Monday, September 15, 2014

Race of the Day- Ohio Governor

50 Days Until Election Day

Status: Republican Incumbent
2012 Presidential Result: Blue State (Midwest)

Outlook: Safe Republican

The Buckeye State of Ohio likely holds the key to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Whomever wins the state at the Presidential level is almost certainly going to be victorious in the Electoral College. That theory will probably be true once again in 2016, with Ohio being the ultimate of swing states. Before we get to that though down the road, Ohio is once again electing a Governor, and what was supposed to be one of the most tightly contested races in the country has shifted drastically in recent weeks, and both parties are pretty much just playing down the stretch.

For several years, Republicans dominated statewide electoral politics, but then in 2006, Democrats bounced back in a big way. While Barack Obama would twice carry the state in Presidential elections, Republicans had a very strong 2010 midterm in the state, as Republican John Kasich knocked off an incumbent Democrat in a very close race.

Kasich's path to the top job in Columbus was certainly interesting. First elected to office at age 26, the energetic young politician was soon on his way to Congress, where he would spend 18 in Washington. Along the way, he became Chairman of the House Budget Committee and received attention as one of the most prominent and promising conservatives on the national scene. Even in his late forties, he still came across as high-energy and brimming with ideas. In 1999, he launched a long-shot bid for the GOP Presidential nomination, but was easily crowded out by George W. Bush and he abandoned his bid long before the first votes were held. In endorsing then Governor Bush, Kasich, who some talked about as a potential running-mate, said that he would one day probably run for President again. In the meantime, Kasich also left Congress, in order to raise a family and make a lot of money in the private sector. He stayed a bit in the public eye as a weekend program host on the Fox News Channel.

After a successful political comeback in 2010 at age 58, brought him to the Governorship, his early years in the office were quite eventful. The voters delivered a strong political rebuke when a law restricting collective bargaining was rejected at the ballot box. Democrats believed that the Governor would be incredibly ripe for defeat in 2014. Kasich also had foes on the right who felt he was not nearly conservative enough and were especially upset when he expanding Medicaid funding in Ohio under the new Obamacare law. Kasich strongly opposed the law itself however.

For whatever reason, a Tea Party backed primary challenge to the incumbent never came to be, and Kasich's job approval ratings rebounded a bit. At one point, a crowded primary of ambitious Democrats was expected, but ultimately the party coalesced around one candidate, who would overwhelmingly win a primary. At age 46, Democrat Ed FitzGerald, like Kasich, also looks several years younger than his actual age. He is the first ever County Executive of Cuyahoga County, the main population source of the state, centered in Cleveland. Democrats believed that FitzGerald was a strong statewide candidate, who had a unified party behind him, and some early polls certainly did show him neck and neck with Kasich. However, his campaign would eventually suffer a series of political catastrophes that likely have Democrats wishing that somebody else was in his place.

The first sign of trouble came in late 2013, when FitzGerald's first running-mate, State Senator Eric Kearney, an African-American from Cincinnati, was forced to withdraw from the ticket, not long after being selected. He had some issues with owing back taxes and what had looked like a strongly balanced ticket to take on Kasich and his Lt. Governor, Mary Taylor, was no more. FitzGerald had to quickly find someone else, and he selected attorney Sharen Neuhardt, who had never held elective office, but had lost a couple of Congressional bids, in what were not exactly tossup races. Somebody more familiar with Ohio politics would probably have to chime in to state if she was truly the best candidate for Lt. Governor that FitzGerald would have been able to find.

Despite the running-mate swap, FitzGerald was still considered very much in the game, and while polls began to show Kasich inching ahead, the race was still competitive, with the Democrat focusing on what he said was a weak economic and jobs record during the Republican's term as Governor. August brought about a story though that seemed to put a huge roadblock in FitzGerald's way, as a newspaper reported on a 2012 incident when police found him in a car at 4:30 am, under questionable circumstances, with a woman who was not his wife. FitzGerald denied anything improper had happened and denounced the "sleaze" that had been introduced into the campaign. Almost all voters did not buy FitzGerald's claim that nothing had happened with the woman. It would later be revealed that the future County Executive, who previously held local office at the time, drove for 10 years, with an expired drivers license, which was obviously a violation of the law.

Voters have seemed to quickly sour on FitzGerald over the past month and his attempts to have circumvented the law. This has all worked to Kasich's great political fortune, as his advantage in the polls over his opponent has increased dramatically. All polls know show the Governor at over 50 percent and with a double digit lead over the Democrat. Two polls in September have put his lead at 20 points, with a new Columbus Dispatch poll, putting Kasich's lead at a whopping 59-29 spread. The election may very well wind up closer than that, but the narrative is out there that FitzGerald's goose is cooked. He has the potential to harm other Democrats on the ballot. I wonder if there is speculation that he could be replaced on the ticket at this late date and if that is still even a legal possibility in Ohio. It probably is not.

While Kasich is benefiting from the political problems of his opponent, he probably was still going to win regardless. Whatever the circumstance, he is faring far better than two other Midwestern Governors, Rick Snyder of Michigan, and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, also elected in 2010, and who have faced similar battles in their states as Governor. Both of them may still win this November, but they are likely sweating out their campaigns' homestretches much more than Kasich is.

Nonetheless, Kasich and his running-mate, Taylor, are probably going to still hit the campaign trail hard. While he has long had a reputation for being a bit flighty and undisciplined, the Ohioan really seems to relish the political arena. He will never be accused of being tied to a teleprompter. Any reelection win in the key battleground state of Ohio, let alone a landslide, are going to have people talking about John Kasich as a national candidate for the GOP ticket in 2016.  He would certainly offer a huge contrast to Obama, both in terms of ideology and political style, for those who might be yearning for such a thing.

Long before he was Governor, Kasich said 15 years ago that he hoped to one day run for President again. A lot of time has passed since then, and many have ruled out that kind of future for him. He does not seem to be totally ruling out the possibility these days of launching a bid for the White House. Many other Republicans, of various stripes, also probably have similar ideas, but a popular Governor of Ohio, may have quite a story to tell on the campaign trail. This might be a political story for the near future, but after what is looking like an imminent big win, might John Kasich's time have finally come?

Kasich campaign link:

Gubernatorial races predicted thus far: 11 D (1 Safe, 3 Likely, 4 Leans, 3 Tossup) , 14 R (4 Safe, 4 Likely, 6 Leans)
Overall totals predicted thus far: 18 D, 21 R


At 7:40 AM, Anonymous Conservative Democrat said...

Kasich needs to get 16%-20% of African Americans in order to be considered a White House contender.


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