JUDY WOODRUFF: Tomorrow is an important day for the presidential race in both parties, with primaries being held in five major states. One of the biggest prizes is Ohio. No Republican has won the White House without winning the Buckeye State.
And this year, it’s taken on heightened importance in the effort to derail Donald Trump’s path to the Republican nomination.
“NewsHour” correspondent John Yang reports from Ohio.
JOHN YANG: As Ohio Governor John Kasich and Donald Trump crisscrossed the Buckeye State, campaigning for tomorrow’s primary:
DONALD TRUMP (R), Republican Presidential Candidate: Oh, I love Ohio.
GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), Republican Presidential Candidate: It’s about time we had an Ohioan become president of the United States. It’s been far too long.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
JOHN YANG: More is at stake than just 66 delegates in this winner-take-all contest.
GOV. JOHN KASICH: Look, I’m going to win in Ohio.
DONALD TRUMP: We really want to win Ohio.
JOHN YANG: Ohio Republicans say they’re battling for nothing less than their party’s future.
DONALD TRUMP: They don’t like liars.
JOHN YANG: And the two men’s styles couldn’t be more different.
GOV. JOHN KASICH: So, we will fix these things when we remember that we’re Americans and not Republicans and Democrats first, but Americans first, and work together and lift this country. We will fix this.
DONALD TRUMP: We’re going to build the wall, folks. Don’t worry about it.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
DONALD TRUMP: Who’s going to pay for the wall?
DONALD TRUMP: Who?
JOHN YANG: And it goes beyond style. Party leaders fear Trump isn’t a real conservative, says Paul Beck, a political scientist at Ohio State University.
PAUL BECK, Ohio State University: That is what is scaring Republican leaders maybe more than anything is that, if Trump gets the nomination and if he wins the presidency, he redefines the party, and he moves the party away from what it has been for almost forever.
JOHN YANG: That’s why the state party is throwing its full weight behind Kasich.
MAN: I’m a volunteer for Governor Kasich’s presidential campaign. How are you this evening?
JOHN YANG: A popular second-term governor and former nine-term congressman.
MAN: We will protect our favorite son for the White House in 2016.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
JOHN YANG: Franklin County Auditor Clarence Mingo said he wouldn’t support Trump as his party’s nominee.
CLARENCE MINGO, Auditor, Franklin County: It’s a national embarrassment to have a gentleman who has insulted the disabled, the war record of an American hero like John McCain, insulted minorities. It’s not acceptable. It’s un-American. And I fear that, long term, the nation and the party will pay the price for this conduct.
JOHN YANG: Matt Borges is the state party’s chairman.
MATT BORGES, Chairman, Ohio Republican Party: Everyone knows you can’t get a Republican elected to the White House without carrying Ohio. And the candidate who gives us the best chance to get Ohio of course is John Kasich. So, maybe it isn’t so much about stopping Donald Trump as it is about making sure we select the right nominee, and that person should be John Kasich.
JOHN YANG: But that’s not what voters said at a Trump rally this weekend in Dayton.
So, what brings you out today?
BRENDA HARDESTY, Trump Supporter: I want to see this man. He’s the man.
JOHN YANG: Is he your man for Tuesday?
BRENDA HARDESTY: He is my man.
JOHN YANG: Take Brenda Hardesty.
BRENDA HARDESTY: I am a Democrat, but I have flipped this year because there is nobody on that side. And Trump, he’s just — I don’t know. He’s our future, you know? He’s just our future.
JOHN YANG: Loretta Brown volunteered at the event.
LORETTA BROWN, Trump Supporter: We are financially sick, and this is the doctor that’s going to make it well. That’s what America needs. That’s what the people need. They need their jobs back, and, financially, the country needs his help.
JOHN YANG: Even waiting in line at a Kasich event in Moraine, undecided voter Judy Harleman says he’s a good governor, but she may vote for Trump anyway.
JUDY HARLEMAN, Undecided Voter: He’s a businessman, and I think that’s what Washington needs now. There is just too much going on that’s not right, right now.
JOHN YANG: Others say they prefer Kasich’s temperament and experience. Bill Reridan is a retired engineer.
BILL RERIDAN, Kasich Supporter: He’s willing to stand up for his own beliefs and is not, you know, trying to make a big thing out of it, but he’s telling the truth and he’s done a good job in Ohio.
JOHN YANG: What gave him the edge over Trump, in your mind?
