Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Ohio U.S. Senate- Race of the Day

48 Days Until Election Day

Ohio U.S. Senate

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2016 Presidential Result: Red State (Midwest)

Outlook: Likely Democrat

The only Democrat to hold statewide office in Ohio, Sherrod Brown is seeking his third term in the U.S. Senate, and is heavily favored to win. Brown will never be confused with a centrist, but seems to have the ability to win the votes of white blue-collar voters in his state that other Democrats have struggled with and who make up a key reason why Donald Trump was able to win Ohio fairly solidly two years ago. Suffice to say, if only Hillary Clinton had chosen Brown as her running-mate, a job many thought he was the front-runner for, the result in Ohio and thus nationwide could have been different.

Brown has been running for office since he got out of college, when he became the youngest person ever elected to the Ohio State House. In 1982, just before turning 30, he won a statewide victory to become Secretary of State but eight years later, lost his attempt to win a third term.After that, Brown moved to a more Democrat blue-collar district and ran for Congress. Elected in 1992, he became a key ally of organized labor on Capitol Hill and among the most ardent opponent of trade agreements pursued by Administrations of both parties. On social issues, he was reliably liberal. After 14 years in the House, he challenged GOP Senator Mike DeWine who was seeking a third term, and with national and statewide winds heavily against Republicans, Brown easily won the Senate seat.

The Senator, who is married to a woman who was a prominent Cleveland newspaper columnist, who had to resign that slot due to conflict of interest regarding her marriage, was heavily targeted for defeat by Republicans in 2012. He had continued to show his partisan stripes by comparing Republicans to Hitler and Stalin and the GOP was very hopeful he would be proven as too liberal for his state. His opponent was the young and very youngish looking Josh Mandel, who had recently been elected State Treasurer. A Marine Corps veteran of the Iraq War, Mandel raised a lot of money, but never came truly close in the polls to the incumbent. Brown won reelection by six points.

By some accounts, Hillary Clinton's choice for a 2016 running-mate came down to Senators Sherrod Brown and Tim Kaine. Brown had endorsed Clinton, despite being close in the Senate to Bernie Sanders. Her campaign felt like Ohio was pretty much already in the bag though and she felt more comfortable with Kaine, rather trying to pick someone just to keep disaffected Sanders anti-trade voters. Had she picked Brown, she probably would have still won Virginia, but stood a much better chance in Ohio.

Mandel won reelection as Treasurer but kept his sites on a rematch with Brown. After all, each passing year had to make him appear a bit older and mature looking. He was expected to easily take the Republican nomination once again, but had a misstep, when the Jewish-American candidate attempted to get on the right side of Trump supporters by a Tweet that seemed to stand up for alt-right figures online who were accused of anti-Semitism. At the beginning of 2018, Mandel surprised everyone by announcing he was dropping out of the race, citing an issue with his wife's health. While not a candidate for any office this year, Mandel appears interested in making a political comeback down the road.

With the race scrambled, Republicans looked for alternatives, hoping to perhaps even find themselves in a better situation than a rematch battle with a candidate who had lost. Four credible Republicans were running for Governor at the time, and seeking a greater opportunity to win a nomination, Congressman Jim Renacci, a wealthy businessman who was first elected to the House in 2012, changed races and ran for the Senate instead. When first elected to Congress, Renacci seemed a typical pro-business Republican, but after 2016, he tied his political fortunes to that of the "America First" policies espoused by Donald Trump and has tightly embraced the current President since, and was rewarded with an endorsement for the effort. Some Republicans felt that while Renacci could not win the Senate race, at least they might be able to hold the Governorship, since he was no longer a possibility to be nominated for that.

The Congressman, who ran as a political outsider, would not have the May primary field to himself however. A few little known or gadfly candidates qualified for the ballot, but there was also investment banker Mike Gibbons making his first run for office. The wealthly Clevander had been running as an underdog "outsider' alternative to Mandel, but when Renacci essentially took his place, Gibbons had some opportunity to run as the more mainstream, electable alternative. The polls showed Ohio Republicans, especially those who still approved of Governor John Kasich, were very lukewarm on Renacci. The Congressman ran negative ads against his chief opponent, who responded by filing a one million dollar lawsuit for punitive damages. Publicly, the Renacci campaign responded by essentially confirming that false or misleading attack ads are part of the political game and should be accepted. Renacci won the primary 47-32. Businesswoman Melissa Ackison, who also started out running against Mandel, received 13 percent, perhaps in part because she managed to stay above the fray.

There is a clear ideological choice between Renacci and Brown on many issues, but in this general election, trade and tariffs may not be one of them. Brown, who has expressed his disagreements with the Trump Administration on many fronts, has been supportive of efforts to impose tariffs on good such as steel and washing machines.

One recent polls puts Brown ahead slightly, but all other polls show him ahead of Renacci solidly. Republicans simply have better pick-up opportunities than this as well as seats of their own to defend, It is unlikely the national party will engage seriously on behalf of Renacci. If there is to be a massive upset, Trump may have to just do rallies in Ohio and then get to claim all the credit himself.

What this comes down to, is that as much as Renacci runs as a Trump ally, the issues that blue-collar Trump supporters like Trump on, also extend to Brown. They may be traditional Democrats and at least on economic and labor matters, Brown is still their guy. They may vote Republican for other offices, but an old-style Dem like the Senator, unkempt hair and all, suits them just fine. Brown is likely to win, perhaps quite sizeable, because his own party will stand behind him nearly unanimously, and because enough Trump voters will continue to support him as well.

U.S. Senate races predicted thus far: 
17 D (8 Safe, 4 Likely, 2 Leans, 3 Tossup)
  7 R (2 Safe, 1 Likely, 4 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:
40 D (23 holdovers, 8 Safe, 4 Likely, 2 Leans, 3 Tossup)
49 R (42 holdovers, 2 Safe, 1 Likely, 4 Tossup)


At 2:13 PM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

Brown wins by double digits: (57% to 40%).


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