Exploiting and Resolving the GOP Split

I was looking at some Ohio turnout numbers and realized that the Secretary of State does not yet have official results.  As of this morning, the heavily Republican Van Wert County is only reporting at 26% which is not possible.  The absentee and provisional ballots that are coming in will not change the outcome, but it could change some percentages in the smaller counties so we’ll wait for a bit.

Nevertheless, we can talk about some stories of Democrat money going behind third party candidates.  In the Montana Senate race, Democrat John Tester beat the Republican Denny Rehberg by 20k votes with the Libertarian taking 31k votes.  There was a Libertarian running in Indiana that could have cut into a hypothetical Mourdock lead.  And then there’s the Ohio numbers: Brown 50.3%, Mandel 45.1%, Rupert 4.6%.   Scott Rupert (homepage, LibertyCandidates webpage)  ran as Ron Paul, constitutional, liberty candidate and he consistently got between 4-6% of the vote in each county with more support coming in red counties.  I have no idea if he got funding from Democrats and I’m not even sure that’s the important question.  But we need to address the tactic of third parties taking Republican votes.

By funding conservative third parties, what is exploited is a clear division in the Republican party between Tea Party libertarians and the GOP establishment while the “independent” voter who is worried about his or her ladyparts looks away and votes Democrat.  Whether or not third parties complete, I don’t want my candidate winning by a whisker.  I don’t want to win simply based on turnout.

When explaining polls to people who don’t follow politics on a consistent basis, I inevitably have the discussion of how all adults are more Democrat than registered voters who are more Democrat than likely voters.  “Why is that?” they ask.  I stumble around for an answer that includes how conservatism as a reason-based philosophy and how the media are much more favorable to Democrats.

But the truth is that the GOP has zero credibility in the inner city and zero influence over low-information voters.  I hate playing the demographic game because the conservative message applies to everybody regardless of race or class, yet when conservatives give up on certain demographics, it only serves to reinforce the steroetype of the GOP as soon-to-be-dead white guys.

Now the 2012 race was closer than the 2008 race, but the dominoes all fell for the Democrats.  With 23 Senate seats for the Democrats to defend, how do they come out with 25?  If we are to believe that this was a turnout election, then we can’t simply blame individual Senate candidates or third parties.  The big Democrat message of economic and social fairness beat out the the Republican message of self-responsibility.  The Tea Party and the establishment need to have a unified message when responding to the “fairness” argument or else we won’t have a national mandate any time in the future.

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Ohio Election Night: What to Watch and What Else to Watch

At the last weekend of the campaign, my confidence is not as high as I’d like it.  Four years ago, I was sure that Barack Obama would win but I also saw a path for McCain.  Then at 8:15 when they called Pennsylvania, I knew it was over.  Today they are many different iterations for a Romney win, but the bottom line RCP electoral map suggests that Obama is ahead and has an easier path to victory.  The current no-toss up map has Obama winning 290-248 which means Romney must win… as was true three months ago… Ohio plus one.

Before I talk about what to watch in Ohio on election night, I’ve been looking at a Romney path that does not include Ohio.  Ohio has lost population over the last number of years and the population that remains may include more Democrats.  Obama voters who see the impact of a struggling economy, and who otherwise would be ripe for a switch on Election Night, have been barraged with anti-Romney information.  Some don’t like the Bain Capital narrative and others are worried about the social conservative agenda.  Whatever the case, I think there have been very few undecided voters in Ohio and it will all depend on turnout.

So without Ohio, Pennsylvania plus one becomes the mantra.  Pennsylvania is very similar to Ohio where Philadelphia is the Cleveland / Northeast Ohio, the Pittsburgh area is the region from Youngstown and to the south, and the middle of PA is the middle and west of OH.  So if Romney wins Pennsylvania, he just needs New Hampshire or Iowa or Colorado.  Easy enough… if he wins Pennsylvania.

