Mike DeWine got perhaps the best three gifts possible Monday for his gubernatorial campaign from President Donald Trump: Effusive praise, condemnation of his opponent, and a few minutes at the microphone before cheering thousands during an election eve rally in Cleveland.
“Mike DeWine has spent his life fighting for Ohio families,” Trump said. "If you want a state that's prosperous, vote for Mike DeWine."
But most of his time was spent ripping hyperbolically into Democrat Rich Cordray.
“He’s a far-left radical socialist” who will not only plunge Ohio into poverty, but indeed will "destroy" the state, Trump said. As he did during an Ohio visit last month, Trump went on to say that Cordray is a mean person who enjoys hurting people because of his actions heading the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
DeWine, employing the same dubious claim he's made in campaign ads, linked Cordray to former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland and the 300,000-plus jobs lost during the Great Recession in Ohio. Cordray was attorney general during the final two years of Strickland's administration.
At one point, Trump remarked, “In a sense I am on the ticket” in Tuesday's election.
"There is an electricity like people have not seen" since he was elected in 2016 — a few days after a rally in the same location. "This is the greatest political movement of all time."
The day before Trump's appearance, DeWine was asked whether it would would be a net gain for his candidacy since he must appeal to voters beyond the GOP base to win.
"I think it’s going help the campaign, but, look, ultimately people are going to vote for Mike DeWine or Richard Cordray," DeWine said.
But what about when the president delves into controversial topics, such as how the caravan in Mexico headed toward the U.S.'s southern border represents an imminent threat?
DeWine answered by pointing out that Gov. John Kasich make a public endorsement of him Friday.
"We have an economy that’s moving forward in Ohio. I think that’s what important for people to take away from both Friday and Monday: We’ve got an economy that’s moving ahead, we can’t mess that up.”
Jane Timken, chair of the Ohio Republican Party, said, "The president's visit energizes our base and gets our voters out and it's a closing argument that our economy is booming in Ohio and it's because of Republican policies."
Trump chose Ohio for a rally on the day before the mid-term elections not only because of the importance of Tuesday's vote, but because he wants to ensure the nation's top bellwether state has a Republican governor and secretary of state when he seeks another term in 2020, Timken said.
The state party and Republican National Committee have combined to make 4.7 million voter contacts and last weekend surpassed 2 million door knocks. Staffers and volunteers were busy Monday passing out Republican slate cards at the president's rally.
"By incorporating the enthusiasm of Trump voters to our entire statewide ticket, we're gaining new voters at the most critical time of the election,": said Mandi Merritt, Ohio spokeswoman for the RNC.
Waiting for the Trump rallly to begin Monday, retirees Ann and John Zakelj of Willoughby Hills east of Cleveland, had different perspectives on how much Trump's visit would help DeWine and the rest of the GOP ticket.
She said Trump is "preaching to the choir here," meaning almost the entire crowd already has decided to cast a Republican ballot, as the couple has.
But he said Trump's Ohio appearance will help GOP candidates "big time," because the president will shine a spotlight on them before thousands watching live, and thousands more who will see the news coverage.
Former President Barack Obama, who visited Cleveland last month on behalf of Cordray, recorded a video posted Sunday urging Ohioans to cast a vote for his former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau chief.
"Social media will still be here when you get back. Your voice has power, so make sure you use it," Obama said.
Both current Vice President Mike Pence and his predecessor, Joe Biden, have held rallies in Ohio in the days leading up to Tuesday's vote. And a variety of Ohio-born celebrities have weighed in, from John Legend to Bernie Kosar to Martin Sheen.
Virtually every statewide race is regarded as too close to call. The one exception is for the U.S. Senate, where incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown is expected to roll to a relatively easy win. However, GOP challenger Jim Renacci said a new poll shows that he has taken the lead. "You're going to have an interesting story to write," Renacci told The Dispatch.
Also on the gubernatorial ballot are Constance Gadell-Newton of the Green Party and Travis Irvine of the Libertarian Party.