Every State. Every race. Right here.
This is number eleven in a planned series of 50 entries between now and November, looking at each of the 50 states in terms of every race on that state's ticket--Presidential, Gubernatorial, Senate, House, State legislatures--the whole casserole. Special attention paid to identifying and promoting the most important contests per state.
Today's entry is about, not the only battleground state, but arguably the most important battleground of all: OHIO!
I believe in competing everywhere. Some states, however, are more equal than others, and Ohio has the trifecta of important downticket races, high electoral votes and purple bellweather status that warrant very close attention and more than the usual amount of resources. There’s a good case to be made that Ohio is THE MOST IMPORTANT of the 50 states in terms of deserving our time, money and effort in 2008, and a case that the Democratic Party will not be a permanent majority without earning Ohio into the solid blue tier of states. This does not mean that we should ignore 25 or more states and adopt the Kerry/Gore states + Ohio model; it means that Ohio is potentially the keystone without which our coalition is not secure.
For starters, Ohio is a representative cross section of America. It has a bit of the rust belt, a bit of Appalachia, a bit of the farm belt, and a slight border Dixie twang in certain areas. This is the state that gave us the super-liberal Senator Howard Metzenbaum, replaced him with the hideously right wing Michael DeWhine, and has now come around and given us Sherrod Brown. It’s also the home of that other great Democrat, American hero John Glenn. Congressional representatives range from Dennis Kucinich to Jean Schmidt, which should tell you a lot about the diversity of Ohio.
Politically, Democrats get votes in the Northeastern end of the state, in the strongholds of the Cleveland metro area, Youngstown, Akron, Canton and Steubenville. Other medium to large blue cities include Toledo in the Northwest, Dayton in the Southeast, and Columbus in the middle. Cincinatti is a swing city.
Republicans are at their best in the thinly populated farm counties from central Ohio to the far west that mirror the red plains states in their usual voting and which have sent John Boehner, the House Republican leader, to Congress. Some farm districts in the center have a high Amish population. Finally, the Appalachian region of the Southwest is small in population (about 1/9 of the people, or two Congressional districts out of 18), but can often play kingmaker in close elections where the farms go Republican and the cities go Democrat. Right now, both Appalachian districts are held by Democrats.
For blogging, there’s the Buckeye State Blog and the Ohio Daily Blog for news and information about all things Ohio. So good that the 50-state blog project split the palm leaf down the middle and decided to carry them both!
PRESIDENT: : Those strategists who want Democrats to give the GOP byes on more than 25 states and put EVERYTHING into Ohio, are wrong of course. There is, however, at least some logic to the idea in that, while there are several ways for Obama to win without Ohio, there are NO ways for McCain to win without Ohio. So if he seals it in Ohio, that’s it. Game over. No more Republican White House. It’s political suicide to put all your eggs on one swing state, but it is good strategy to commit a large proportion of resources to Ohio as part of a well-coordinated 50-state strategy that also gives due attention to Missouri, Florida, the Southwest, the border south, and to forcing the Republicans to commit resources to defending even their big stronghold states (eg, even if Georgia looks out of reach, it’s good to have at least some ground game so that Atlanta doesn’t feel shut out and so that the GOP will have to work there too, just to be sure).
Fortunately, a fringe benefit of the long primary is that Obama has had to already put up the infrastructure for the national campaign, and has taken the time to meet many voters there, while McCain has been catching up on his naps. If Obama is wise, he has not dismantled the apparatus he built up for the April primary, and he will keep it up and running from now through the summer and fall. Once the infrastructure is up, it takes comparatively less resources to keep it going than it would to stop and start it. And Obama will need every bit that he can afford to throw here.
In every election since I started keeping track, Ohio has been declared for the Presidential candidate who eventually ended up in the White House. With a new Democratic Secretary of State, the votes will be counted, and we will not see the usual Republican dirty tricks, like having poorly maintained voting machines in insufficient numbers in the minority precincts.
Does Hillary’s win in the Ohio primary mean that Obama is doomed? Well, he’s got a problem if the Appalachian quadrant is kingmaker. Fortunately, Obama does better in the farm region than Democrats usually do, and so that may make up for a less-than-average performance in the mountians. As may bigger turnout in the blue strongholds.
