Donald Trump is kicking his #NeverTrump Republican rival John Kasich to the curb in the state of Ohio and consolidating his power among activists on the ground.
Trump quietly won an important battle — with the help of the Republican National Committee — to seize control of the Ohio ground game from Kasich’s state party. Now, Kasich’s headline-making gripes about Trump are only serving to marginalize the sitting governor among Republicans.
“Kasich is a non-factor. There’s nobody here on the ground taking John Kasich seriously at all, that’s just the media driving that. He’s having no effect on people on the ground whatsoever,” top Ohio tea party activist Tom Zawistowski told Breitbart News. “He’s angered a lot of people.”
Trump’s victory over Kasich was cemented Tuesday when the Ohio Republican Party blasted out a press release announcing that the Trump-Pence ticket had opened 32 new “Victory Centers” in the state, and the centers are to be controlled by Trump-Pence. That’s significant because Ohio’s “Victory Centers,” which volunteers and staffers operate out of, used to be controlled by the state party. For a long time even after Trump became the presumptive nominee, those Victory Centers were getting out the vote for Senate candidate Rob Portman but not for Trump.
In mid-August, shortly after activists caught some state party officials trying to get signatures to help Libertarian Gary Johnson, the game changed. Breitbart News received a tip that the headquarters for all of the state’s Victory Centers would be moved out of a state party office and into a new office in Columbus paid for by the Trump campaign.
The move was facilitated by the RNC after a sit-down meeting between Trump and Reince Priebus in which Trump negotiated for operational control of existing Ohio victory centers.
Ohio-based RNC official Ryan Shucard told Breitbart News that “that’s how it was in 2012 with Romney too. A lot of the field staff and [staff] from the RNC went over to the candidates’ office.”
The shakeup was enough to boost Trump in Ohio over the last couple weeks. Trump is leading Hillary Clinton in the most recent Suffolk University poll, 42 percent to 39 percent.
The pro-Trump National Rifle Association is also running an extremely strong ground game in Ohio this cycle, prompting a panicked email from Elizabeth Warren to supporters of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland.
Hillary Clinton, by contrast, is not doing so hot.
“We’re definitely seeing a lot of independents and Democrats coming over” to Trump, Zawistowski said. “All I can give you on that is anecdotal evidence but it’s more [Democrats crossing over] than I’ve ever seen.”
“We’ve been told that Clinton had 400 paid staffers on the ground here in Ohio, but if there are they’ve done a pretty terrible job,” Zawistowski said. “In our area we have Kent State University, and they had [Clinton supporter] Bernie Sanders come in to talk to Kent State students. That’s basically the People’s Republic of Kent. We put together a counter-protest. We expected a lot more students there [for Bernie]. They were anything but enthused.”
“I mean, Bernie Sanders had an event yesterday in Ohio for Hillary Clinton,” Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said after the speech. “There were 150 people there. That’s like a second wedding where I come from.”
A Trump supporter recently walked into a Hillary Clinton office minutes before a scheduled door-knocking in the mid-sized city of Delaware, Ohio, only to find virtually no one inside.
So what is Kasich’s problem? The governor keeps making headlines, like for saying that Trump should apologize to President Obama for long ago casting doubt on Obama’s birth certificate. Reince Priebus is trying to force Kasich to formally endorse Trump, holding Kasich’s designs on another presidential run as collateral.
Does the governor still have a personal beef with Trump, who defeated him in the primaries, like Ted Cruz? Or is Kasich angling for a Clinton victory so he can position himself for another run in 2020, during which he would presumably rally the Republican Establishment against the memory of Trump?
Interestingly, Kasich campaign senior strategist John Weaver, who is still acting as a Kasich strategist and is still trying to rile people up by slamming Trump, flipped and became a registered Democrat after George W. Bush defeated his candidate John McCain in the 2000 primary.
The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis wrote in 2011:
When Bush vanquished McCain in the bitter 2000 primary battle, their rival campaign gurus didn’t shake hands and join forces to defeat Al Gore. Instead…Weaver ‘briefly became a Democrat in the Bush years.’ That line, I think, understates Weaver’s apostasy…
…In fact…Weaver didn’t just dabble in Democratic politics — he ‘advised the DCCC, Dem congressional leaders and said nice things about some of the Dems’ 2004 White House hopefuls.’ He also left the party before Bush beat Gore. And despite becoming a Democrat, he continued to advise McCain.”
Franklin Foer wrote for The New Republic that “In early 2002, Weaver reregistered as a Democrat. And even that doesn’t do justice to his alienation.”