War between the Ohio Republican Party and Donald Trump’s campaign just went nuclear.
On Saturday, Trump Ohio director Bob Paduchik criticized Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges for not supporting Trump’s presidential bid and running a “self-promotional media tour” across the state, according to a letter sent to the party’s 66-member governing body.
“I have no idea what game he was playing,” Paduchik wrote. “Some Ohio Republicans have described it as disgraceful, I find it utterly bizarre.”
The stakes couldn’t be higher: No Republican has won the White House without winning Ohio. And the state party has a pretty good track record: GOP candidates won every statewide race by double-digit margins in 2014.
The criticism comes after Borges told media he wasn’t sure if he would vote for Trump Nov. 8.
In an odd move, Paduchik picked a fight with the head of the state party just 24 days before the election, an election that Trump almost certainly needs the Ohio Republican Party to win.
Borges, through a spokeswoman, told media: “I won’t let a staffer’s ego get in the way of us doing all we can to win elections up and down the ballot this year.”
The Ohio Republican Party is also paying the salaries of Trump campaign staffers in the Buckeye State. It is not clear whether that would be affected by Paduchik’s letter.
“If Chairman Borges refuses to continue meeting that obligation, I respectfully ask the committee to direct the chairman to meet the party’s obligations,” Paduchik wrote. Asked for additional comment, Trump Ohio campaign spokesman Seth Unger said the letter from Paduchik spoke for itself.
Saturday afternoon, in response to the letter, Borges sent central committee members a list of 10 things the Ohio Republican Party had done for the Trump campaign, including offering to endorse Trump at the group’s September meeting and handling all the campaign’s human resources.
“I speak and meet with Bob Paduchik and Trump team members regularly,” Borges wrote. “Interestingly, none of Bob’s concerns were voiced until he shared them publicly today.”
Borges, along with many Ohio Republican leaders, was a strong supporter of Gov. John Kasich’s failed presidential bid. Kasich helped Borges win the chairman job in 2012, and the Ohio Republican Party endorsed Kasich for president over Trump in the March primary despite some protests. Still, Borges has worked to help Trump’s disorganized campaign in Ohio. He even helped facilitate Paduchik’s hire as campaign director. Paduchik ran George W. Bush’s successful presidential bids in 2000 and 2004 and Sen. Rob Portman’s successful 2010 bid for U.S. Senate. The hire was seen as one way to unify the state party and Trump campaign. But that didn’t pan out.
This isn’t the first-time Trump’s campaign has feuded with Ohio Republicans. During the Republican National Convention in Ohio, Trump’s then-campaign manager Paul Manafort criticized Kasich and accused him of “embarrassing his party in Ohio.” That didn’t sit well with Kasich loyalists – many of whom were delegates to the convention in their home state.
Then in August, the Republican National Committee moved recently appointed RNC Ohio spokesman Ryan Shucard to a role in Pennsylvania after run-ins with Paduchik. Shucard’s tenure in the Ohio position lasted all of about two weeks.
Paduchik sent the letter after speaking with Trump Thursday, when the GOP nominee was campaigning in Columbus and Cincinnati. Trump told Paduchik he was “very disappointed in Matt’s duplicity,” according to the letter.
“This is why people have lost faith in the establishment and party leaders,” Trump told Paduchik.
Some Republicans agreed. Borges was hired for one job: Elect Republicans. Trump is the Republican candidate, so Borges should help elect him, said Ann Becker, president of the Cincinnati Tea Party who represents Butler County on the central committee.
“I think any Republican who doesn’t encourage other Republicans to support Donald Trump by omission is supporting Hillary Clinton,” Becker said.
But others condemned the Trump campaign’s attack on Borges. A hashtag on Twitter, #ImWithMatt, included multiple endorsements of the job Borges has done in Ohio. Jim Simon, a central committee member from Summit County, praised Borges.
“This has been a difficult and challenging election cycle, unlike any I’ve ever seen, and Matt has handled it perfectly. Drawing fire away from our candidates and officeholders is the chairman’s job, which is something I’m sure Bob doesn’t understand,” Simon said, through an Ohio GOP spokeswoman.
Hamilton County GOP Chairman Alex Triantafilou didn’t want to get between Borges and Paduchik — two men he admires. Triantafilou supports Trump for president and said he would work to urge cooperation between the two groups.
Committee member Mary Ann Christie, a former Madeira mayor, had some advice for the chairman.
“I like Matt Borges, and I support him. He’s a good chairman. Just stay quiet on this whole issue, and if you’re asked: Trump’s actions are indefensible in many ways,” she said.