Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ohio Governor Race

Race of the Day

Ohio Governor

September 16, 2010
47 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2008 Presidential Result: Blue State (Midwest)

Outlook: Leans Republican

When Democrats made gains across the board in 2006, their pickup of the Ohio Governorship was considered a bellwether example. The Buckeye State political battleground, which has been at the forefront of campaign attention in the '04 and '08 races for President, may also prove to be a similar national trendsetter as the GOP looks poised to take the office back this year. Before 2006, the GOP dominated the state's elections, with Democrats shut out in all statewide executive and Senate elections for more than a decade. The once highly respected Ohio Republican infrastructure seems ready to reassert itself this November.

Four years ago, Ted Strickland was a landslide winner in his race to become Governor. The populist Democrat with blue collar appeal was able to thrive in the state, despite having cast some liberal votes in Congress over the years. With his state's economy suffering economically, voters are once again looking to make a chance. In the last big national Republican midterm wave of 1994, Strickland lost his seat in Congress to a heavy underdog, before re-capturing it two years later. Almost two decades before that, Strickland lost his first of three consecutive House tries. If he loses again this year, he will be no stranger to the the task of delivering a concession speech.

Unlike 1994, Strickland's opponent is someone he must be taking quite seriously. First elected to Congress at the age of 30, Republican John Kasich served 18 years on Capitol Hill, rising to become Chairman of the House Budget Committee. Often talked about as a "rising star" in the party, Kasich's Congressional career ended after a long-shot Presidential campaign in 1999 which never got off the ground. As that effort ended, Kasich himself said that he would run for office again one day, perhaps even the Presidency. In the decade since, the Republican has raised a family, had a tv gig at the Fox News Channel, and made money working in the private sector. Now 58 years old, but still youthful appearing and with the same kinetic energy for which he is known, Kasich has launched a political comeback bid to become Governor.

Strickland vs. Kasich was supposed to be close from the start, though most polls in 2009 gave the lead to the incumbent. As 2010 progressed, Kasich continued to make progress and since the beginning of the summer, has now led in every poll. Over the past week, three different surveys put the Republican challenger ahead anywhere from 5 to 17 points. Almost all now show him at over 50 percent of the vote. If the polls from CNN and Kasich's old friends at Fox News are accurate, the race may is definitely leaning in his favor, but still competitive. If Survey USA and Quinnipiac are correct, the Stricklands can basically start packing up the moving vans in Columbus.

Voter angst over the economy, high unemployment, and dissatisfaction with the Obama Administration are hurting Strickland a great deal. The Governor may be wondering what might have been, as he was considered the front-runner in 2008 to have been Hillary Rodham Clinton's runningmate, had she captured the party's nomination for President. The Democrat is left with the task of trying to save his job by painting Kasich as "impulsive" and "reckless" and is trying to portray him as responsible for the collapse of Lehman Brothers, though the Republican had a very limited local role in Ohio with the investment giant. Despite the back and forth, the two former House colleagues admitted during a recent debate that they still like each other personally.

Classifying this race as "Leans Republican" is a conservative decision that gives a bit of a benefit of the doubt to the incumbent. When all is said and done, this very well could be another near landslide election. After a decade off the political hustings, things are definitely looking good for John Kasich. If he does become Ohio's Governor, it may not be long before his national ambitions are stronger and more promising than ever.

Kasich ("A New Way. A New Day.") campaign link:

2010 Governor races predicted thus far: 7 D, 18 R
Predicted Gubernatorial totals thus far: 14 D, 24 R