ohio and the US win the White House.
What direction will Hamilton County head in in 2016?
Political experts say that after decades of solid Republicans, the county is showing a democratic trend. In an October 2 analysis, University of Virginia political analyst Kyle Kondik found that Hamilton County was once one of the most republican boroughs in the country.
“But it has voted more democratic than the state for the first time since the Great Depression in 2008 and 2012, and winning it is likely a necessity for Clinton,” wrote Kondik, author of “The Bellwether: Why Ohio Selects President.”
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At the same time, typical political patterns may be destroyed this year as voters give up loyalty to the party and consider casting ballot papers that zigzag across partisan borders. The American electorate has become more polarized and partisan in recent decades, but split-ticket or crossover votes could make a comeback in an election with two historically unpopular candidates.
“I believe the Ohio county map will look very different in this election than it has been in previous elections,” said Mike Dawson, who runs a website that tracks Ohio political trends. “
Take Gillespie and Garrett, who both plan to give up old voting habits when they go to the voting boothon November 8th.
Gillespie is a 36-year-old facility manager who volunteered for Obama in 2008 and 2012. The Springfield Township resident voted Republican only once in his life when a friend ran for a local escrow office.
But this year he supports Trump.
Clinton is “backed by so many corporate interests that it cannot be trusted,” he said. “Trump is that political outsider. He says the whole system is messed up on both sides. ”
This message resonates with him, as does Trump’s stance against immigrants. Gillespie says he is concerned that “criminals and terrorists are entering the country”.
Gillespie said he was not to be dissuaded from Trump’s lewd remarks in a 2005 video of the GOP candidate talking about groping and kissing women without consent. The comments were unacceptable, Gillespie said, but “my commitment to voting for him has increased as he has finally shown that he can take responsibility for his actions and admit when he’s wrong.”
Besides, he said, he never endorsed Trump for his morals.
On the other side is Garrett, a self-described “moderate Republican” who voted for Ohio governor John Kasich in the primary and watched with dismay as his party nominated Trump instead. The 39-year-old from Anderson Township, an assistant physiotherapist, sees Trump as a racial bully with no real political problems.
“He keeps saying, ‘I’m the guy. I am great. I’m great, ”said Garrett. “That’s not enough to run the country, I’m sorry.”
Garrett isn’t a huge Clinton fan, but he says he could vote for her if he believes his vote can stop Trump from winning Ohio.
“I was torn between Hillary and the libertarian ticket,” said Garrett. With Clinton he said, “At least I know what I’m getting and I know what to expect and I know she’s capable.”
Clinton would rule the country “in a solid and logical way,” added Garrett, while Trump would be a “train wreck.”
Trump visits Cincinnati on October 13th
On paper, Hamilton County appears to be fertile ground for Clinton as it is left and full of suburban Republicans like Garrett who may be turned off by Trump.
In the Democratic primary, Clinton won the county with ease, winning nearly 60 percent of the vote over her Democratic rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. In the GOP primary, Trump did poorly and lost 20.7 percentage points to Kasich according to the election results of the Hamilton County Board of Elections.
Of the 88 counties in Ohio, Hamilton was seventh worst for Trump, who, according to an analysis of Dawson’s election data, fared far better than previous GOP candidates in some of the state’s Democratic strongholds.
Harrell Kirstein, a spokesman for Clinton’s Ohio campaign, said the county is an important part of its statewide operations.
“We invested in local organizational offices here early on,” said Kirstein. “It’s a place where we have a lot of support, including from some who may not always vote for Democrats.”
Some Republican strategists agreed that Trump could have a hard time in the suburbs of Cincinnati, especially among moderate women who were rejected by the GOP candidate’s comments disparaging women for their looks. At the same time, Clinton hasn’t even won over a few democratic women.
“Trump … is hideous on every level imaginable,” said Lessa Leigh, a Cincinnati area voter who incriminated the presidential election through the investigator’s Facebook group “Greater Cincinnati Politics”. Leigh said she was a registered Republican until 2006 and is now a Democrat.
Like Garrett, Leigh said she didn’t love Clinton. She said she could vote for Green’s nominee Jill Stein – unless Trump could win Ohio. In that case, she will consider the Democratic candidate.
“She is definitely skilled and knowledgeable and intelligent,” Leigh wrote on the Facebook page. “I’m just trying to work as usual.”
The Ohio GOP chairman cannot put the Trump sign in his garden
Trump’s campaign leader in Ohio did not return any comments. But Hamilton County’s Republican Party leader Alex Triantafilou said Trump is fighting hard for votes in the region and that his supporters are excited.
“People see Trump lead in Ohio and they smell victory,” Triantafilou said last week before the news of the Trump tape came out. Most polls show the Ohio race going head to head. Trump has a 1.6 percentage point lead, according to an average of the latest RealClearPolitics.com polls.
Triantafilou said any ground the Republican candidate loses among the suburbs in the Cincinnati area could be made up in other parts of the state under the Labor Democrats.
Trump is an “unconventional candidate,” said Triantafilou, and he “changes the paradigm” by targeting voters the Republican Party does not normally appeal to. “The (usual political) rules are dangerous to apply,” he said.
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