Bottom line: Obama has a fighting chance in Ohio, maybe even an advantage, and he must fight to maintain it to the extent he can do so without short-shrifting the 50-state strategy. Ohio is not the only battleground, but, along with one other state(I say Missouri, a choice that may surprise some of you) to be discussed later, it is the biggest.
SENATORS, GOVERNORS AND OTHER STATEWIDE: No races in 2008. Ohio did all that last year, electing Senator Sherrod Brown, Governor Ted Strickland, and a full slate of Democrats to statewide office, including the all-important (for elections fairness and redistricting) Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner. My dream is that Paul Hackett comes back to take on Senator Vodkavich and add to our Senate majority, but that’s not until 2010.
However, there will be a special election for Attorney General, because the incumbent Democrat Marc Dann resigned from office for fucking! What is it with these Democrats deciding they just aren’t qualified to serve the public and have active sex lives? Do they get phone calls from Senator "Stick it out Larry "Craig, Senator "Diapers" Vitter, Rep. "Vino" Fossella and "America’s Playa", Rudy Guliani, piously telling them that anyone who fucks has to step down from office unless they’re Republicans, and they just say "Uh, OK, guys"?
Enough, people! Remember your roots! John Kennedy fucked! Bobby Kennedy fucked! Martin Luther King fucked! Supreme Court Justice William Douglas got hisself a new 20 year old wife every 20 years! And they were great liberal heroes! Can you imagine where America would be if they had left office years ahead of time the first time some Republican accused them of fucking? We’re DEMOCRATS! We LIKE sexual freedom! Anyone who’s gonna vote against you for fucking probably never voted for you anyway. Just stay through the end of your terms, already.
(calm, calm) Right. Now where was I? Oh, right. Attorney General. Special erection. Coming in November, Probably going to be a hard one. But no word on who’s going to be running at this time.
STATE LEGISLATURE: This is one of the most important state legislatures in the nation, with the potential to control redistricting of a large state that is presently gerrymandered heavily toward the GOP. As I discuss in depth below, we could gerrymander it equally and oppositely in our favor in a couple of years, but we have to take the legislature. Both chambers are currently Republican (and their own state maps are gerrymandered in their favor, just like the Congressional map), but they’re close enough that winning both chambers is possible.
The lower house has 46 Democrats, 53 Republicans, needing a shift of just four seats. The State Senate is trickier, at 12D, 21R, requiring a shift of five seats in a 33 seat body, but it’s possible.
As New Yorkers, with their razor thin State Senate deficit to erase,are pointing out, in some ways the state legislature fight in large states is MORE important than the Congressional races themselves, because the legislature draws the districts and can make the entire map to our favor, or boot out a great US Representative that we spent countless hours and dollars electing, with one stroke of a pen.
District 1—Steve Driehaus (D) V. Steve Chabot (Inc R)—a barnburner of a race for this Cincinatti-based district, it really could go either way.
District 2—Dr. Victoria Wulsin (D) v. –Cruella DeVil- Jean Schmidt. The most formidable politicians are said to make members of the opposing party run away when they see them coming, but when Mean Jean opens her mouth, it’s her fellow Republicans who head for the hills. Because she’s such an embarrassment, Democrats will have a fighting chance in this District, the most Republican one in Ohio, as long as Schmidt is there. Dr. Wulsin has made a four year project out of taking her down, and this could be the year we do it.
District 3—Jane Mitakides (D) v. Michael Turner (Inc R). A formerly Democratic district that was diluted when the GOP moved parts of the solid Dem Dayton area to Boehner’s 8th district, which could afford to absorb them. Mitakides is a powerful businesswoman who got a lot of positive attention on this site (and made me swoon a little) when she first ran in 2004. She sat the race out in 2006 and is now back for another go. Although this race isn’t getting as much attention as the neighboring 1st and 3rd, it is competitive, and Mitakides is tying her hopes in part to cooperation among the three challengers, as in Let SW Ohio vote for a Team.
