Columbus — Let me tell you about two presidential appearances I covered over the past week — not to pick sides or support one candidate over the other but to offer a couple of observations on what I saw.
Because the way the events were handled, the number of people on hand and what was said at each is indicative, at least here in our all-important, win-at-all-costs swing state, of where things stand among Ohioans with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump.
(Granted, it’s early. A lot will happen in the next three months. And late in the week, Trump announced some solid fund-raising totals and a new Ohio campaign team that some have characterized as “all star,” which likely will change the complexion of the race.)
Clinton was in Ohio’s capital city with her running mate, Virginia Sen. and former Gov. Tim Kaine, a few days after they formally accepted the Democratic nomination. It was the last stop on a bus tour through Pennsylvania and Ohio, with much of their focus on economic policy.
Trump was in Columbus the following day, for an event that was part rally, part town hall meeting, complete with a few questions from the audience. He also focused on economic policy.
The candidates didn’t break any new rhetorical ground at either stop. I’ve covered multiple Clinton and Trump appearances during the campaign season so far, and they’ve said pretty much the same stuff each time, so I won’t dwell much on their presentations, other than one thing Trump said, which I’ll mention later.
Clinton’s event was on a Sunday afternoon, at a former military base that’s been turned into a school. It was outside, with a band performing; the lead singer and instrumentalists were decked out in patriotic red, white and blue outfits.
And it was hot. Attend any of these rallies and you’ll see a few people pass out and need medical assistance. It’s hard on a body standing around for hours waiting for politicians to arrive.
But at this event, I saw more people being hauled out on stretchers than any other I’ve attended. The sun was brutal, even with the free water bottles campaign staff started distributing shortly after attendees started pouring in.
Still, thousands of supporters were on hand and stuck it out until after Clinton and Kaine arrived.
Trump’s event was on a Monday afternoon, so it likely was harder to get the same sort of crowd. There were about a thousand people inside and droves of others outside who couldn’t get in.
There was a lot more space in the room — the crowd size could have been double, easily — and Trump complained to reporters that political motivations kept people out. All of that seems sort of silly, given that his campaign signed a contract in advance allowing only 1,000 or so people in the hall.
And at one point, in between his usual rally presentation, Trump voiced fear about the November election being rigged.
• Clinton’s ground game in Ohio seems better organized at this point — getting thousands of people to stand out in the sun, some to the point of passing out, can’t be easy. It will take that sort of organization to get people to the polls in November.
• Trump’s comments about the coming presidential election being rigged may indicate his concern about losing in November. The question now is whether he continues that line of commentary and how it will affect an angry electorate if Clinton wins.
Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau chief. Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.