Another problem though might be Virginia.  I was thinking about which regions of the country would Obama’s enthusiasm level be greater now than in 2008, and I wonder about the DC area and the Virginia coast.  So it is somewhat unlikely, but Virginia has been a target of negative ads just like Ohio and Obama could win both states.  So now, Romney needs these “new battleground” states of Pennsylvania plus two if they include Wisconsin or Michigan.  It would be Pennsylvania plus three if you need NH, IA, and CO.  That could be doable, but much more challenging.

**Update.  A couple hours after I posted this, I saw an iteration chart from the New York Times.  It looks at each of the 512 iterations of the 9 swing states and finds that Obama has 431 different ways to win while Romney only has 76.  This contains the standard list of swing states which includes NC and does not include PA.  Still, a nice interactive website to visit.

Back to Ohio, I’ll be looking at different county numbers because (as any follower of Ohio elections knows) Cuyahoga is a big county, heavily Democratic, and notoriously late in producing its results.  Expect Romney to take an early lead, but only time will tell who the eventual winner will be.  For those looking toward a 2010 turnout, that election saw five House seats switch from Democrat to Republican.  (New York also saw five Democrats lose their seats, and four Democrats lost their seats in Florida, Illinois, and… Pennsylvania.)  But in this big Republican year, Ohio elected John Kasich as Governor in a very tight race at 49-47.  Here is that county map.

Ohio County Map for Kasich 2010As is typical, Democrats do very well in the north then the map stretches down the southeast edge.  What keeps this map from showing a Governor Strickland victory are the narrow Kasich victories in Hamilton County (Cincinnati) and Montgomery County (Dayton) and the decisive Kasich victories in the surrounding ones.  President Obama, who won Ohio 51-47, took these two larger counties in 2008.

Looking at the Presidential elections of 2004 and 2008, we can look at the big three I-71 counties:
Hamilton (Cincinnati) – Kerry 47%, Obama 52%
Franklin (Columbus) – Kerry 54%, Obama 59%
Cuyahoga (Cleveland) – Kerry 66.6%, Obama 68.5%

Other medium-large counties that are slightly Democrat-leaning but otherwise good barometers of the state are:
Montgomery (Dayton): Kerry 50.6%, Obama 51.8%
Stark (Canton): Kerry 50.6%, Obama 50.2%

And finally there are the next two largest Bush-to-Obama counties (Hamilton is the largest):
Lake (east of Cuyahoga): Kerry 48.5%, Obama 49.3%
Wood (south of Toledo): Kerry 46.4%, Obama 52.5%

I will also be watching two House races to gauge any coat-tail strength.  OH-16 pits incumbents Jim Renacci and Betty Sutton.  On paper, the map favors Renacci but Sutton has put up a good fight and this race is currently a toss-up.  Also OH-06 is a 2010 rematch between Tea Party freshman Bill Johnson and the former Blue Dog Charlie Wilson.  This race is fought in those Ohio River counties that supported Obama in 2008 and Ted Strickland in 2010.  Johnson is favored, but if Wilson makes it close then it may also show strength in this region for Barack Obama.

Finally we have a Senate race which has seen the young Treasurer Josh Mandel slowly… slowly… creep up in the polls.  He is a clear underdog.  There have been both positive and negative ads on both sides, but there is simply little Josh Mandel traction.  If he is winning this race, then a Romney victory is practically a sure thing.  Sherrod Brown has built enough strength to survive a Mitt Romney Ohio victory; the same cannot be said of Josh Mandel with an Obama victory.

So there we go.  I expect Ohio to be a frustrating state to watch on election night, but log onto the Secretary of State’s website and look at these county percentages to see where Ohio is going well before it is called.

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.

Ohio: Super Tuesday to November

It looks like Mitt Romney will sneak past Rick Santorum in Ohio by about 38%-37%.  Romney had some momentum with some victories last week, and conventional wisdom said that Santorum would be hurt by all the negative press on the social issues.  (This would be the Limbaugh – Fluke flap.)  But Santorum had obviously built up enough trust and good will among Ohio voters to give him the edge through most of the night.

