Ohio takes centre stage

Cincinnati – Before next week’s much-ballyhooed extravaganza that is the Republican convention kicks off in Cleveland, a gathering that this year could prove even more politically significant opens here at the weekend.

The NAACP Convention takes place as the Presidential campaign and the national discourse has been overshadowed by a fresh round of tragedy. Police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota, then the sniper attack on police in Dallas left the nation on edge and, for some public figures at least, heightened the need for boundaries on social media.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported NAACP president and CEO Cornell William Brooks as saying: “These are no ordinary times.” 

“We are on the eve of the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act,” Brooks said. “It’s a very significant moment. We are about to elect a president in a radically different political landscape than Barack Obama walked upon in 2008.”

Democratic presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton will address the NAACP on Monday. Her expected Republican opponent, Donald Trump, turned down an invitation to speak. The two most recent Republican nominees, John McCain and Mitt Romney, had spoken to the NAACP gathering in their respective election years, although Romney was booed.

Here’s how Trump and Clinton reacted to the events of the previous week:

A new NBC/WSJ poll this week showed Trump polling zero per cent – that’s right, zero per cent – among African-American potential voters in the key battleground states of Pennsylvania and, ironically given coming events, Ohio.

Kyle Kondik, writing for Sabato’s Crystal Ball, explains “why Ohio picks the President” saying that “historically, there’s no path to victory for a Republican who loses Ohio”.

Better news for Trump is that Clinton’s national lead appears to be narrowing and a previous poll had him edging Clinton in two other key states,  Florida and Pennsylvania. The pro-Clinton Priorities USA super-PAC recently announced a big ad buy for Pennsylvania,  site of the Democratic convention in two weeks’ time.

Even without the potential distraction of his latest law suit, as Trump prepares for his own convention there continue to be contentious, unresolved issues over organisational rules and delegate commitments, all amid what the New York Times calls an ongoing “smoldering discontent” with his impending nomination.

A partial list of speakers for the three-day event was released with the opening night set to have a “Benghazi focus” and some interesting potential guests not named Trump, among them Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel. One might imagine that Gawker will be live-blogging that particular speech. 


Unlikely to be in attendance, though, along with senior members of the GOP, will be plenty of Wall Street lobbyists and executives, according to Politico. One Goldman Sachs employee told Politico anonymously that “the potential is there for Cleveland to be a complete shit show. It’s a real problem for executives because if you go, you are certainly going to offend women and minority groups within your own company.”

Trump, meanwhile, has been preparing to announce his vice-presidential pick in an exclusive interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes – though perhaps before, maybe even after or at the Convention itself. As with many things, no one really knows for sure except, perhaps, Trump himself.

Whenever it comes, though, the usual election shenanigans on social continue, with the anti-Trump PAC Never Means Never buying up likely ticket web domains – trumpgingrich.gop, trumppence.gop and trumpchristie.gop all now re-direct to NeverTrump.com. 

Speculation also continues around the VP pick for the Clinton campaign, particularly given the excitement generated when the presumptive nominee and Sen Elizabeth Warren appeared together for the first time, in Cincinnati last month.

Clinton also picked up the long-awaited endorsement of her primary rival Sen Bernie Sanders, when they spoke together at a rally in New Hampshire last week. Whatever the eventual impact of his “revolution” might turn out to be, the Sanders campaign certainly gave us – in my opinion – two of the most powerful political ad spots of the campaign.

This one (the official ‘recut’ version for New York…)

And this one, which started as a grass-roots ad created by the “storytelling agency” Human, but was then embraced by the campaign.

Finally, USA Today has a fascinating Q&A with Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau about how his cartoon strip had been warning the country about Trump for years – decades actually. The illustrator has a new collection out chronicling Trump’s rise.

(Credit Andrews-McMeel Publishing)

(Credit Andrews-McMeel Publishing)

FirstWord’s Steve McGookin first covered a US presidential election in 1988 and says that this one is easily the most fascinating yet. He’ll be writing here regularly about political ads and the candidates’ media-messaging strategies until election day in November.

(He’ll be in Cleveland next week, so if anyone wants to have a cup of coffee and talk politics, drop him a note at steve.mcgookin@firstword.co.uk)