GOP campaign chief Steve Stivers bullish on party's Ohio prospects

In a meeting with reporters on Thursday, the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee predicted that his party could lose several seats around the country in November's general election, as that often happens to the party that controls the White House during non-presidential midterm elections.

Those wins won't be enough to shift House of Representatives control to Democrats, said Stivers, who believes no defeats will occur in Ohio, where Republicans currently control 12 seats and Democrats have four.

Stivers anticipates losses in a handful districts around the country that Hillary Clinton won during the last presidential election in which a GOP incumbent is retiring. But he said it was unrealistic for Democrats to say that as many as 150 seats nationwide are in play, with six in Ohio, as his Democratic party counterpart Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico claimed earlier this month.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico identified 104 Republican seats around the country as winnable for Democrats, including Ohio seats held by Holmes County's Bob Gibbs, Bainbridge Township's Dave Joyce, Cincinnati's Steve Chabot, Dayton's Mike Turner and Columbus' Steve Stivers.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee that Lujan chairs says it will give extra help to two Ohio candidates it views as capable of toppling incumbents: Ken Harbaugh of Avon - who is running for the seat currently held by Holmes County GOP Rep. Bob Gibbs, and Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval, who is running against Rep. Steve Chabot of the Cincinnati area.

But Stivers said the two don't have a chance against the incumbents who represent their constituents' interests as well as Gibbs and Chabot. He said Harbaugh is talking about issues that don't appeal to voters in the district Gibbs represents.

Harbaugh, who hopes to win his party's nomination to challenge Holmes County GOP Rep. Bob Gibbs in this fall's election, surpassed aggressive goals for grassroots engagement, local support, campaign organization and fundraising, according to a press release from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

"Nobody named Harbaugh is going to win anything in Ohio in November, 2018," quipped Stivers, joking that the Ohio political candidate shares a last name with the coach of Ohio State University's football rival - University of Michigan's Jim Harbaugh.

Stivers said his organization will remain neutral in the crowded primary for the GOP nomination in the 12th congressional district to replace former Columbus-area GOP Rep. Pat Tiberi, who retired to head the Ohio Business Roundtable. It also won't take a stance in the 16th District GOP primary to replace Wadsworth Republican Rep. Jim Renacci, who is running for U.S. Senate.

He described the two highest profile candidates in the race to replace Renacci - former professional football player Anthony Gonzalez and state legislator Christina Hagan - as "great" and said a victory by either would enhance the diversity of Ohio's Republican congressional delegation.

The fact that voters seem to strongly like or strongly dislike President Trump will help House Republicans who intend to tap the enthusiasm of Trump supporters, said Stivers.

"We know how to use him to motivate our voters," said Stivers. "The people who don't like him are going to show up. We need the people who love him to show up."


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