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Ohio (Open Seat)

Outlook: Likely Democratic


August 27, 2006 Update:

At this point, it appears to be less a matter of whether Democrat Ted Strickland will win, than by what kind of margin he will triumph. Will he win by enough to also carry in liberal Democrat Sherrod Brown for the U.S. Senate? Will he be able to generate coattails for some of the Democratic House candidates in an exceptionally rough year for the GOP in Ohio? Republican nominee Ken Blackwell simply has too many burdens that are too heavy to prevail in this year, absent a miracle.

August 2, 2006 Update:

If Ted Strickland continues to do as well as he is doing, then we eventually expect to change this rating to Likely Democratic. Ever cautious, the Crystal Ball will keep it at Leans Democratic for now.

June 1, 2006 Update:

Ken Blackwell won the Republican nomination, as we expected, but he is an underdog to Democrat Ted Strickland. However, Strickland does have to worry about Blackwell’s potential attraction to African-American voters. Assuming Strickland can solidify the normally heavily Democratic black vote, he should have no trouble winning in November, given the enormous troubles of the state and national GOP.

Update:

The September 20th debate does not seem to have benefited either party, as both are being criticized by the media for offering few specifics on the feasibility of their plans. Although Congressman Ted Strickland (D) characterized charter schools as a “rip off of the public tax dollar,” he could only offer what many see as poorly defined ideas. At this point Strickland has been able to keep Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R) at a safe distance by simply pointing out his political luggage. In a recent attack ad, for example, Strickland points out a link between Blackwell and disgraced coin dealer Thomas W. Noe. Although both parties are on the attack, nothing seems to be happening to change the course of the race.

Alexander Covington, Crystal Ball Mid-Atlantic Regional Correspondent


Background

Republicans so dominate the statewide picture in 2004’s ultimate Presidential toss-up state that an analyst is tempted to call the 2006 Governor’s race for the GOP right now. And that would be foolish. Governor Bob Taft has now been found guilty of ethics violations and some are even talking about impeachment–although it is unlikely to happen. The Republicans who control the state legislature are unlikely to do it, and the Democrats in the legislature want the weakened Taft to continue in office.

True enough, Republicans have three strong candidates in Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (an African-American), state Auditor Betty Montgomery, and state Attorney General Jim Petro. On the other side, Democratic Congressman Ted Strickland has decided to run for the gubernatorial nomination. He is the clear frontrunner, especially now that Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman has dropped out of the race. (former Congressman and state Senator Eric Fingerhut will also be making a run at the Democratic nomination, though Strickland should defeat him easily.) Strickland, a psychologist by training and an energetic, bright House member, represents a moderate, rural-suburban district that has taught him how to win swing voters. Strickland’s entry is good news for the Democrats. He is exactly the kind of Democrat who might be able to win statewide. If he can do so, his victory will have clear, positive effects for national Democrats as they try to push the Buckeye State into their column for President in 2008.

Consider these factors: (1) After a lengthy period of GOP dominance, it may be the proverbial “time for a change;” (2) Incumbent GOP Governor Taft is now perhaps the most unpopular incumbent governor in the country, which feeds the desire for change; (3) The Republicans could have a nasty primary.

So, in conclusion, Ohio could potentially be the headline of 2006, if it abandons Republican leanings, votes Democratic for governor, and even perhaps for U.S. Senator. Republicans could lose one or more of their U.S. House seats, too. Every early indication is that the Mother of Modern Presidents will be critical again in the next presidential contest, and, as such, Ohio may be “ground zero” for the politics of 2006 and 2008.

Candidates

Ted Strickland – Democrat – current U.S. Congressman, former psychologist and university professor
Website

Ken Blackwell – Republican – current Ohio Secretary of State
Website

Bill Peirce – Independent – retired professor, economist, affiliated with the Libertarian party
Website

Bob Fitrakis – Independent – attorney, journalist, affiliated with the Green party
Website