Ohio's Potential 2020 Presidential Contenders Bash Trump's Border Wall Speech

Both outgoing Ohio Gov. John Kasich and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown pushed back at Trump's address. And — surprise — both are mulling their own runs to oppose him in 2020.

click to enlarge U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown - Photo: Official portrait
Photo: Official portrait
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown

Two Ohio elected officials who may have their sights set on the 2020 presidential contest issued sharp rebukes of President Donald Trump's roughly 10-minute address issued from the Oval Office last night regarding funding for a border wall with Mexico.

The fight over the $5.6 billion Trump is seeking for the wall has gridlocked the government for the last 18 days as congressional Democrats refuse to pass a spending bill that would fund parts of the government if it includes the money Trump demands. Trump, meanwhile, has indicated he will veto a spending measure passed by the U.S. House of Representatives that does not include the money, and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to bring that legislation to a vote, citing the veto threat. 

In a statement last night, outgoing Ohio Gov. John Kasich placed much of the blame for the shutdown on Trump. Kasich, also a Republican, has long been a critic of the president and was one of the last candidates standing against Trump in the 2016 Republican presidential primary. During that contest, however, he also expressed support for building a border wall. 

However, Kasich criticized Trump's tactics as government employees face missing paychecks and as government programs — from HUD safety inspections to Transportation Safety Administration operations — face a difficult road ahead without clear funding.

"The President and Democrats need to learn how to compromise and put the American people first," Kasich said in his statement. "It starts with the President putting the country ahead of his politics and being more flexible with his goals. People are going to start hurting from the government shutdown because of partisan politics."

Kasich indicated back in November that he was seriously considering challenging Trump in 2020, either during the Republican presidential primary or as an independent candidate. Kasich is term-limited as Ohio's governor and will soon make way for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, a Republican who won election in November.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, another prominent Buckeye State politico also had strong words for Trump's address. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat who himself is considering a 2020 presidential bid, called Trump's speech "fear mongering" as he live-tweeted the address.

"A reminder, @realDonaldTrump: The Senate passed a bill to fund the government and avert a shutdown in December. Unanimously. #FactsMatter," Brown tweeted last night.

"Trump knows what he is doing by trying to demonize immigrants by attempting to distract from the fact he has betrayed workers and used the White House to enrich himself," he continued.

Brown, a popular progressive in Ohio, won a decisive reelection bid in November against then-U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, a Trump-backed candidate who ran a weak campaign. He said late last year that he too is strongly mulling a run for the Oval Office, though he would likely face a number of strong opponents in the Democratic Party presidential primary.

Trump made his case for the border wall to the American people last night during his first Oval Office address, making a number of factually misleading claims about drugs and crime streaming across the border. While Trump claimed as many as 400,000 criminals have come across the border in recent years, many of those were people charged with non-violent immigration offenses. And Trump's statements about drugs and border crossing have also been contradicted by the Department of Homeland Security. While a number of illicit drugs do come across the southern U.S. border, the vast majority come through legal checkpoints, DHS says, casting doubt on the efficacy of a physical wall in curbing that flow.

Other Ohio Republicans supported Trump's speech.

"Funding for border security shouldn’t be a political point," U.S Rep. Brad Wenstrup, a Republican who represents Cincinnati, tweeted. "This should be about keeping Americans safe, keeping illicit drugs out of our country, protecting families, and our precious lives.”

Kentucky's U.S. Sen. McConnell issued a lengthy statement praising the president's drive for the wall.

“Tonight, President Trump reaffirmed his commitment to addressing the humanitarian and security crisis at our nation’s southern border,” McConnell said in his statement. “His proposal to increase security through physical barriers suits the reality on the ground. It’s what career Border Patrol experts support and are asking for. And it simply builds on earlier legislation that Senate Democrats like then-Senator Obama, then-Senator Clinton, and Senator Schumer previously supported with enthusiasm.”

That last claim is only partly true — Democrats voted to fund fencing along parts of the U.S. border in 2006, though that barrier is less substantial than the concrete wall as high as 50 feet tall that Trump is proposing. Trump himself called the barrier "a nothing wall" during the 2016 campaign.

Neither U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot nor U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, both Republicans from Cincinnati, immediately issued a statement about the speech or the shutdown, though Portman did take to Twitter earlier in the evening to tweet about a puppy saved by anti-overdose drug Narcan.

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