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Ohio Delegation Breakfast Focuses On GOP Platform, Avoids Trump

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And the assault on the police in Baton Rouge has been on the minds of lots of people here, including the Ohioans at a delegation breakfast that I went to this morning.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.

SIEGEL: At these breakfasts, party up-and-comers speak often with an eye toward future conventions. The headliner this morning for about 300 Ohioans packed into a hotel ballroom was Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TOM COTTON: The Republican Party is the party of law and order. And we always back the blue who keep us safe on our streets all day long.

(APPLAUSE)

SIEGEL: Senator Cotton is scheduled to address the convention this evening. This morning, he spoke of the need to reelect Ohio's Republican senator, Rob Portman. But what was equally noteworthy was what he didn't say; the name of the presumptive nominee. Nor did Josh Mandel, the Ohio state treasurer, during his stint at the podium, although he claimed to make nothing of it when I asked him about it after the event.

JOSH MANDEL: Well, I just mentioned him a bunch of times in a TV interview I did.

SIEGEL: But not when you were speaking to the breakfast.

MANDEL: With due respect to your question, I think the premise is off. I think there, you know, are people that are motivated not only by the top of the ticket and helping Trump beat Clinton, but also motivated by the Senate race. And so I think - I respect your opinion, but...

SIEGEL: ...No, no, but it's not my opinion. There was no mention of Donald Trump from anyone who spoke this morning. Am I wrong about that?

MANDEL: With due respect, sir, I just mentioned it, like, three or four times.

SIEGEL: In fact, during more than an hour and a quarter of speeches, neither Mandel nor Senator Cotton nor State Party Chairman Matt Borges nor former Cleveland Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar uttered the name of Donald Trump. Delegate Tracy Sanchez (ph), who owns a small manufacturing company, says she wasn't aware of the omission.

TRACY SANCHEZ: You know, honestly I didn't even notice that. I'm sure as the breakfasts go on more and more he'll be talked about, Donald Trump, I'm sure.

SIEGEL: But honorary delegate Bruce Akers, who's been coming to Republican conventions since 1948, said he was aware.

BRUCE AKERS: I noticed that, too. And several other tables noticed that, too. I don't know what everyone was expecting at the first breakfast. Unfortunately, they got the speeches going before the food came out, and people at my table were getting very restless about that (laughter).

SIEGEL: Here's the problem - the Ohio delegation is full of people who supported their governor, John Kasich, for the Republican nomination. Kasich has not endorsed Trump and isn't attending the convention. Trump's campaign chair, Paul Manafort, claims that Kasich is embarrassing his state, but Kasich is standing pat. I spoke with Ohio delegates Dave Johnson, whose company makes tiles, and lawyer Jim Simon. As Johnson says, both were strong Kasich backers during the primary season. But he has come around to the inevitable nominee.

DAVE JOHNSON: We want to win in the fall. That's the number one priority of probably 99 percent of us that are here.

SIEGEL: As for Jim Simon, he says he's not there yet, but will prayerfully seek a decision. Might he vote Libertarian?

JIM SIMON: Possibly.

SIEGEL: Maybe voting for Hillary Clinton?

SIMON: That probably will not happen.

SIEGEL: Maybe not voting at all.

SIMON: I will vote, but I may not vote in the presidential. But I don't know that yet.

SIEGEL: Is there something that might happen this week in Cleveland that could change your mind about that?

SIMON: You know, I've - I look at everything with an open mind and an open perspective, so I will be watching and listening along.

JOHNSON: I'm praying that Jim comes along with us (laughter) and supports the presumptive nominee at this stage, Donald Trump. I think he will.

SIEGEL: Ohioans Dave Johnson and Jim Simon, both members of a Republican convention delegation that is still somewhat divided over the man who wasn't mentioned at breakfast this morning - Donald Trump. We want to thank member station WCPN ideastream for sharing their space with us this week. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.