Ohio Senate Campaign Tightens

Thanks to a couple of polls putting the race within the margin of error, Josh Mandel has made the Ohio Senate race a toss-up (RCP Ohio Senate, currently at Brown +4.5).  The ads that have run on local television and radio are predominently negative ads about Sherrod Brown: the trillions in debt, the absence of Ohio jobs, the health care vote.  Brown has countered with some positive ads of his own, but this election is a referendum on Brown and his long political career.

Two years ago, negative ads against Josh Mandel fell flat.  There was criticism when a Mandel ad claimed that his opponent got a lobbying job to a friend who happened to be Muslim, but Mandel was unscathed and ended up with the most votes of any statewide candidate in the 2010 election.

We all know Sherrod Brown (Redstate article).  Third party money and SuperPACs will be spending a ton of money over the next couple of months, and I expect the race to be tight throughout the campaign.  I am just pleasantly surprised that the race has tightened so soon.

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The “Red to Blue” Opposition Plan

The website header now reflects Ohio’s new 16 districts, down from the previous 18.  The image looks pretty red right now, and maybe I should change the website name to “Keep Ohio Red.”  But this blog was started after the April 15, 2009 Tea Party rally when Ohio had 10 Democrat districts to 8 Republican ones.  With a Republican collapse, the current 11-4-1 layout could see the Democrats holding 8 or 9 seats.  But we won’t let that happen in 2012… right?Renacci vs. Sutton district

The only incumbent vs. incumbent competition for November is the purple OH-16 with three-term Democrat Betty Sutton against freshman Jim Renacci.  While Sutton is familiar to people in the northern part of this district, Renacci is favored to win as he retained much of this original district to the south and west of Akron.  In fact, the Democrat Red to Blue website does not list this district as one which is likely to beat a sitting Republican.  Ohio has three out of the 64 districts where Democrats feel they might have a shot.

The district that might be the most competitive is OH-06 which I’ve called the Appalachia / Ohio River district.  Ted Strickland, former Ohio Congressman and Governor Johnson vs. Wilson districtis from this area and is actively involved with the Obama re-election campaign.  Charlie Wilson replaced Strickland in Congress and joined the “Blue Dog” Democrat Coalition only to be defeated by Tea Party favorite Bill Johnson.  Wilson is up for a rematch and this region will be very important for the presidential campaign as well.  When Democrats take Ohio, they usually have large victories in the Cleveland area and then add support from voters at the eastern edge of the state.

Another district on the Red to Blue list is OH-07 represented byGibbs vs. Healy-Abrams another freshman, Bob Gibbs.  Gibbs saw his district change the most geographically as he moves from rural areas in the south to rural areas in the north.  The swing counties of Stark and Tuscarawus  are included in this district and the Democrats have pinned their hopes on businesswoman Joyce Healy-Abrams.  Her brother is the current mayor of Canton, so the name recognition in the south plus the Democrat leanings of voters in the north might give her an extra edge against the favored incumbent.

Finally, a dark-horse district which may offer a surprise on election night is OH-10 in Dayton.  This district was re-drawn as a Republican incumbent vs. incumbent match between Mike Turner and Steve Austria.  Austria decided not to run for re-election making Mike Turner a clear favorite.   But Montgomery County has consistently voted for the Democrat in presidential elections, and Obama actually one the area in this newly-drawn district.  Sharon Neuhardt ran against Steve Austria in 2008, losing 58-42.  Her second campaign should be more successful than the first, and Mike Turner might have to earn his way to a sixth term.

LaTourette’s “BiPartisan” Retirement

Steve LaTourette’s announcement yesterday that he would not seek another term left Republicans simply shaking their heads.   If he had decided this a year ago, conservative and moderate Republicans would have had a chance to compete for the nomination, then have the party rally behind the winner.  The Democrats nominated Dale Blanchard, a man who has run for this seat a decade earlier and has run for other offices as well.  He was not expected to pose much of a challenge for LaTourette, but the timing of his announcement can only help the Democrats.

LaTourette’s district was narrowly won by John McCain in 2008, although the inclusion of Summit, Portage, and Cuyahoga counties with redistricting made this district more Democratic.  The GOP Chairmen of each of the seven counties will select a candidate which is sure to leave some of the electorate upset.  Without the name recognition of incumbency, this district just went from a solid R to leaning R.

Daniel Horowitz wrote a good piece of red meat for RedState laying out the argument against LaTourette’s moderation.  The theory is that only a moderate (or a liberal) can win a moderate district, and this could be a good test case if the right conservative is chosen.   The Plain Dealer suggested that Democrats are encouraging Blanchard to step down so they can put forward a stronger candidate.  If that happens, then OH-14 could become one of the most hotly contested races in the country.