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Trump to enter divided Republican Party in battleground Ohio

Posted: 10:26 AM, Aug 24, 2018
Updated: 2018-08-24 18:27:40-04

President Donald Trump’s mission is to rally Republicans behind GOP candidates in the nation’s premier swing state. But when he steps into battleground Ohio on Friday, he’s entering a state — and a Republican Party — deeply divided by his presidency.

The Republican president is set to offer the keynote address at a state GOP dinner, an annual fundraiser that traditionally features the region’s Republican royalty. Republican Gov. John Kasich, a fierce Trump critic and 2016 presidential primary opponent, won’t be there. A spokesman said the term-limited governor, who lives in a suburb of the city where the president is speaking, had a personal scheduling conflict

No state features an uglier public clash between Trump and a sitting Republican governor. And ahead of high-stakes elections for governor, Senate and several House races, the red-hot intraparty feud threatens to undermine the GOP’s chances come November — and could linger into the next presidential campaign.

Trump’s chief Ohio lieutenant, Bob Paduchik, the president’s hand-picked Republican National Committee co-chairman, cast Kasich as “childish” and “insanely jealous” in an op-ed this month. In a subsequent interview ahead of Friday’s dinner, Paduchik repeatedly dismissed any suggestion that Ohio’s GOP is divided.

He added that the governor’s weekly diatribes against Trump on cable news make Kasich “look a little bit foolish.”

“If he wants to spend his last few months as governor the same way he spent the last year and a half, being the antagonist-in-chief, that’s entirely his business,” Paduchik told The Associated Press. “I wrote what I wrote because, like a lot of Republicans in Ohio, just regular Ohioans, I just got tired of it. You just get tired of the constant whining and complaining.”

Kasich, in a recent interview, said “people are getting sick and tired” of the partisan warfare coming out of the Trump White House. And he dismissed Trump’s popularity within the GOP as a byproduct of a shrinking party.

“We’re dealing with a remnant of the Republican Party,” said Kasich, who has not ruled out challenging Trump in a 2020 presidential primary.

As the feud burns deep, Ohio’s Republican candidate to succeed Kasich, Mike DeWine, is caught in the middle.

DeWine, a former senator and the current state attorney general, has tried to use his role as one of Ohio’s longest-