Saturday, December 3, 2005

Ohio – The Heart of It All

In 2004 Ohio was crucial to John Kerry winning or losing the election. (Whether or not he actually won in Ohio is another story and another posting.) Now it is turning out that the Buckeye State is going to be the focal point for both parties in the 2006 election, and if the Democrats can pull it off there, it will make 2008 a very interesting race on all levels.

…history favors the Democrats because the party out of power typically gains seats in a mid-term election during a president’s second term. In Ohio, Democrats hope to unseat as many as eight House Republicans, as well as the state’s senior senator, Mike DeWine. Mr. DeWine is considered vulnerable, having run slightly behind his leading Democratic opponent, Representative Sherrod Brown, in the polls.

“All political roads lead to Ohio in 2006,” said Charlie Cook, the editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report in Washington. “First, there is almost no way Democrats can get control of the Senate back without beating DeWine. Second, it’s going to be one of the best chances Democrats have to pick up a governorship, and a big governorship, not just any old governorship. And third, it’s the state with the most vulnerable Republican House seats in the country.”

The state is ripe for the plucking. The governor, Bob Taft, is in such deep shit for his ethics entanglements that his poll numbers are single digits; he would kill to have Bush’s approval ratings. One Republican congressman, Robert Ney, is directly linked to Jack Abramoff, the Beelzebub of lobbyists, and could soon join Duke Cunningham in spending either more time with his family or the boys in Cellblock D. Senator DeWine is considered vulnerable because he’s not rabidly right-wing enough for the Jesus-freaks in the base of the Ohio Taliban, and he faces the potential of running against either Brown or Paul Hackett, the Iraqi vet who ran against Jean Schmidt in Cincinnati in August and who is also in the Democratic Senate race. We all know how well he did — nearly beating her in the reddest district in the state — and we all know how well Ms. Schmidt has done for the image of the Republicans.

On the local level, the Ohio economy is in the doldrums with lay-offs looming at auto plants in the northwest and slow growth everywhere else. Add to that the entire tarnished image of the Ohio Republican party and their stewardship of the state’s retirement fund via the Coingate / Tom Noe story in Toledo, and you have a recipe for a Republican train wreck of the scale not seen since Watergate.

That all depends, of course, on the Democrats not blowing it. If they can’t pull this off with such a wounded target, they’re in deep shit themselves.

“The Heart of It All” was the Ohio license plate slogan from 1991 to 1998, owing perhaps to the shape of the state, its location, or some other lame Ohio Dept. of Tourism reason.