Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine says he will attend Trump rally near Dayton

Gov. Mike DeWine speaks during a Hamilton County GOP event in Sharonville on Oct. 29.
Gov. Mike DeWine speaks during a Hamilton County GOP event in Sharonville on Oct. 29.
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Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday that he plans to attend an upcoming Ohio rally with former President Donald Trump, marking the first time in years the governor has appeared at one of Trump's events.

The former president will speak at the Dayton International Airport in Vandalia on Monday night, the eve of the election, to stump for author and venture capitalist J.D. Vance and other GOP candidates on the ballot. Vance is locked in a tight race for Ohio's open U.S. Senate seat against Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan.

"I intend to be there," DeWine said at an event in Columbus. "I want to support J.D. I want to continue to do that. It's important to get people out to vote."

DeWine greeted Trump at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport during Trump's last visit to the Buckeye State in September, but he skipped the rally to attend his granddaughters' cross-country meet. In April, DeWine contracted COVID-19 about a week before a Trump rally in Delaware County. Before that, he planned to attend celebrations for former President Ulysses S. Grant's 200th birthday instead.

In August 2020, DeWine had a false positive COVID-19 test hours before visiting Trump, canceling the meeting.

Trump and DeWine have an amicable, but lukewarm, relationship.

DeWine backed both of Trump's campaigns in 2016 and 2020. However, DeWine acknowledged that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election and said Trump "poured gas on the fire" of the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol.

DeWine also isn't universally popular with the former president's supporters, largely because of his response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At Trump's September rally, a Sandusky woman told a reporter she was there to "support Trump, and to boo loudly when he says he endorsed DeWine."

Republicans hope Trump's Monday rally will excite GOP voters just in time for Election Day and push Vance across the finish line.

“The president is trying to make sure that we get out and vote," Vance told reporters on Thursday. "I think the president feels the same way I do about the race, which is that we're going to win, we're in a position to win, but you can only win if people actually get out there to vote. So we're trying to inspire the troops."

DeWine makes appearance amid quiet campaign

DeWine appeared in Columbus with Vance and other statewide GOP candidates to kick off a bus tour days before Tuesday's election. It was a public appearance for the sitting governor, who has campaigned for months like a man who knows he’s already won.

The built-in advantages of incumbency, ranging from high name recognition to fundraising supremacy, have led DeWine to dodge debates against Whaley and decline an interview with the USA TODAY Network Ohio editorial board. His sole appearance with Democratic challenger Nan Whaley was a video conference for Cleveland.com’s editorial board.

Yet DeWine still contends he's accessible and his campaign says he's done 18 public appearances this week. "There’s nobody in the history of this state that has had more press conferences, been more available to the news media and to the people of the state of Ohio than I have," said DeWine, a nod to his near-daily news conferences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He also campaigned with Vance in southwest Ohio over the weekend.

U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance speaks during a Hamilton County GOP event in Sharonville on Oct. 29.
U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance speaks during a Hamilton County GOP event in Sharonville on Oct. 29.

DeWine told fellow Republicans Thursday that he talked with voters outside FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland for about two hours before the Cleveland Browns' rout of the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football.

"I will tell you this was the best reception we have ever received,” DeWine said. "It was not universal, but it was a great, great reaction."

Then he started detailing goals for his second term and plans for the state’s next two-year budget, which his team is already crafting. Most polls show DeWine easily defeating Whaley, a candidate the sitting governor has largely ignored.

Before candidates boarded the bus, DeWine fielded questions about why he didn't debate the state's first female gubernatorial candidate, whether Ohio’s economy was on the right track, what he would change about Ohio's unconstitutional redistricting process and whether he’s out-of-step with most Ohioans who support abortion exceptions in cases of rape or incest.

DeWine responded that Intel and Honda hadn't started hiring yet. The Ohio Supreme Court made it impossible to draw districts. And the Republican-controlled Legislature should take action to protect life while acknowledging Ohio voters might have the last word with a constitutional amendment.

Then DeWine got on the bus to promote Ohio's truly competitive races: the battle for control of the Ohio Supreme Court and Vance's Senate bid.

Haley BeMiller and Jessie Balmert are reporters for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Mike DeWine plans to attend Ohio Trump rally to support JD Vance