Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Ohio Governor- Race of the Day

49 Days Until Election Day

Ohio Governor

Status: Republican Open
2016 Presidential Result: Red State (Midwest)

Outlook: Leans Republican

It feels like there is a lot to write about this race (as I begin at 11: 35 pm), and I might miss something.

Ohio has for much of this century been considered the top political bellwethers in the nation. However, the Republican victory in the 2016 Presidential election was by a margin that exceeded most expectations. Still, there is a chasm in the Ohio Republican Party that could have a negative impact for the party this midterm. On this race though, there might be some uneasy collusion between the Kasich Republicans and the Trump Republicans to unite behind a candidate, whom has tried to straddle many political lines over a long career himself. The Democrat choice for the office is just unacceptable to many on the right, regardless of what they might think of Trump.

Two term Governor John Kasich is term-limited. Once a major "rock star" in the Republican Party, he failed as the last "establishment" hope to topple Donald Trump in the 2016 primaries, despite easily winning his home state's primary. He refused to attend the national party convention that occurred in the state and refused to support Trump in the general election. Since that point, Governor Kasich has remained a constant and persistent critic of the current President on policy and personality matters alike. Presidents tend to outrank Governors though in the eyes of many voters, and thus, the Republicans who have thrown in with Trump have become quite annoyed with Kasich. Overall, the Governor still has fairly high approval ratings in his state as he prepares to leave office, but he is now more popular among Democrats than Republicans. The GOP Gubernatorial candidates, past allies of Kasich, and in one case his own running-mate previously, broke publicly with him and sided with Trump in the split. Still Kasich has persisted in saying he remains a Republican but believes country must come before party. There is anticipation in some quarters that once he is a private citizen again, Kasich will run for President against Trump again, not as likely in the GOP primaries, which at least until the present day would resemble a kamikaze mission, but as an Independent, who would hope to unite voters in the "center" who feel as if both parties have lost their way.

First, there is the race to succeed him though, and this contest drew a number of contenders. On the GOP side, three establishment candidates, all holding the statewide offices, that Republicans have tended to mostly dominate in recent memory of the state's politics lined up to run as well as one "outsider." That was Congressman Jim Renacci, a wealthy businessman who was elected to the House in 2010, and portrayed himself as a Trump-like populist taking on the aforementioned establishment.

Those three candidates were Secretary of State Jon Husted, a former State House Speaker who stressed his conservative bona fides, Lt. Governor Mary Taylor, who was elected twice along with John Kasich, who selected her as his running-mate. She was long seen as someone with crossover political potential. The third of these candidates was Attorney General Mike DeWine whom at the age of 71, has had a long career of political ups and downs and comebacks in the Buckeye State.

To summarize his bio, DeWine, the highly religious father of eight, started off in county government, then briefly as a State Senator, before getting elected to Congress (along with his fellow State Senator John Kasich) in 1982. In the U.S. House, was popular and considered very conservative. In 1990, he was elected Lt. Governor of Ohio. He used this platform to mount an uphill challenge to the very famous Senator John Glenn in 1992, where was he was competitive but still suffered his first loss. Back then though, nearly all of Ohio's Senators (and Governors) lost a statewide race before they won the big job, so DeWine tried again and won an open Senate seat in 1994.

As Senate Republicans became more southern and more conservative, DeWine was thought of more of a moderate consensus-builder. His 2000 reelection was an easy triumph, but 2006 was horrific for Ohio Republicans and he was blown out by liberal Congressman Sherrod Brown to lose his Senate seat. By this time, many conservatives were openly hostile towards DeWine, and they considered him a relic of the past.

DeWine decided his political career was not done yet and he ran for Attorney General in the much more favorable year of 2010. In that environment, he unseated incumbent Democrat Richard Cordray. Their paths would cross again. His 2014 election was a piece of cake, but before that, DeWine might have miscalculated a bit on a Presidential endorsement. The politician, who once backed maverick John McCain over the establishment candidate, withdrew his 2012 endorsement of Mitt Romney in favor of former Senate colleague and fellow 2006 seat losing blow-out participant Rick Santorum, after the Pennsylvanian temporarily looked hot politically.

Running for Governor seemed the natural step for DeWine in 2018 (in a way similar to Jerry Brown returning to the job in California a couple cycles earlier), and he had the most name recognition in the field and seemed a nominal front-runner.

Things in the four way field got shaken up in a big way though when the sole major candidate for the U.S. Senate, the state's young Treasurer surprisingly withdrew from that race. Both Mary Taylor and Jim Renacci were seen as possibly switching races, and sensing a better opening, the latter did just that. Around the same time, the candidates began to select running-mates who they would compete on the same ticket with for the May primary. A deal was struck between DeWine and Jon Husted to join forces and the Attorney General was greatly helped by having the conservative younger Secretary of State agree to run with him as his Lt. Governor. The party establishment quickly rallied behind the new ticket, but despite entreaties for Taylor to exit the race for something else, she insisted in staying in and attempted to re-brand herself as a conservative alternative to DeWine. She even claimed she would not support him if he won.

