DeWine: Any of GOP will do

During a recent hour-plus interview with Gov. Mike DeWine, he said: “I’m a pragmatist. I take this world as I find it.”

While he was talking about a different issue, it applies to how he answered a question I asked about supporting a Republican for the U.S. Senate seat up for grabs this year.

DeWine is a longtime Republican officeholder and one of the most familiar political names in Ohio. He’s seeking re-election to a second four-year term as governor this year.

But because of how he initially responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with curfews, closing businesses and face mask mandates — all of which have long been lifted even though the state is experiencing record high case numbers — DeWine is disliked by some Republicans.

Among them are a few candidates running for U.S. Senate in the May 3 primary.

The most vocal is Josh Mandel, former state treasurer who is considered the Republican frontrunner.

Mandel has sharply criticized DeWine a number of times, calling him a variety of names and saying he’s a phony Republican even though he has run and won with the GOP affiliation before Mandel even was born.

Mandel is the loudest, but others in the field also have voiced opposition to DeWine and his policies, particularly as it relates to the pandemic.

Still DeWine said he will support any Republican who wins the party’s May 3 primary — whether that person likes or hates him — because having the GOP regain control of the Senate is a priority for the governor.

DeWine said, “Ohio may very well determine that.”

Of course, DeWine is going to support his party’s candidate for Senate. Normally this wouldn’t even be a question.

However, this is far from a normal election.

A number of Republican candidates have made DeWine’s mask mandate and his business shutdown orders at the start of the pandemic election issues. They say the governor was wrong and is out of touch with the Republican Party.

It’s led to Republican challenges to his re-election bid.

Former state Rep. Jim Renacci and Joe Blystone, a farmer and businessman who’s never sought elected office, are challenging DeWine in the Republican primary.

DeWine should win, but that he’s facing primary election challengers while seeking another term isn’t a good sign.

DeWine also said he would have no issue sharing a campaign rally stage with the winner of the Republican primary even if that person opposes his re-election. If the Senate candidate truly does oppose DeWine, that person is going to stay far away from the governor. That means DeWine can say with no worries that the Senate candidate is going to bad mouth him in front of his face.

A former 12-year U.S. senator, DeWine basically said his decision is one of “party first.”

“The majority leader has significant power and a lot more than the minority leader,” he said. “The majority leader sets the agenda, and that’s vitally important.”

Ohio Democrats compared DeWine’s comments with those of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who embraced Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election after the latter showed no mercy or class in attacking Cruz and his family.

“Mike DeWine is so desperate to try and remain relevant in the GOP primary that he’s willing to bear hug extreme candidates who seem to find new ways to embarrass our state every single day,” said Matt Keyes, Ohio Democratic Party spokesman.

Keyes added: “It’s a sad final act of a desperate politician trying to remain relevant after 40 years in office.”

That’s probably not the case.

Despite some Republicans wanting DeWine to go away, he’s got a solid chance to win re-election.

If compromising some of his principles for what he says is the greater good, then DeWine won’t hesitate to do just that.

Skolnick covers politics for The Vindicator and the Tribune Chronicle.



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