Ohio RNC Delegates Look To The Future

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Several hundred Ohioans will be at the Tampa Bay Times Forum this week to serve as delegates for the Republican National Convention.(Photo: Flicker: fifth world art)
Several hundred Ohioans will be at the Tampa Bay Times Forum this week to serve as delegates for the Republican National Convention.(Photo: Flicker: fifth world art)

Several hundred Ohioans are in Florida this week for the Republican quadrennial event – the national convention. WOSU talked with a few of the delegates who will attend the event to find out their expectations.

This week, former Governor Mitt Romney will formally accept the nomination for president before thousands of fellow republicans, and he’ll announce U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate. This comes as no surprise unlike conventions past where delegates actually voted and selected their candidate.

But conventions remain important. For many voters, the non-political junkie group, it will be the first time they’ll hear straight from the candidate’s mouth.

“It kind of gives them a nice little avenue into seeing how this person is and what they believe in,” says media consultant Bob Clegg.

Clegg, a Republican, will join about 300 fellow Ohio delegates in Tampa for his party’s National Convention. Clegg could be considered a veteran of national conventions. This will be his sixth.

“The first one was in 1980 when I was a youth delegate for Ronald Reagan.”

That convention took place in Detroit, after which the Reagan campaign, running on its “Making America Great Again” theme, gained steam and made democrat Jimmy Carter a one-term president. Those are the results republicans, like Clegg, hope for.

“I think it will have a lot of the feeling of 1980. I only say that because just the feeling I’ve gotten since the announcement of Paul Ryan to the ticket has been amazing…I’m getting that feeling,” Clegg says. “And if I remember correctly, and it’s been a while obviously, I think Governor Romney’s in a much better position with regards to President Obama than Ronald Reagan was at a similar time with Jimmy Carter.”

Looking back 32 years, President Carter had a 7 percentage point lead over Reagan in June. Today, the latest Quinnipiac Poll shows President Obama holds a 6 point lead over Romney in Ohio. The margin is even smaller in the swing states of Florida and Wisconsin.

But when it comes to the women’s vote, President Obama has a considerable lead: 13 percentage points over Romney.

And the gaffe about “legitimate rape” by U.S. Representative Todd Akin could widen that margin.

“It clearly has damaged. The question is whether it’s a short-term hit,” says Former Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery.

Montgomery, who will attend her fifth national convention, says Romney has discredited Akin’s comment.

“At the convention, what he’s going to do is talk about the issues that really are affecting women, which is the economy,” she says. “Right now, we’ve got over 40, 42 months at this point, at 8 percent unemployment, and that has disproportionally hit minorities and women.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the unemployment rate for men and women 16 years of age and older last month was 8.4 and 8.1 percent respectively. But for out-of-work women in their mid-30s and 40s, the rate for women is higher at 8.6 percent compared to only 7 percent for men.

Montgomery, who looks for the economy to be the crux of the message at this week’s convention, underscores its relevance among women’s issues.

“Because their children are not being employed, their husbands and loved ones are unemployed or under-employed. And quite frankly at the end of the day, although the distractions, and I don’t mean to minimize them, of the social issues are always the issues that become divisive among family members and party members. But the most important thing we need to focus on is the economy,” Montgomery says.

Democrats have lined up a score of women for their national convention next week in an effort to solidify the female vote. Lilly Ledbetter, who sued Goodyear for pay discrimination and inspired Congress to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, will reportedly speak at the event.

Montgomery says attempts by Democrats to say republicans are not for women’s rights is a red herring. She says Romney will be able to deliver his message this week without the media’s interpretation.

“This governor’s going to have a chance to speak directly to the electorate, and they’ll be able to see that this is a man who believes in equal pay and understands that the economy is the issue for all Americans and certainly for parents and mothers and women who have seen disproportionately the consequences of a failed economy.”

Not everyone at the convention will be a seasoned delegate. Mark Eubel, from Westerville, is a first time delegate. Eubel technically is a delegate for Rick Santorum, but he’s made more than 9,000 phone calls for Romney’s campaign.

“I am very excited to go. I always wanted to go and meet people I’ve seen on the TV and be able to talk to them,” Eubel says. “I’m pretty politically minded, so I would love to sit down and talk to people about different issues.”

Eubel says there are a number of issues he’d like to hear addressed at the convention…health care, jobs, “He’s going to need to talk about how he’s going to reduce the debt.”

But Eubel’s also looks forward to hearing from Romney running-mate Paul Ryan.

“I’m not sure what I want the big message to be. But I am certain the convention will provide Paul Ryan a forum to say, you know, here’s our plan together, mine and Governor Romney’s.”

The convention runs through Thursday.