Rob Portman talks Trump, trade and immigration

Election to have big impact on Ohio

Changes could include a repeal of Obamacare to more money for Defense.

Ohioans will soon find out what an upside down capital means to their neighborhoods, pocketbooks, jobs and health care.


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With his party in firm control of both chambers of Congress, Trump has the chance to move swiftly to implement some of his signature pledges, such as repealing Obamacare, dramatically changing immigration policy, rebuilding the American military and tearing up unpopular trade agreements. Such changes will reverberate in the Buckeye state from the Ohio River to Lake Erie.

Here are some of the areas that could have the most impact on Ohioans:

Health care

If Trump repeals or dismantles major portions of the Affordable Care Act, nearly 1 million Ohioans who currently receive health care either through the marketplace or expanded Medicaid programs could be at risk of losing their medical coverage.

“If the ACA is repealed, nearly a million Ohioans could end up uninsured, resulting in much poorer health, increases in medical bankruptcy, and the loss of thousands of jobs in Ohio’s health and insurance sectors,” said John Corlett, executive director of The Center for Community Solutions and a former Ohio Medicaid director.

Keary McCarthy of Innovation Ohio, a liberal-leaning think tank in Columbus, agreed.

“If instead of improving Obamacare he decides to dismember it, nearly tens of thousands of low income Ohioans will lose access to health care through Medicaid and it will be next to impossible for uninsured individuals with pre-existing conditions to access any health care at all,” he said.

Bryan Bucklew, president of the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association, said he believes the ACA will be revised — not tossed out.

But Obamacare didn’t receive a single vote from Republicans in Congress, who have already voted more 60 times to repeal it. Many members of Congress won’t need much convincing to get rid of President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement.

Bucklew said major changes could significantly impact Dayton-based CareSource, which just announced plans to expand its footprint downtown by building a new seven-story office building for 900 workers.

CareSource’s robust business growth has hinged largely on the Affordable Care Act and states like Ohio that expanded Medicaid coverage for more low-income citizens.

“As we look ahead to 2017, our biggest growth drivers are new Medicaid contracts in Indiana and Georgia,” CareSource Chief Executive Pamela Morris, said in a written statement last week. “Plans for the recently announced new building continue as a long-term solution to support our growth in new markets. As always, our success means continued support and investment in the city of Dayton.”


Trump has pledged to back a military rebuild and lift the automatic defense budget cuts called “sequestration.” If fulfilled, that could have a big impact on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the largest single-site employer in the state with 26,000 jobs.

Michael Gessel, vice president of the Dayton Development Coalition, however, said there is a long list of unanswered questions on the table about how Trump will work with Congress and how a larger military would be funded.

Republican Rob Portman, who won a second term by beating former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland by a wide margin, said he is looking forward to working with Trump and his running mate, Mike Pence, on a wide variety of issues.

“I think it’s time for us to come together, rise above that dysfunction and start to deliver more results,” he said. “If we do that, just as I found in this election, people will respond.”


Officials in Ohio’s big cities are watching to see if Trump follows through on his promises to invest in inner cities and improve the lives of African-Americans, who he portrayed as living in crime-ridden urban areas with lousy schools and crummy job prospects.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said it’s unclear at this point what Trump will do for cities.

“He had some strong rhetoric about cities,” she said. “We’ll wait and see what he does.”


During the campaign, Trump promised repeatedly that he would rip up and renegotiate long-standing trade deals, such as the now decades-old North American Free Trade Agreement, which eased trade restrictions between the United States, Mexico and Canada.

But while NAFTA is unpopular among many in the state, some are urging caution. Nearly 260,000 Ohio jobs are supported by exports.

Ohio State University political science professor emeritus Paul Beck said presidents have broad authority to abrogate trade deals and can do so with the stroke of a pen. But doing away with NAFTA would be very disruptive and could lead to trade wars, higher import tariffs on goods coming into the U.S. as well as on American exports, Beck said.

While negotiating a better deal, he said, businesses could go under during the ensuing turmoil.


Trump’s most famous promise — that he will build a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border and get Mexico to pay for it — may be the most heavily scrutinized of his many campaign statements in the months ahead.

Asked about the wall, Portman said immigration reform is needed and has support in Congress.

But, he said, “I don’t know that it’ll be a physical wall everywhere across the border or whether you can do this with a virtual wall in certain areas where a wall might not be practical. But I do think people are going to generally support the idea of reforming our immigration system and insuring that there is adequate enforcement.”

Portman and Kasich

Portman revoked his endorsement of Trump after the hot mic video emerged in October showing Trump making vulgar comments about assaulting women. That left Ohio’s two highest ranking Republicans — Portman and Gov. John Kasich — refusing to back Trump for president.

The day after Trump won, Portman portrayed the rift as inconsequential.

“I feel like Ohio is going to be fine. The question is going to be whether Republicans and Democrats alike can say ‘OK, the election is behind us. Now let’s move forward,’” he said. “And I think it’s in all our interests to do that, by the way.”

Beck said he isn’t so sure Trump will be willing to let go of the rejections he received from Portman and Kasich — especially the governor with whom there seems to be real animosity.

Kasich, who ran in the GOP primary and was the last to drop out and cede the race to Trump, steadfastly refused to back Trump and even slighted him by never setting foot inside the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last August.

Beck said Kasich bet that Trump would lose and he could run for president against Hillary Clinton or another Democrat in 2020 — a plan likely put on hold now that Trump is headed to the White House.

Kasich’s opposition to Trump didn’t seem to matter to Ohioans, who delivered a big victory to the New York billionaire.

“I think that is almost a slap in the face to Gov. Kasich,” said Beck.

After Trump’s victory Kasich fired off a tweet congratulating the president-elect.

“The American people have spoken and it’s time to come together,” he wrote.

Long-term impact

Tuesday’s election will be felt by Ohioans long after Trump leaves the White House, predicted Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper.

Trump, he said, has promised to unravel deals struck by President Obama to curb pollution that contributes to climate change and has pledged to appoint conservatives to the U.S. Supreme Court who may overturn long-standing cases on collective bargaining and abortion rights.

“At this point,” said Pepper, “I’d take Trump at his word on what he said he would do.”

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