- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 15, 2016

STRUTHERS, Ohio — Anita Genova had never cast a vote in the Republican primary, but she walked into a polling place here Tuesday and pulled the lever for Donald Trump.

The retired 67-year-old bookkeeper was not alone in this eastern flank of Ohio, a traditional stronghold for Democrats that had a striking surge in Republican registration ahead of the primary.

“I did not vote for any other Republicans on that ballot,” Ms. Genova said after casting her vote for Mr. Trump. “I just like the fact that nobody is in his pocket. He doesn’t owe anybody anything.

“I am tired of the corrupt politics,” she said.

Ms. Genova said she doubted Hillary Clinton, the front-runner in the Democratic race, would shake things up in Washington, and she said Sen. Bernard Sanders, Mrs. Clinton’s challenger, is too old to be president.

For Linda Flesch, who supported President Obama the past two elections, the top issue was jobs, and she said she sees Mr. Trump, a billionaire businessman, as the country’s best chance to spread prosperity to this hard-hit part of the country.

“I have five kids, and they’ve all gone to colleges and these schools where they learn skills, and there is nothing around here,” Ms. Flesch said. “Me? I’m retired, but what are they going to do? They got kids, and their kids are growing up. What the heck is going to happen? Everyone is going to be on welfare.”

Turnout has surged for Republicans this year, with nearly every primary or caucus setting a record. Democrats’ turnout, meanwhile, has tanked compared with 2008, when Mrs. Clinton faced off against Mr. Obama in an epic battle.

Mr. Trump claims credit for the surge, saying he has drawn millions of new voters into the process. He urged Republicans to begin unifying behind his campaign, saying he would lead the party to victory in states that haven’t been competitive in a generation.

“We have taken in millions and millions and millions of people within the Republican Party,” Mr. Trump said at a campaign rally in Vienna, Ohio, this week. “They came out from the Democrats. They came as the independents, and I tell you the thing I am most proud of and I see when I sign and shake hands with people — every 20th person says to me, ‘You know, Mr. Trump, I never, ever voted before.’”

Mark Munroe, chairman of the Mahoning County Board of Elections, said Mr. Trump is indeed responsible for the intense interest in this year’s campaign — though he said that works both ways: Although he is drawing plenty of new supporters, others are voting in the Republican race to try to stop him.

Mr. Munroe, a Republican supporting Gov. John Kasich, one of Mr. Trump’s competitors, said the influx includes unaffiliated and new voters who have never participated in the primary process, as well as Democrats who have crossed over.

Democrats elsewhere in other pockets of the state also said they were voting Republican, including Don, 40, and Tammy Parsons, 38, of North Ridgeville, who said after a Trump rally in Cleveland that they are Democrats and planned to back Mr. Trump.

“There is really nobody in the Democratic party that is worth voting for,” Mr. Parsons said.

Meanwhile, Carrie Borosky, 43, of Portage Lakes, she was crossing over to back Mr. Kasich.

“I voted for Obama, and I would never do it again,” Ms. Borosky said. “I am just ready for change.”

Ohio exit polls showed that Mr. Kasich won 55 percent of self-identified Democrats that voted in the GOP race, 44 percent of independents and 48 percent and first-time voters.

Mr. Trump, meanwhile, was the top pick for nearly 40 percent of Democrats that crossed over, 35 percent of independents and 48 percent of first-time voters.

This part of Ohio is perfectly tailored to Mr. Trump’s economic pitch of curbing immigration, pushing worker-friendly trade deals and slapping stiff tariffs on companies that move jobs out of the United States and then try to ship goods back into the country.

Ms. Genova said the message resonates with her.

“I like the fact that he is going to make an attempt to get all the illegals out of our country,” Ms. Genova said. “They are collecting our taxpayer benefits, and they have no right to do that. They are taking away jobs.”

Republican leaders are grappling with the Trump effect and trying to calculate whether the number of voters he could bring to the party would offset the number who say they can’t support him.

Also part of the calculation are Democrats who backed Mr. Sanders on Tuesday but who said they might stay home if Mrs. Clinton is the nominee.

One of those was Jane Sauceman, who said she couldn’t get behind the former first lady.

“My mom is in a nursing home and she will, but I won’t [support Mrs. Clinton],” she said. “No, I just won’t vote.”

Another Sanders supporter, Odiel Liston, said she is not sure whether she would back Mrs. Clinton.

“She gives me goose bumps,” said Ms. Liston, 54. “The hair raises on the back on my neck.”

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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