Clinton, Kaine make Ohio a priority on campaign trail

Virginia Senator and Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine introduces presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at her rally in Youngstown, Ohio, on Saturday, July 30, 2016.

Alex Delaney-Gesing

Sixty-nine-year-old Aurora resident Marryan Aue stood in the back of the crowded gymnasium of Youngstown’s East High School, hands firmly wrapped around the body of the Canon DSLR camera that hung from her neck.

With a clear view of the podium where Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton would speak, Aue was ready to capture the history-making candidate in-person for the first time.

“You hear so many bad things about Hillary, about what she’s done and all, I had to see for myself,” she said.

Aue has been a registered Republican her whole life. This election year, however, she’s voting for the opposing side.

After accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination Thursday night, the former secretary of state and her running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, embarked on a three-day road trip through the Rust Belt to discuss their plans for the nation’s economy.

The decades of experience Clinton has garnered have helped to sway Aue toward the candidate’s ability to lead the country.

“I think she’s got a real good chance because she knows the system,” Aue said. “She’s an insider. She’s been there.”

On the stretch of road leading to the high school, pro-Donald Trump signs lined front yards.

“Hillary For Prison” and “Trump for President” were boldly written in blue and red on white poster boards and handmade wooden signs.

Locals with the “Trump Train,” as they called it, rented out a plot of land across the street from the high school to raise awareness of the Republican candidate.

They wanted to spread their believe of him being “for everybody, especially in the inner city,” one member said.

However, hordes of blue “I’m with her” shirts could be seen in the seemingly-endless line of people who waited on the school property to enter the building before the rally.

At capacity, the high school gymnasium was filled with an estimated 1,200 rally attendees. Another 400 people occupied the makeshift overflow area in the school’s cafeteria.

Some sat at cafeteria tables, disgruntled at not being allowed into the rally, but refusing to budge nonetheless. Others stood as near to the gym doors as security allowed them to, their ears craned to hear the presidential candidate’ speech.

A sea of blue scattered the bleachers, interspersed with the occasional white and red.

Glittering hats with patriotic stickers and American flags donned the heads of a few older women who surrounded the large, white and bright blue “Stronger Together” sign strategically placed in the center row of bleachers, directly behind and parallel to the podium.

With Clinton buttons pinned to the front of their jackets, Cleveland residents Carolyn and Bennie Williams waited patiently in the gymnasium for the candidate to arrive.

Bennie, 68, voted for Clinton in the 2008 primary, when then-Sen. Barack Obama beat her for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“I’ve been a Hillary supporter from the very beginning, when Bill Clinton was in office,” he said. “I always said she was as smart as him, if not smarter.”

Bennie said the time for women leaders in the world has come. Just look at the polls, he said.

Following the Democratic National Convention, national polls and surveys have put Clinton ahead in favorability.

One poll released Friday by RABA Research showed Clinton having a 14-point lead over Trump, with 45 percent to his 31 percent.

The poll reported women at 50 percent support for Clinton, with a 7-point lead among men and a 16-point lead with seniors.

Compared to last week’s RABA poll, Clinton’s approval increased by 6 points and Trump’s decreased by 3 points.

In a July 30 RABA article published along with the poll, John Del Cecato, a Democratic-leaning partner with the firm, said the lead Trump had garnered following the Republican National Convention has since disappeared.

“Trump continues to struggle to consolidate support within his own party,” Del Cecato said. “Clinton has a sizable lead among independents and is even peeling off a small slice of Republican voters.”

A CNN survey conducted over the weekend put Clinton at 52 percent popularity ahead of Trump by 9 percent. This was a change from the week prior, where Trump lead with 48 percent, 3 percent more than Clinton.

FiveThirtyEight’s “now-cast,” where a forecast of the presidential winner is projected based on current approval ratings, predicted Clinton would win the presidency, with 91.2 percent to Trump’s 8.8 percent.

Carolyn Williams, 65, shared her husband Bennie’s enthusiasm for the Democratic candidate’s popularity.

She said Clinton is “overqualified” to be commander-in-chief.

“It’s not about being female. It’s the fact that Hillary knows everything about the government and how it should be run,” she said. “She’s had experience there. She was a representative for our country and she knows what needs to be done.”

In a world largely run by men, Carolyn said, Clinton’s nomination has paved the way for women to be successful in their careers.

“I know what a hard time it is, being a woman, and getting treated fairly,” she said. “I’m so glad I’m alive to see this happen. I truly believe there’s going to be better opportunities for the younger generation of women down the line because of this.”

Carolyn’s sentiment was echoed by Kaine during the rally.

“Hillary Clinton is the most qualified person to head a ticket of any party,” Kaine said. “I think it’s about time for strong men to show that they can support strong women in leadership.”

Skills training, tax reform, promotion of manufacturing and research, higher wages that “would make sure no family is below poverty level,” and the “radical notion” of women making the same wages as men are Clinton’s plans during her presidency, Kaine said.

“On the economy, this is super simple: Do you guys want a ‘you’re fired’ president, or a ‘you’re hired’ president?” he asked the roaring crowd of “Hillary” chanters.

Kaine referred to his and Clinton’s backgrounds of small business families: His father operated an iron-working shop in Kansas City, while Clinton’s father worked in the textile supply industry in Chicago.

“This is not just a campaign talking point,” Clinton said. “The only way we’re going to grow the economy is by supporting small businesses.”

Targeting the white, working class voters residing in the Youngstown area, Clinton emphasized the need for a stronger economy run by an even stronger division of laborers.

The major challenge economically, she said, is to create more good paying jobs with rising incomes and good benefits.

”The economy needs to work for everybody, not just those at the top,” she said. “We are going to have the biggest job creation programs since World War II.”

Clinton stressed the need for a new electric grid in every community, specifically low-income areas, throughout the nation.

“If we’re going to be creating renewable energy, we’ve got to be able to distribute it,” she said. “We need to make sure every person—every home, every business in America—has access to broadband internet connectivity.”  

Five million children in the country don’t have access to the internet in their homes to do their homework, Clinton said.

“It is 2016,” she said. “That is unacceptable.”

While earning a four-year college education is crucial to future employment options, Clinton said, it should not be the only path available for people to have a solid, middle class job.

“There are now a million jobs in America that are not being filled,” she said. “We need more skilled people in the workplace.”

Clinton’s plan includes investing $10 billion in manufacturing, as well as forcing businesses to pay for the training of new workers and union programs.

“We’re going to put this right,” she said.

Clinton said she will increase taxes on corporations, Wall Street, and the wealthy in America because “that’s where the money is.”

Putting forth her plans for the next four years, she shared her perspective on this year’s election and her Republican rival.

“This is not a normal election. Donald Trump is not a normal presidential candidate,” Clinton said. “Somebody who attacks everybody has something missing.”

The audience shouted agreement when she called him “unqualified” and “unfit” to be the next president.

At the prospect of Trump winning the election, the shouts were followed by boos that crescendoed throughout the crowd

“Don’t boo,” Clinton said. “Vote.”

In the bleachers behind Clinton, one man held up a red poster with “Republican for Hillary” written in bold black.

The gymnasium walls vibrated with the sound of cheers that continued while he kept the sign positioned firmly over his head for a solid five minutes.

An increasing number of Republicans—both prominent politicians and concerned American citizens—continue to cross the aisle in support of the only candidate deemed to be qualified to hold office.

“Recently, I feel that the Republican Party has left the moderate side and isn’t what it should be,”  Aue said. “I voted for Hillary in the primary. And I’m going to stick with her.”=

Contact Alex Delaney-Gesing at [email protected].