COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — With Ohio’s bellwether status secure, leaders of both political parties in the state were reeling Wednesday over what a Donald Trump presidency would mean to the future.
“We got hit by a tsunami,” said Ohio Democratic Chairman David Pepper, whose party lost the White House, a once seemingly winnable U.S. Senate race and additional ground in both state legislative chambers in Tuesday’s election.
Pepper said the election results were “much bigger than politics” and his party’s focus needed to be on standing up for those groups that Trump insulted during the campaign.
“Forgetting politics, our job is to do everything we can to stand up and support people who are questioning their place in this country,” he said. “My hope is there will be a unified bipartisan wall to stop some of the stuff that Trump said he would do if elected.”
Trump topped Democrat Hillary Clinton in the state by more than 8.5 percentage points, according to final unofficial results, winning all but seven of 88 counties — from farm country to Appalachia to union-heavy, blue-collar areas. Third-party challengers captured about 4.5 percent of the vote combined.
What happened wasn’t just an uprising from whites who are on the bottom in Ohio.
It came from working-class whites — people whose families make between $50,000-$100,000 a year — and those who went to college and have two-year degrees, according to exit polls.
White college graduates in Ohio backed Trump by the same 3 out of 5 margin as did whites who had a high school diploma.
But supporters of Republican Gov. John Kasich, who resisted supporting or voting for Trump, also were weighing what the New York billionaire’s surprise national win would mean for them going forward.
Signals that Kasich anticipated a Clinton win and would try to lead a charge to rebuild the GOP afterward quickly evaporated after Trump’s victory. He has scrapped plans to deliver a speech Thursday at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, a policy think tank.
Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman also withdrew support for Trump toward the end of the race and wrote in a vote for Trump’s running mate, vice president-elect and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
Portman told reporters Wednesday that he doesn’t believe his decision not to support Trump will hurt his relationship with the president-elect. He also said he doesn’t see Kasich’s opposition hurting Ohio’s standing in Washington.
Portman called on Ohioans of all political persuasions to come together after the contentious presidential election to work for the country’s betterment.
“People expect us to put aside the campaign and to get working on issues important to them, and I think that’s what’s going to happen,” said Portman, who soundly defeated Democratic challenger Ted Strickland. “I may be a little more optimistic than some, given the partisan atmosphere in Washington.”
Portman said he anticipates tax reform, infrastructure improvements and a rewrite of the Affordable Care Act to be priorities of the Republican-controlled Senate under Trump.
Asked if he supports building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico as Trump has advocated, Portman said immigration reforms — regarding enforcement, workplace oversight and the visa system — are needed, but the form those fixes take is unclear.
“I don’t know that it will be a physical wall everywhere across the border, or whether you can do this with a virtual wall in certain areas where a wall might not be practical, but I do think people are going to generally support the idea of reforming our immigration system and ensuring that there is adequate enforcement,” he said.
Anger and angst about fair trade, the economy and the federal government played to Trump’s advantage in securing victory Tuesday, the exit polls showed.
Half of Ohio’s voters thought trade with other countries takes away jobs and even more were worried about the nation’s economy and upset with the federal government. Trump won all those groups by overwhelming numbers.
Rural voters, as expected, backed Trump by a wide margin. But suburban voters gave the Republican candidate a bigger edge than they did the presidential candidate four years ago. Trump won almost 3 out of 5 votes in Ohio’s suburbs; Barack Obama, by contrast, drew almost half of their votes four years ago.
This story has been corrected to show the percentage of the vote won by third parties was about 4.5 percent, not less than 3 percent.