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.


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.

A Closer Look at Ohio Districts

First of all, here is an image of the new congressional district map in Ohio.  The biggest changes occur in Northeast Ohio and then in Columbus where the city was given a district of its own for the first time in years.

As I described in my earlier post, northeast Ohio is a mess.  In this closer view of the Cleveland area, we see that the east and the west side of Cleveland continue to be split despite its population loss.  Instead of the Kucinich district being combined with that of Ms. Fudge, it stretches north and way to the west to Toledo to create a primary with Marcy Kaptur.  To maintain Cleveland’s minority-majority district, Ms. Fudge’s districts stretches south to capture the minority parts of Akron.   This in turn causes some odd shapes with districts from the rural north-central forcing them to stretch downward into Lorain and Cuyahoga counties.

In Summit County, we see that the Bob Gibbs district wraps around the Jim Renacci district, which then wraps around Akron now represented by Marcia Fudge (from Cleveland) and Tim Ryan (from Youngstown).  The spaghetti borders of Tim Ryan’s district can cause a person to go blind.  Steve LaTourette also had his district stretch to the south to now include parts of Portage and Summit Counties.


Finally we have the new congressional district in Columbus.  Former one-term congresswoman MaryJo Kilroy and Ohio Reps Ted Celeste and Joyce Beatty are among those considering this new seat.  The districts of Stivers and Tiberi should lean more Republican than in the past.  (Update: I had earlier put up an incorrect Columbus map.

Jim Jordan has the district to the northwest of Columbus while Steve Stivers has the district to the south.  The Turner-Austria district is further south and is now the Turner district following Austria’s decision not to run.)


This looks like Ohio will move from a 13-5 split to a 12-4 in the 2012 elections.  But it was only in 2008 that Ohio’s congressional split was 10-8 Democrat so I think those northern districts may be more competitve as time goes on.  Renacci and Gibbs are both Tea Party freshman, and Jim Renacci will be challenged this year by current congresswoman Betty Sutton.   It should be an interesting year.

Returning with the Redistricting Map

I’ve been out of commission for a while. Pray for your health and those of your loved ones – it is more important than almost anything.

So the redistrictring map was introduced in September, some adjustments were made to the Kaptur/Kucinich and the Turner/Austria districts, and then finally approved in December.  Here is a link to the final map – http://www.onntv.com/content/stories/2011/12/15/story-redisctricting-map.html.

The result consolidated the Democrat districts which subsequently strengthened most Republican areas – exactly the point of political redistricting (as opposed to fair and competitive redistricting).  The big move was the new Columbus district which is a solid addition to the Democrat side.  The Tiberi and Stivers districts were becoming more competitive, so this will let the Democrats in Franklin County be represented by a Democrat, and the outlying suburbs and surrounding counties will more likely vote for the Republican.

The big move with national implications is the Dennis Kucinich district being absorbed by the Marcy Kaptur district.  There is little logic behind this Lake Erie district except to force Kucinich into a primary with anybody other than Marcia Fudge.  The district represented by Ms. Fudge was squeezed to include areas of Akron so Ohio can maintain this minority-majority district.

Ohio lost two seats based on the last census.  The Democrats lost two seats in northern Ohio with the Kaptur-Sutton-Kucinich areas being absorbed roughtly into a single district, but were then given a seat in Columbus.  The Republicans consolidated the Austria-Turner district in south-central Ohio into a single district.

As a result, northern Ohio is a representative mess.  Cuyahoga and Summit counties are represented by four districts each, and the smaller Lorain and Portage counties each have three.  In order to stretch the Lake Erie district from Toledo to Cleveland, they needed to pull the districts of smaller cities and rural areas into southern Lorain county.  Bob Gibbs saw the biggest geographic shift as he had represented counties including and to the south of Tuscarawus and Cochocton, now he will compete in those counties and to their north.

The most competitive seat at the moment will be three-term Representative Betty Sutton challenging tea party freshman Jim Renacci.  This disctict includes Wooster and Wayne county, and then parts of Stark, Summit, and Lorain counties.  This district favors Renacci, but I don’t think it will be a slam-dunk.

In fact, the 2006 and 2008 elections saw Democratic gains in the rural north and appalachian areas of Ohio.  The Tea Party movement helped to switch these districts in 2010, but if that movement fails in the coming years then Democrats could end up regaining three or four seats by the end of the decade.  Then today’s Democrat complaints about the 12-4 split will turn into deer-in-the-headlights Republicans looking at an 8-8 map.

House Democrats Feeling Some Heat

So how many House seats will Ohio turn next year? One? Two? How about four. Nancy Pelosi encouraged some members of “Big Business” to thank certain House members for their support of cap-and-trade. The House members included the names we’ve tagged from the beginning: Steve Driehaus (OH-1, Cincinnati), Mary Jo Kilroy (OH-15, Columbus), John Boccierri (OH-16, Canton), and Zach Space (OH-18, central southeast area from New Philadelphia through Zanesville to just before the southeastern Ohio River).

I found this story on Powerline (http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2009/07/024041.php) and one of the comments stated that Driehaus is not too popular on Cincinnati. John Boccierri appeared on the Matt Patrick Show (WHLO 640 AM in Akron – http://www.mattpatrickshow.com) and said that he wasn’t sure what percentage of his district had called and written against cap-and-trade.  Tim Ryan (OH-17, Youngstown) also went on the show and had to admit that he voted against the will of his district.

If cap-and-trade is yesterday’s news, then health care is today’s.  Voters protested today in the Akron and surrounding areas in front of the offices of Ryan, Boccierri, and Betty Sutton (OH-13, Lorain) to express their fear and anger at the current health care proposal.  Akron, by the way, drew the short straw in the redistricting of 1990 and was gerrymandered from a single district to these three districts which have the bulk of their popluations elsewhere.

Obama and the Democrats must have thought that they had a clear mandate after the last election.  They gained control of both elected branches including having 60 members in the Senate, something that hasn’t happened since Watergate.  Of course the Bush coverage mirrored that of Watergate, but some people should be careful of what they wish for.  The presidential election after the Carter election resulted in a Reagan landslide, including a 26-11 Democrat lead in contested Senate seats turning into Republicans winning 23-14.  The 1978 elections did not see much change, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this off-year election saw a major shift in the House and maybe the 18-18 contested Senate races.  Of course every House seat is up for grabs, and let’s grab these four seats from the Pelosi House.