While Taylor's career had been so closely associated with the Kasich Administration, and she strongly supported his Presidential candidacy (which if successful would have elevated her to Governor), she broke with her boss by saying she would vote for Trump in 2016, in spite of his "appalling" comments on women exposed on Access Hollywood. DeWine (and Husted) also backed Kasich at first, but supported Trump after the nomination was decided, even if not enthusiastically. In the 2016 primary though, DeWine and Taylor both pointed fingers at each other with accusations that the other did not do enough for Trump. The occupant of the White House himself seems to be under the impression that Mary Taylor (despite her trying to become a populist outsider) was the greater offender, for the simple reason that she was Kasich's Lt. Governor. Months after the party-backed DeWine beat Taylor by 20 points in the primary, Trump has Tweeted about Mary Taylor's failure merely to mock Kasich. Before the primary, both candidates openly stated they were opposed to being endorsed by Governor Kasich. Both claimed that the other candidate had it. Taylor said she had not even seen her boss in a year. The Governor denied that was true.

After the primary, Taylor did manage to go back on her pledge and endorsed DeWine. Kasich has not formally done so, although he said he would vote for him. The incumbent Governor seems like he is pretty much over the entire situation. In the meanwhile, DeWine, now the GOP nominee, and long considered an establishment figure has to decide if embracing Kasich's record as Governor is worth it for attracting swing voters who like the the current Governor and pissing off Trump acolytes on the right who hate Kasich.

The Democrats' Gubernatorial field was even more crowded, at least initially. It included a state Supreme Court Justice who ran on marijuana legalization and who got in front of the "Me Too" movement by writing in detail about his sexual exploits with women. Three credible female candidates announced their candidacy and it looked like a woman might be on the path for the nomination in a field that also included Joe Schiavoni, a State Senator who had been that body's Minority Leader. All the while though, there was speculation about Richard Cordray. The former Attorney General (and one time Jeopardy! champion), who had lost in 2010 to DeWine, went off to work for the Obama Administration in Washington D.C., as the first Director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. This was the agency, created in the aftermath of the 2008 financial meltdown that Elizabeth Warren was unable to get enough support to take the job that eventually went to Cordray. Initially, he himself was a recess appointment by Obama amid much Beltway controversy. The agency became very unpopular among Republicans, with much question about it's accountability. For months, it appeared obvious that Cordray was looking to run for Governor of his home state, and when he resigned early, about a year into the Trump Administration, the agency was immediately weakened by White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney basically taking command. Still, it was Cordray's choice to leave early before his term was up.

The presence of Cordray caused all three female Democrats to end their campaigns for Governor. Former State Representative Connie Pillich, the 2014 statewide nominee for Treasurer endorsed the new front-runner as did Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. The third female candidate, former Congresswoman Betty Sutton signed on as Cordray's Lt. Governor running-mate. She lost her seat in 2012 to Jim Renacci. (It is worth mentioning, considering Ohio's weird history in this regard, that DeWine and Cordray have both lost statewide races, and their running-mates have in effect as well by dropping out of their own Gubernatorial campaigns. On the U.S. Senate side this year, Sherrod Brown lost a statewide race as incumbent a long time. The one nominee who has yet to lose statewide (besides leaving a race for Governor) is Jim Renacci, emphasis on "yet.")

Anyways, Cordray (along with Sutton) won the May primary with a pretty solid 62 percent of the vote, 39 points ahead of his nearest rival, which turned out to be the one and only Dennis Kucinich. The one-time "Boy Mayor of Cleveland" made a remarkable political comeback of his own years later by being elected to Congress. He went from being socially conservative to among the most liberal members of the House during this tenure and twice ran for President. Defeated for reelection by a fellow Democrat, after Republican redistricting threw them together, Kucinich flirted with running for office in other states and in other parties, but mostly contented himself as a pundit on the Fox News Channel, where he wound up being a left-wing voice who sometimes defended Donald Trump (and not inconsistently considering his ideology.) Some took his run for Governor this year perhaps a bit more seriously than they should have. Nonetheless, the GOP deeply regrets he was nominated somehow.

Initially after the primary, Cordray was seen to have momentum against the candidate who beat him statewide by two points eight years previously. The polls though have tended to show a consistent, though smallish lead for DeWine. His endurance as a likable soft-spoken figure and devoted family man in the state seems to endure, even after a recent tough primary. Cordray to some comes across as aloof and professorial.

By no means is this race in the bag for the GOP. If the election starts to go heavily towards Democrats nationally by the end of October, the Governorship of Ohio may be truly up for grabs. Right now though, evidence seems to suggest that DeWine has the edge. By and large, Republicans tend to beat Democrats in the state's contests, especially at the state government level. Trump's 2016 victory showed that a loose political alliance between traditional Republicans and populist-minded previous Democrat Presidential voters can be potent. A Democrat who can keep tremendous number of union and blue collar workers can easily win the state, but a Democrat without those sort of credentials might face a stiffer challenge, and that could be a problem for Cordray, even amid a tumultuous time for Buckeye State Republicans.

Gubernatorial Races predicted thus far:

12 D  (2 Safe, 2 Likely,  5 Leans, 3 Tossup) 
13 R   (2 Safe, 5 Likely, 4 Leans, 2 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:

19 D (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 2 Likely, 5 Leans, 3 Tossup)
20 R (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 5 Likely, 4 Leans, 2 Tossup)


At 2:17 PM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

There's a possibility United States Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) might carry Cordray over the finish line.


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