Romney has done well with urban Republicans, a fact that causes some people concern while other people see it as an asset.  Here is a side-by-side comparison of the Romney-Santorum county map with the Obama-McCain county map.

We see that Romney beat Santorum in most of northeast Ohio, then in the Columbus and the Cincinnatti areas.  The rest of the state including the appalachian and rural areas went to Santorum.  In 2008, Obama won the three big cities plus more of northeast Ohio, the Toledo area, and a few counties by the Ohio river.

So Romney’s strength is regionally identical to Obama’s strength.  The Optimist: “Romney’s urban strength will weaken the margin of victory Obama has in the cities, while the more conservative areas will still hold strong for the Republican.”  The Pessimist: “the turnout in the cities will overwhelm the Republican, and the conservative turnout will be dampened by a candidate like Mitt Romney.”  It remains to be seen which scenario is correct, but I’m afraid that this is the question we’ll be asking ourselves for the next eight months.

In addition to winning the state, Romney has won ten congressional districts while Santorum took six.

There are seven Romney districts in red and three in pink.  These pink disctricts are ones where Rick Santorum failed to get his delegate nominations on the ballot.  These include the Lake Erie district (Marcy Kaptur) and the Younstown district (Tim Ryan) which both would have been won by Romney anyway.  Rick Santorum won the counties included in the southeastern ohio River district (Bill Johnson), so he could have closed it to a 9-7 split with this district flipping to his side.  The red district just to the north of Columbus (Pat Tibiri) was a close call for most of the night, but Romney ended up with a slight edge here.

Santorum had a very slight edge in the 8th district just north of Cincinnatti (John Boehner), but won more comfortably in the rest of the state with particular strength in the northwest districts (Bob Latta and Jim Jordan).   He also won the Democratic 3rd district in Columbus, an unexpected result given Romney’s win in Franklin County.

In other races in the state, Josh Mandel won the Senate nomination with 63% of the vote.  The second place challenger got 14% and ran for Senate as a Tea Party Independent in 2010, while I’ll admit that Donna Glisman is a surprise getting 12%.  I believe Mandel will be a strong candidate with some national appeal (RedState and Jim DeMint), and will bring a good fight to Sherrod Brown and his national appeal (DailyKos and MSNBC).

Two incumbent Congressmen lost in primary races.  Toledo’s Marcy Kaptur was endorsed by Cleveland’s Plain Dealer, and her strength in the Lake Erie distrct was too much for Dennis Kucinich to survive.  I look for him to either move to Washington state to continue his political career, or maybe he’ll switch gears and become a contributor to FoxNews.  Either way, his chapters in Cleveland seem to be coming to a close.  In a surprising race, Brad Wenstrup (http://usabrad.com/) beat Jean Schmidt in Ohio’s 2nd district.  Jean Schmidt had never had a comfortable race since taking over the seat vacated by Rob Portman in 2005, and she obviously could not appeal to newer voters in a redrawn district.  Finally in the new Columbus 3rd district, Joyce Beatty (http://beattyforcongress.com/) won a tight race against former one-term Congresswoman MaryJo Kilroy and she is likely to win this Democratic seat in November.

A long night here in Ohio.  Romney seems to have held his 2:1 margin in delegates over Rick Santorum.  Next week we move south, and if Romney is the front runner then he’ll have to try and compete in Alabama and Mississippi.  Losses there will cause people to continue to question his strength as a front-runner and he’ll have to chalk up victories in the dominican territories (which are likely wins for Romney) which follow afterward.  Two weeks from now is the next Super Tuesday with Illinois in play.

The path to victory is more difficult after tonight for Santorum and especially for Gingrich, but it is not impossible. Mitt Romney was the conservative choice four years ago, and voters may have to satisfy themselves with pushing him even more to the right in 2012.