BILL RERIDAN: Just because he’s level-headed and has good common sense.
JOHN YANG: This will be the first time Ryan Ritchey votes for president.
RYAN RITCHEY, Kasich Supporter: Trump has gone at this very unprofessionally. The presidency is something that should be taken very seriously. It’s not something that you can just walk into, not something you can insult your way to. And John Kasich is the only adult left in this race.
MAN: And tonight’s rally will be postponed.
JOHN YANG: On Friday, violence erupted after Trump canceled a planned rally in Chicago. Kasich, who hadn’t engaged Trump, scolded the businessman.
GOV. JOHN KASICH: Donald Trump has created a toxic environment. There is no place for a national leader to prey on the fears of people who live in our great country.
JOHN YANG: Trump says Kasich isn’t strong enough.
DONALD TRUMP: Kasich is a baby. He’s a baby. He can’t be president. He can’t be president. Too many problems.
JOHN YANG: Voters have already been casting ballots for nearly a month, even as the governor and the billionaire intensify their battle over the airwaves.
NARRATOR: Kasich gave Ohio Obamacare and increased our budget more than any governor in the U.S. We don’t need him in Ohio and we certainly don’t need him in Washington.
NARRATOR: As polls showed Donald Trump leading Ohio, he attacked our John Kasich with unhinged, bold-faced lies.
JOHN YANG: And at the grassroots.
WOMAN: Hi. We’re stopping by on behalf of my brother, John Kasich.
WOMAN: Hi. Hello. My name is Christina and I’m with the Trump campaign.
JOHN YANG: Party leaders’ concerns go beyond the primary. Some worry that Trump at the top of the ticket could hurt Republican candidates all the way down the ballot.
SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R), Ohio: He’s done a great job for us as governor and he deserves to be president of the United States.
JOHN YANG: Like Senator Rob Portman, who’s been at Kasich’s side on the campaign trail.
SEN. ROB PORTMAN: If there are a number of Ohio Republicans, people who would otherwise vote Republican almost automatically, who say I just cannot stomach this ticket with Donald Trump at the top, I can’t vote Democratic, that would be a violation of everything I believe in, and so I’m just not going to turn out, and it, I think, is a legitimate worry.
JOHN YANG: With so much at stake…
DONALD TRUMP: Are we going to win Ohio?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
JOHN YANG: … Trump’s path to the nomination…
GOV. JOHN KASICH: So, now we’re here. Please don’t screw this up for me. OK?
JOHN YANG: … the survival of Kasich’s campaign and the future of Republican Party, Ohio Republicans’ hopes for a Kasich win tomorrow are more than just a matter of Buckeye pride.
John Kasich now acknowledges that if he loses his home state tomorrow, it’s probably the end of the road for him, or, as he puts it, he stays home. A Trump loss here in Ohio would complicate his drive for a first ballot nomination, but not necessarily end it.
But, Judy, it would probably certainly put visions of a brokered convention dancing in the anti-Trump forces’ heads — Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Hmm.
So, hi, John. So, tell us, there’s also a serious race going on between the Democrats in Ohio, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Tell us a little bit about that looks like.
JOHN YANG: Well, the Bernie Sanders campaign really hopes tomorrow that they can show that Michigan was not a fluke. They have high hopes for Ohio. When they look at Ohio, they see a lot of the things that helped them in Michigan, industrial manufacturing jobs that have gone overseas, a slow recovery.
Ohio only got back to their pre-recession employment level in October, much later than a lot of other states. So, Sanders is hitting hard on the trade issue, both in speeches and in rallies and on television. This morning, he added a stop in Youngstown, a place where the steel industry used to be big, but no more.
They also see Ohio as a home to a lot of little college towns across the state, which would play to his strength with young people. For their part, the Clinton campaign says only that they expect a close race tomorrow, but they had been talking about being here today. They did not. They were not. They were in Illinois and North Carolina instead, and tomorrow night, to watch the election returns, they will be not here, but in Florida — Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, John, just quickly, what about television advertising?
Is that playing much of a role on the Democratic side?
JOHN YANG: It is — I mean, just like last time, Ohio is blanketed with television ads.
It’s hard to watch television and not see even the same Sanders ad or Clinton ad repeating. But a lot of people here say that it is so saturated that it becomes background noise, that it may not really be having an effect — Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: John Yang reporting for us from Ohio, and you will be there tomorrow when they’re voting. Thanks.