A little more than a year ago, I wrote a column in this space (Will the Buckeye State Swing Back to the GOP in 2010?, Oct. 22, 2009) that noted Ohio’s bellwether reputation and suggested the state could see a major effort by a rejuvenated Republican Party to regain some of the ground it lost over the two previous election cycles.
That turned out to be an understatement.
Before this month’s elections, Democrats held the state’s governorship, three of the other four non-federal statewide offices, one of the state’s Senate seats, 10 of the 18 Congressional districts and the state House of Representatives. The GOP held a Senate seat, a majority in the state Senate and the office of the state Auditor.
This month, Democrats lost all of the statewide races on the ballot, including the governorship and a Senate race that once looked promising. In addition, Buckeye State Republicans swiped five U.S. House seats from Democrats and won a majority in the Ohio House.
In the Senate race, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher (D) was annihilated by former Rep. Rob Portman (R) by 18 points, drawing fewer votes than widely dismissed former Republican gubernatorial nominee Ken Blackwell did in 2006.
In this year’s race for governor, incumbent Ted Strickland drew more votes than any other Democrat on the ballot but still lost to former Rep. John Kasich by almost 3 points.
Some have credited Strickland with running one of the best races in the nation, and his relatively strong showing in a terrible year certainly is evidence of that. But if you believe the Democratic Governors Association, Kasich was so seriously flawed as a challenger than Strickland should have won easily.
In a May 4, 2010 memo, the DGA asked rhetorically, “could Republicans have possibly fielded a worse candidate than John Kasich?”
The DGA went on to bash Kasich for his connection to Lehman Brothers and for his time in Congress, referring to the Republican nominee’s “irredeemable weaknesses” and asking “is former Congressman John Kasich the worst candidate in Ohio, or the worst candidate in the country?”
If the DGA was right about Kasich, then maybe Strickland’s narrow defeat by such a damaged challenger wasn’t a sign of such a great campaign by the Democrat.
Former Sen. Mike DeWine (R), who was defeated for re-election in 2006, narrowly won the state’s Attorney General’s race over the incumbent Democrat. Former state Speaker Jon Husted (R) won the office of Secretary of State. State Rep. Josh Mandel (R) was elected state Treasurer over the appointed incumbent, and David Yost (R) was an upset winner in the state Auditor’s race.
Portman carried 82 of the state’s 88 counties, while Mandel carried 80.
The Auditor’s result was particularly disappointing for Democrats, since Yost defeated Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper (D), an Ivy League-educated former Cincinnati city councilman whose father once served as CEO of Procter & Gamble.