GOP Gleeful Over Democrats' Midterm Woes in Ohio
Democrats appear poised to lose every statewide election in battleground Ohio this fall - most of them badly. The prospect is fueling Republican arguments headed into the next presidential election that voter support in a key bellwether state telegraphs national approval for GOP policies.
Republicans are counting on solid wins in the run up to their 2016 presidential nominating convention in Cleveland, the bluest city in a politically purple state. Republican incumbents running for re-election for attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer and auditor all appear headed for victory, as does GOP Gov. John Kasich over Democrat Ed FitzGerald.
"I want to see them re-elected by a substantial margin, because it would send a strong message across America about the way we want to see our leaders govern," said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a man with a substantial stake in Ohio's political landscape as chairman of the Republican Governors Association and a potential presidential candidate.
But two years is an eternity in politics. And in the recent past, President Barack Obama won the state twice. So did Democrat Bill Clinton. And Clinton's wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, leads early presidential polls in the state. Democrats say any losses this year are merely an aberration.
"The Democratic Party is in an incredible position, because we are in sync with the American people," former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland said in an interview with The Associated Press, noting that a majority of Americans now support gay marriage and abortion rights. "If the Republican Party doesn't get in sync on some of these issues, they will never, ever win another national election."
No Republican has been elected president without carrying Ohio. The last Democrat to win without the state was John F. Kennedy in 1960. Presidential races in Ohio usually are very close, adding to the campaign intensity.
So even in nonpresidential voting years, developments like Fitzgerald's difficulties carry particular sting. The Cuyahoga County executive's campaign first weathered the forced replacement of his running mate, only to face reports that police in 2012 found FitzGerald, a former FBI agent, in a parking lot at 4:30 a.m. with a woman who was not his wife and subsequent revelations that FitzGerald lacked a valid drivers' license for about a decade.
University of Dayton assistant communications professor Joe Valenzano likens the implosion of FitzGerald's campaign to "watching a bad car accident in slow motion." Ohio Republican Party spokesman Chris Schrimpf says it's been "the worst campaign in the last 20 years," and even Ohio Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern told the New York Times he wouldn't allow the company that vetted FitzGerald "to clean out my bird cage."