COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio Republicans see victories in this week's elections as a chance to expand their party, while some Democrats are striking a more optimistic tone about what a Donald Trump presidency could mean for their candidates in two years.
State Republican Party chairman Matt Borges said he expected Trump to defeat Hillary Clinton in Ohio, though not by the margins that he did.
Trump topped Democrat Clinton by more than 8.5 percentage points, according to unofficial state results, winning all but seven of 88 counties — from farm country to Appalachia to union-heavy, blue-collar areas.
Borges said Trump appealed to voters who Republicans have had a hard time connecting with for several decades.
"I think a lot of us maybe missed some of the extra appeal that Donald Trump had to many Democrats," Borges said Thursday during a political panel at a postelection forum in downtown Columbus.
Ohio Democratic Party chairman David Pepper praised Trump for tapping into so many of his supporters' emotions with his campaign slogan, "Make America great again." ''He nailed it," he said.
Pepper said fellow Democrats needed a more positive message to show up and vote this year, which they had in 2008 and 2012 with President Barack Obama's campaigns.
"It didn't exist this time," Pepper said. "It was such a negative campaign."
Looking ahead to a 2018 governor's race, Pepper said one of the takeaways from Tuesday's election is that voters aren't excited about candidates who have been in office for 30 or 40 years. He noted that one of the GOP prospects for governor is Mike DeWine, the state attorney general and a former U.S. senator.
"This is a change election," Pepper said. "And I think the candidates that are going to run for governor on the Republican side are not going to be change whatsoever."
Other potential Republican gubernatorial candidates include Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and Secretary of State Jon Husted.
Borges said he sees Tuesday's wins as a chance to reshape the Republican Party, though cautioned that the GOP must be mindful not to go too far in any direction. He noted the losses Democratic candidates saw across the country in 2010 following Obama's first two years in office.
"The Republican party needs to look at that and say, 'If we take a pragmatic approach to governing, there's an opportunity here to build this coalition," Borges said.