Josh Mandel: Jim DeMint Targets Ohio

After the 2010 election, Jim DeMint said that he would not use his Senate Conservative Fund to challenge any sitting Senator.  While there are Republicans who are worth challenging, there is a great deal of hanging fruit with 23 Democrat seats up for grabs.  Freshman Senator Sherrod Brown is running as one of the most liberal senators in a body full of socialists.  Brown has been running for elective office for over 20 years and Ohio voters are very familiar with him, and Ohio voters have usually voted in his favor.  Picking off this hanging fruit will not be easy.

Enter Jim DeMint who making Ohio one of his first fights with Treasurer Josh Mandel as his guy – https://senateconservatives.com/mandel.  Kevin Coughlin was a State Senator who considered running for Governor before John Kasich sucked out the oxygen for a challenge, and is currently campaigning for the Senate seat.  Ken Blackwell would have been a higher profile candidate, yet he announced last weekend that he would not be running for this seat and has likely retired from running for any other elective office (Daily Caller story).  While Coughlin is strong and independent-minded, I’m afraid that the Senate nomination is now Josh Mandel’s to lose.  Mandel is going to be a strong and high-profile candidate with backers like Jim DeMint and Erick Erickson at RedState.

The Josh Mandel Push

Trying to maintain the momentum from November 2010, Ohio conservatives have been anxiously awaiting challengers to freshman Senator Sherrod Brown.  Brown is way to the left of most Ohioans, yet he has been active in state politics for all of his adult life (bio).  I was recently reminded that Ohio voters supported Senator Howard Metzenbaum for nearly 20 years, and he was just as liberal as Brown.

The election of 2006 in Ohio was a perfect storm for Ohio conservatives who may have been frustrated by a) 8 years of Gov. Bob Taft, b) 12 years of Sen. Mike DeWine, c) 8 years of Sen. George Voinovich, d) 6 years of Pres. George Bush, or e) any or all of the above.  Ohio also had some problems with some of its congressmen.  Bob Ney needed to withdraw from his 2006 re-election campaign because of his relations with Jack Abramoff, and the newly-appointed Jean Schmidt had to deal with her “cowards never run” comment and then the special election challenge from Paul Hackett, an anti-war Iraqi vet golden boy.  Like much of the country, Ohio dismissed its Republican standard-bearers.

Initial chatter for a 2012 Senate candidate included Reps. Jim Jordan and Steve LaTourette.  If Ken Blackwell still has a residence in Ohio, he would be a strong candidate.  And along with John Kasich, Ohio voted in a new team of young Republicans including Mary Taylor, John Husted, and Josh Mandel.  Jim Jordan is enjoying a new soapbox as a fiscal leader in the House, and he seems dis-inclined to give that up.  LaTourette would frankly remind conservatives too much of DeWine/Voinovich – he earns about 60-70% ratings on conservative issues.  The new team in the statehouse have hardly unpacked to be ready or willing to return to the campaign trail.  And Blackwell may be enjoying his role as policy wonk because I can find no comments from him regarding Ohio politics.

But politics abhors a vacuum, and conservatives in Ohio and the nation are itchy.  It may have started with this Washington Post article – http://voices.washingtonpost.com/thefix/the-rising/the-rising-josh-mandel-could-t.html, but before you could get your second cup of coffee, both Powerline and RedState had responses and I heard on the radio that Mandel has been inundated with calls urging him to run.

Mandel is a fiscal hawk and would fit right in with Jim DeMint’s brand of politics as opposed to John McCain’s.  The Ohio Republican Party has done its best to prevent primary fights by moving people to different slots – see David Yost being moved from the AG campaign after Mike DeWine announced his intention to run, Blackwell being encouraged not to challenge Bob Taft, etc.  If no other Republican announces or is encouraged by the establishment to seek the Senate, this nomination is Josh Mandel’s.  All he has to do is say “yes.”