District 4—Mike Carroll (D) v. James Jordan (Inc R). This one is a tough nut to crack, and not currently on anyone’s radar.
District 5—George Mays (D) v. Robert Latta (Inc R). Districts 4 and 5, in NW Ohio, are both large farm belt districts, mostly red, and had open seat races within the past few years. The 5th had a special election in 2007 that got a lot of attention after a very divisive Republican primary, and still we ended up a little short. Oh, who am I kidding. We got our asses kicked, and the conventional wisdom is that if we couldn’t win then, we won’t this time either. But if you want a 50-state, 435-district strategy, you fight everywhere, and in the 5th, we’re doing what we should and fielding the strongest possible contender for the area. Mays is a colorful disc jockey who should at least keep Latta pinned down in his home district, unable to help out the very endangered GOP elsewhere in the state.
District 6—Charlie Wilson (Inc D). The Rethugs couldn’t take out Ted Strickland, so they strung out his Appalachian district all the way along the WV border to include a bunch of declining industrial cities that would otherwise be part of a Youngstown-based solid blue district. Safe Dem.
District 7—Sharen Neuhardt (D) v. Steve Austria (R). An open seat in a traditionally red district between Columbus and the mountains. It’s not as promising as the open 15th and 16th, but anything can happen in an open seat in a national election year.
District 8—Nick von Stein (D) v. John Boehner (Evil R Overlord). Support von Stein. There’s always a chance they’ll find the dead girls, the live boys or the oil kickback money before November.
District 9—Marcy Kaptur (Inc D). The Republicans concentrated Democrats into a handful of districts in order to leave slight Republican majorities in as many districts as possible. The silver lining is that the ones with concentrated Democrats are very safe indeed. Safe Dem.
District 10—Dennis Kucinich (Inc D). Safe Dem, and really, a great representative when he’s not running for President.
District 11—Stephanie Tubbs-Jones (Inc D). The safest Dem district in Ohio.
District 12—David Robinson (D) v. Pat Tiberi (Inc R). This is the half of Columbus that is not in the Kilroy district, and it’s not getting as much respect this year. I like Robinson’s look, but it seems like the other races nearby are sucking the energy out of this one.
District 13— Betty Sutton (Inc. D). An easy win in a concentrated-Dem district. Senator Sherrod Brown held this one before Sutton.
District 14—Dr. Bill O’Neill (D) v. Stephen LaTourette (Inc R). I’ll spare you the LaTourette Syndrome jokes, but this district makes me want to cuss anyhow. It’s a fairly neutral district politically, and we ought to be able to take it, but somehow the Gooper has held on year after year. This could be the year we do it, but O’Neill needs your help! He’s competing for attention with four even more promising races (1, 2, 15 and 16) in just Ohio, plus his district is right next to another one in PA-3, and his initial fundraising has been slow enough that some of the establishment pollsters are already crowding OH-14 off of the to-watch lists, which isn’t fair. I’m not saying this is going to be easy, or even likely, but it’s way too early to write off a swing district like this one. It’s ours, if we want it bad enough.
District 15— Mary Jo Kilroy (D) v. Steve Stivers (R). Kilroy almost took this one last year against a veteran GOP incumbent. This year, it’s an open seat. What do YOU think will happen? Leans Dem takeover. But you can make sure by contributing here: http://www.kilroyforcongress.com/...
District 16—John Boccieri (D) v. Kirk Schuring (R). This is the open seat that Palph Regula held for the Republicans since the Spanish-American war. It includes Canton, the original bellweather city, that the NY Times once called the metronome of the nation or some awful metaphor like that, and had regular features about "what the swing voters of Canton" were thinking during the national election season. In a Democratic wave year, or even a ripple year, it goes to us. It’s also on everyone’s top ten lists of "Districts Republicans could lose", which, given the vast menu, is saying something.
Here’s Boccieri’s page. Don’t let the Ollie North resemblance fool you; he really is one of us. http://johnforcongress.com/
District 17—Tim Ryan (D inc) Safe D. Another district gerrymandered to concentrate Democrats, and therefore uncompetitive.
