CINCINNATI (AP) – Ohio Republican delegates still think Cleveland can rock for their hosting state governor, who’s counting on emerging in a contested national convention to overtake the front-runners for the presidential nomination this July.
John Kasich has what he’s called a “rock solid” base of support among the 66 delegates. It’s largely a group of political veterans who in some cases have ties to the former congressman that go back decades.
Here are some things to know about Ohio’s delegates:
Ohio’s simple winner-take-all rules for this year’s primary cut out the disputes seen in some caucus states or states with delegates awarded proportionally. They were made-to-order for Kasich, who took 100 percent of the delegates by winning 47 percent of the statewide vote to send the delegate slate he filed in December to the convention.
They are all bound to Kasich through the first convention ballot.
WHO THEY ARE
There are three statewide elected officeholders in Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, Attorney General Mike DeWine and Auditor Dave Yost, and George Voinovich, a former governor and U.S. senator, and three other former members of Congress counting DeWine. There are eight state legislators, led by state Senate President Keith Faber.
State Republican Party chairman Matt Borges and more than two dozen GOP state central committee members and county party chairs are also among the delegates, including Chairman Rob Frost of the GOP of hosting Cuyahoga County.
Among other delegates are Michael Gonidakis, president of the Ohio Right to Life, and Jerry Hruby, mayor of Brecksville in the Cleveland area for nearly three decades.
Many of the delegates know their way around a convention, probably none more so than former Ohio House speaker Jo Ann Davidson. She is co-chair of the committee on the arrangements that does much of the convention planning and management. Davidson, 88, chaired that committee in 2008. Businessman James Dicke of Auglaize County, like Davidson and Borges a Republican National Committee member, has been to five conventions as a delegate.
Delegates include Kasich campaign manager Beth Hansen and lobbyists and longtime Kasich friends Robert Klaffky and Donald Thibaut, the latter a former Kasich congressional chief of staff.
“I will vote for John Kasich on the first ballot, and I will continue to vote for John Kasich,” said Janet Weir Creighton, a Stark County commissioner going to her fifth GOP national convention. “I’m a loyalist.”
THE PITCH, THE PLAN, THE PITFALLS
The pitch by Kasich and his supporters is that he has more experience, is less divisive and has shown strength against Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in national polls. Also, he’s popular in his home state, historically crucial for Republicans.
The plan as outlined by Kasich backers is to make sure neither outspoken businessman Donald Trump nor maverick Texas Sen. Ted Cruz can put together the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination while Kasich’s folks woo delegates who could be drawn to him because they fear Trump or Cruz would take the party down in November.
However, Kasich hasn’t gotten much bounce in other states from his only win, in his home state. He’s still fourth in delegates even behind Marco Rubio and his suspended candidacy, and needs to do better elsewhere.
Karen Beckwith, who chairs the political science department at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, said some influential Republicans around the country have talked about a convention alternative to Trump and Cruz, with names such as House Speaker Paul Ryan being floated, even as Kasich is actively running.
“That doesn’t bode well for Gov. Kasich,” she said, adding that while Ohio is a key swing state, hosting the convention seems unlikely to play a major role in the decision on the nominee.
NO ONE REALLY KNOWS WHAT TO EXPECT
Convention rules won’t be set until July.
There hasn’t been a contested Republican convention in 40 years.
About the only thing for sure is there won’t be the complaints about tightly scripted pep rallies that characterized other recent national conventions.
“It certainly won’t be like any convention I’ve been to before,” said Creighton. “It’s exciting.”