Politics Extra is a weekly column looking inside Greater Cincinnati and Ohio politics.
Jerry Springer, who believes he appeals to Trump's working-class and rural voting base, is exploring a 2018 run for Congress in a district that covers a chunk of Ohio's Appalachian region.
A phone poll was conducted this week in Ohio's 2nd Congressional District to gauge how the daytime TV star stacks up with Republican incumbent Brad Wenstrup, Politics Extra has learned.
Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke, a long-time friend of Springer's, said he heard about the poll on Wednesday. Burke did not know any details about the poll, including who paid for it. A Cincinnati-based spokesman for Springer did not return PX's email seeking comment.
Springer's interest in running for Congress comes as no surprise to Democratic insiders. He's also been mentioned as a potential candidate for Ohio governor next year, but the former Cincinnati mayor and city councilman told PX in February that's not happening.
Springer could be taking a more serious look at challenging Wenstrup, the Columbia Tusculum podiatrist who's in his third term. Springer, 73, has headlined party fundraisers across the state for years, even riding his Harley-Davidson to some events. He has headlined party fundraisers in the 2nd Congressional District this spring, including in Portsmouth and Brown County.
"A lot of people believe he has stepped up the amount of doing that this year," said Burke, a one-time aide to Springer at City Hall in the 1970s. "I think that’s just his own personal reaction to Donald Trump. I think he’s feeling if Donald Trump can do it, why can’t I?"
Wenstrup's campaign was aware the poll had been conducted when contacted by PX on Thursday.
"You can’t ignore anybody who is well-known, but it would be a surprise to us if Jerry Springer has even been to all the counties in the 2nd District," said Mark Weaver, Wenstrup's campaign spokesman. “Brad Wenstrup has deep ties and strong relationships with people in every corner in this district. It’s going to take more than a talk show to replace that type of connection.”
Wenstrup has not had a serious Democratic opponent in any of his Congressional races. The district spans parts of central and eastern Hamilton County, and either all or parts of seven Appalachian counties – Clermont, Brown, Adams, Highland, Pike, Scioto and Ross. Trump dominated in all those Appalachian counties, and it would be a tall order for Springer to pull the upset in the dark-red district.
But Springer believes he appeals to working-class and rural voters because he says those are the people who have made his sleazy show a success for the past quarter-century. Plus, he is no stranger to the Cincinnati chunk of the Congressional district. Springer could see running as his opportunity to return to the ballot for the first time since 1982, when he ran unsuccessfully for governor.
"In some ways, Jerry is more suited for the issues at the federal level than the state level,” Burke said.
Healthcare would be one of those issues, for example. Springer believes that's an area where he can appeal to working-class and rural voters, folks he has said are "not helped by getting rid of healthcare."
Springer bought a full-page ad in The Enquirer last month to blast Congress' decision to repeal Obamacare. He likened the decision to 9/11, saying it would "end up killing many more Americans than Osama bin Laden ever did." (An Ohio Republican Party official called the comparison "detestable." No argument from PX.)
Anyway, guess who was part of the vote to repeal Obamacare?
WHY NO BRIDGE MENTION?
President Trump originally planned to mention the Brent Spence Bridge project during his Cincinnati speech on Wednesday, insiders told PX. But it was ultimately scratched from the speech because the administration was told it wouldn't play well politically with Trump ally and Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin and their strong anti-toll tea party base in Northern Kentucky.
It also was intentional to hold Trump's event at a venue along the Ohio River that was out of sight of the bridge, which could not be seen from Rivertowne Marina in the East End.
But make no mistake: Trump's $200 billion infrastructure plan calls for tolling as a way to pay for projects nationwide, and he made a campaign promise to build a new Brent Spence Bridge.
During a meeting in Washington last month, U.S. Transportation Sec. Elaine Chao told Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati business leaders about the administration's plan to get the $2.5 billion project done by using a public-private partnership.
MICRO-SCOOPS & MORE
• Speaking at a fundraiser at the downtown Westin on Monday, Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger said he planned to meet soon with Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover about the Brent Spence Bridge. The Kentucky Legislature continues to drag its feet on the project, and Rosenberger wants to develop a relationship with fellow Republican Hoover in hopes of jumpstarting bridge work.
• Montgomery Democrat Connie Pillich, who is running for governor, said this week she will make campaign stops in every county, according to Cleveland.com's Jeremy Pelzer. Pillich's aggressive "88-county strategy" calls for her to have visited every county by the end of the year. The former state rep also plans to have recruited campaign leaders from each county by the end of this month. "It's not often that a Democratic statewide candidate (or a Republican, for that matter) is found stumping for votes in sparsely populated, conservative areas of the state," Pelzer wrote.
• Pleasant Ridge's Pat Fischer last week authored his first opinion as a member of the Ohio Supreme Court. Writing for a majority of the court, Fischer ruled "a lease to drill for oil and gas in Washington County did not terminate when the energy companies failed to pay annual royalties it promised the landowners," according to Court News Ohio.
• Speaking of Cincinnatians on the state's high court, Justice Pat DeWine made reference to a Bruce Springsteen song lyric in an opinion issued last month. "Like the protagonist in the Springsteen song, we 'took a wrong turn and (we) just kept going.' "
• Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley has more than doubled the size of his campaign staff since last month's primary loss. The campaign has hired three full-time staffers, mostly in an attempt to build a ground game that had been nonexistent before the primary. Kobie Christian has been hired as field organizer. Christian, a 2015 University of Cincinnati graduate, is a digital contractor for Kroger. Previously, PX reported Jessica Baker was leaving the mayor's office staff to be the campaign's field coordinator. The campaign also has hired Brooke Hill, who ran U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown's regional office before retiring earlier this year.