District 18-- Zack Space (Inc. D) This is the district we took in 2006. It was competitive for Democrats before they took Steubenville and the rest of the industrial PA border out of it in 2002. Republicans said they had a chance to retake the district in 2008, but they failed to recruit a reasonable challenger, and it’s pretty much dropped off the radar by now. Safe D.
REDISTRICTING OHIO: I don’t usually include this category when we’re not likely to run the table on redistricting, but in a wave year, a capture of the state legislature is somewhat on the table, and Ohio is big enough to pose an interesting exercise in creative Democratic majority enhancement.
HOW TO MAKE 12 BLUE DISTRICTS IN OHIO:
- Make one district each CENTERED in the four cities of Cincinatti, Dayton, Columbus and Toledo. Last time around, the Republicans were able to dilute Democrats by dividing Cincinatti between the 1st and 2nd districts, Dayton between the 3rd and 8th, and Columbus between the 12th, 15th, and 7th—all of which were then spread out to take in territory in Republican suburbs and rural counties. Kaptur was safe enough that they didn’t do that with Toledo, but they instead concentrated Democrats there by adding the Lake Erie coast all the way to Cleveland. I would instead keep Lucas County, but extend the district west along the Michigan border, or perhaps extend a node south into the blue part of Bowling Green. But that makes four blue islands.
- Consolidate the two Appalachian districts (the "Wilson" and "Space" districts by making the Space one a little more Democrat-friendly. At the very least, put Steubenville into the Space district. Better yet, make all of the Space district North of the Wilson district, extending the top one down to Monroe County, and the bottom one to take in the "tail" at the bottom of what is now the 18th. The Wilson district could safely go as far west as Adams and Highland Counties, resembling the district Strickland held before 2002. And that makes six blue districts
- The other six come from the Cleveland metro, and consist of the two Cleveland districts (extended out a little to account for losing a district after 2010), surrounded by four quadrants. The whole territory consists of what is now the 10th, 11th, 13th, 14th, 17th, most of the 16th, the non-Lucas county part of the 9th, and a bit of the 5th. From East to west, the four quadrants would be:
a. The PA border, including Ashtabula and Trumbull Counties, but extending further down than the existing 14th, to include Youngstown and East Liverpool. That will make the district unable to keep Steve Latourette in office. This could be the Tim Ryan district, or a new Democrat.
b. Lake, Geauga and Portage Counties, plus the eastern part of Stark County (Canton) and whatever is left east of the Cleveland districts. The district could include Cuyahoga Falls, if necessary. Good for Tim Ryan, or, if he takes the "a" district" and John Boccieri takes the current 16th, then for Boccieri
c. An Akron based district including Stark County west of Route 77, Wayne County, east Medina County and Strongsville. If not Boccieri, then Betty Sutton.
d. A district West of Cleveland, including the Lake Erie counties taken out of the Kaptur district, and also including Sandusky County, the north (Norwalk) part of Huron County, West Medina and west Lorrain. Sutton could claim this one or let it go to a new Democrat.
If Ohio lost one district after the new census, that would leave the Republicans with five districts, looking like squashed blintzes. They would roughly be the Boehner district on the Indiana border, extending out into the 5th and 4th; the Schmidt district squashed between Cincinatti and Dayton and heading northeast through Clinton and Warren Counties into the 7th; one sprawling northwestern district taking in what’s left of the 5th and most of the 4th, and two districts making a ring around Cleveland out of the remaining territory taken from the 4th, 7th, 15th and 12th. If Ohio lost two districts, then the Wilson district and the westernmost of the Cleveland quadrants would extend farther into the farm belt and be swing districts with Democratic incumbents with a real danger of loss in a bad year, or else we might drop one safe district and make do with 11.
The main thing is, instead of being outnumbered two to one, like we were before 2006, we could outnumber the Goopers two to one! Redistricting can be a powerful tool, and we should make sure we, and not they, are able to use it in as many states as possible.
And that’s Ohio!
Previous diaries in this series:
Texas, Part One: http://www.dailykos.com/...
Texas, Part Two: http://www.dailykos.com/...
North Carolina: http://www.dailykos.com/...