CEO Daily: All eyes on Ohio

Mar 12, 2016

Saturday Morning Post: The Weekly View from Washington

The threat of violence running through Donald Trump’s rallies took on a newly menacing shape in Chicago on Friday. With thousands of protesters massing inside and outside of a downtown arena, and the specter of bloody chaos looming, the candidate canceled the gathering there. Then Trump called around to cable news shows and refused to accept responsibility for the tone of his events, despite repeatedly encouraging violent countermeasures against protesters from his podium. So much for a pivot to a more restrained campaign.

If past is prologue, this latest Trump-centric outrage will swallow the news cycles between today and Tuesday, when a round of key primaries could reset the trajectory of the race. Nevertheless, the fight for Ohio, in both parties, deserves special attention. Last Tuesday, voters’ anti-trade anger helped propel Trump and Bernie Sanders to a pair of big victories in Michigan — in Sanders’s case, a poll-defying upset. Hillary Clinton's campaign acknowledged the damage the issue did, signaling she’s recalibrating her economic message to emphasize her opposition to trade deals ahead of this week’s voting. And Sanders plans to recycle his Michigan game plan in Ohio, focusing on Clinton’s past support for the agreements to continue drawing a contrast. The Republican fight could be even more revealing, as it’s shaping up as a showdown between a protectionist Trump and John Kasich, the state’s popular governor and a longtime free-trade champion. Kasich, for example, embraces the Trans Pacific Partnership, which Trump has roundly trashed.

If the Buckeye State ratifies Michigan’s results, it should prompt a new order of alarm for those still hoping the United States approves the TPP. At first glance, the two states have much in common beyond a border: Ohio’s manufacturing strength historically has derived from its auto parts makers that supplied Detroit’s Big Three car companies. But the state’s economy has diversified. Growth in healthcare and professional services helped Ohio bounce back from the recession faster and stronger than Michigan. Chinese investors are rebuilding Toledo’s waterfront. Honda’s plant in Maryville is the state’s biggest auto factory. “In so many ways, Ohio looks more like the rest of the U.S. than Michigan does,” says Steve Cochrane of Moody’s Analytics. Michigan was ripe for anti-trade appeals; if Ohio goes for them, too, it will be a bellwether of a wider hostility to the deals.

Tory Newmyer
@torynewmyer
tory_newmyer@fortune.com

Top News

Trump eyes general election donations

The Republican frontrunner has made a big bragging deal about his self-funding of his campaign. He says his competitors have all been corrupted by their reliance on donors, whereas his ability to forego financial support from others will preserve his independence in office. But he is already actively exploring how to collect contributions to help pay for a general election campaign. One approach: Solicit donations for the national party, which in turn can finance get-out-the-vote operations while maintaining the appearance that Trump's campaign itself hasn't accepted money directly. Washington Post

Sanders ropes in more Ohio teenagers

Sanders on Friday won a legal fight that will give him an extra edge in the Ohio primary on Tuesday. The candidate sued to ensure 17-year-olds who will be 18 by Election Day can vote in the state's Democratic primary. The state has followed that approach for three decades, but its Secretary of State late last year reversed the practice. Sanders has been cleaning up among the youngest voters, consistently beating Clinton by enormous margins in the demographic. CNN

Obama heads to SXSW recruit techies for public service

Amid escalating tension in a fight over encryption between his Justice Department and Apple, President Obama on Friday traveled to South by Southwest to extend an olive branch to the tech industry. "“The reason I’m here, really, is to recruit all of you," he said, going on to promote success stories from a White House tech strike force assembled to cut through outmoded bureaucracy and make federal agencies and programs more user-friendly. Fortune

Around the Water Cooler

How Cruz can catch Trump

The good news for Ted Cruz is that he's only 100 delegates behind Trump, having won 29 percent of the vote so far, to Trump's 35 percent. The bad news is that the remainder of the calendar doesn't favor him. Then again, the Texas senator appears poised to benefit if Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich drop out — the majority of their supporters prefer Cruz to Trump. It's hard to say yet whether the boost Cruz would pick up from a winnowed field would be enough for him to overtake Trump. The results from this week's primaries, especially in Florida and Ohio, could go a long way toward determining that outcome. FiveThirtyEight

Inside Obama's foreign policy philosophy

The Republican presidential candidates took turns at their Thursday debate bashing President Obama's global leadership as feckless and cowardly. For real insight into his thinking, The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg sat down with the president to discuss his approach to the world. Among the revelations: Obama lionizes George H.W. Bush's approach, with particular admiration for his national security adviser Brent Scowcroft. And the president is a true loner when it comes to making his biggest calls, surprising his own inner circle with his red-line declaration on Syria and then again by backing away from ordering strikes there.  The Atlantic

Could Kasich be the GOP establishment's last hope?

The Ohio governor, a longtime sleeper in the Republican race, is coming on as Marco Rubio fades. But while Rubio has retreated to Florida for what could be a final stand there in the state's Tuesday primary, Kasich faces his own do-or-die moment in his home state on the same day. Unlike Rubio, Kasich has failed to win a single contest yet. Derided as a Rubio spoiler just two weeks ago, he's now pulled ahead of the Florida senator in national polls. And Trump is attacking him — another sign of his new if fragile relevance. New York Times

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