WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump returns Wednesday to an Ohio where farmers are grappling with a trade war with China, General Motors has closed a major factory in Lordstown and $112 million designated for Ohio military projects could be used to pay for a wall on the Mexican border.
These setbacks might cripple any other politician. But Trump maintains an ardent following in Ohio, with some surveys showing support from nearly 50 percent of voters.
Trump is expected to attract enthusiastic support when he visits the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima, where he has proposed spending $226 million more to upgrade 165 M-1 A-1 Army battle tanks and $285 million more to modernize 152 Stryker combat vehicles.
And he will cap his day at a fundraiser in Northeast Ohio where tickets range from $2,800 for a reception to up to $70,000 for dinner tickets for a couple, according to the Canton Repository.
To Trump’s supporters, his visit is a welcome opportunity to embrace a politician who is doing exactly what he said he’d do — cut taxes, appoint conservative Supreme Court justices and cut regulations.
"If the election were today in Ohio, I think he'd win by more than 8½ percent," said U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, citing Trump's 2016 margin. "He is doing what he said he'd do and keeping his promises."
The Urbana Republican will be with Trump in Lima, as will Lt. Gov. Jon Husted. Gov. Mike DeWine will join Trump in Canton.
To Trump's critics, he is demonstrating the hubris and false confidence they have grown to detest.
Matt Borges, former chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, said Trump "is not in a strong position. His approval ratings have never been particularly high, hovering in the low 40s. He should be doing better given the state of the economy. We run the real risk of losing to a Democrat in 2020 and that (is something) no Republican would want."
That's the dichotomy of Trump: Depending on your politics, he is lovable or loathable. Each side uses different facts to tell the story of his success or failure.
“You have to separate the facts and feelings here,” said David Niven, a political science professor at the University of Cincinnati. “If we’re going to analyze straight facts, then you’re going to run through a litany of Ohio’s difficulties and the lack of responsiveness to them.
"But if you're going to tell a story about feelings, there are an awful lot of Ohioans who feel represented, who feel they have a voice in Washington right now. That matters quite a lot.”
Yes, the GM plant no longer builds Chevy Cruze. But Trump’s angry tweets this weekend — including one directed at the head of the local United Auto Workers Union in Lordstown — brought attention that autoworkers hope will bring a new product into the plant.
Yes, he's engaged in a trade war that is hurting farmers. But the nation’s unemployment rate is at 3.8 percent and the stock market continues to rise.
Yes, it’s possible that money for military construction projects at Wright–Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Camp James A. Garfield training center near Ravenna and other sites may be used to build the wall. But Trump has requested an increase in defense spending overall, and is working to build the border wall he promised during his campaign.
“Either you like what he does or you don’t like what he does,” said Tom Zawistowski, a Portage County Tea Party leader who backs Trump.
Yet there are some hints that Trump’s support in Ohio could slowly erode. Jeff Sadosky, a political strategist in Washington with long ties to Ohio Republicans, said the possible loss of military projects suggests “someone in the White House political office is taking Ohio’s electoral votes for granted.”