As Ohio Goes So Goes the Nation (And the Senate)

In the 2004 presidential election, the eyes of the world were on Ohio.

In the 2004 presidential election, the eyes of the world were on Ohio. In squeaker presidential elections, Ohio is one of the lynchpin states that can deliver an insurmountable electoral lead. As was repeated ad nauseam during 2004 coverage, no Republican has won the White House and lost Ohio. In short, Ohio seals the deal.

In Ohio, two House seats that have no business being competitive and are held by Democrats look likely to switch parties this cycle.

In Ohio’s 1st Congressional District, Rep. Steve Driehaus (D) is fighting a difficult battle to retain the seat he won in 2008. He beat former Rep. Steve Chabot (R) 51.5 percent to 48.5 percent. The last SurveyUSA poll taken in the area in January had Chabot up by almost 20 points.

Ohio’s 1st includes Cincinnati, which has been hurt particularly hard by the recession. With the financial crisis in mind and combined with a wave election year for Democrats, it is no surprise that this district swung to the left. Now, however, the district appears poised to fall back into the Republican column.

Ohio’s 1st could be written off as normal and cyclical. A more suspect case is the race in Ohio’s 13th district.

The last time Ohio’s 13th sent a Republican to Congress was 1974 and has been union and deep blue since 1976. The district includes Akron and stretches up to the lake through CuyahogaCounty (Yes, that one. The Miami/Dade of 2004).

Rep. Betty Sutton (D), who has held the seat since 2006 and was preceded by then Representative and current Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), faces a tough challenge in wealthy Thomas Ganley. Sutton won her last bid for reelection with 64.7 percent of the electorate. Obama won the district with 56.7 percent that same year.

Ganley, a wealthy local businessman, is polling three points ahead of Sutton.

The Democrats have gone on the attack over the last week, pointing out that most of the $2.69 million dollars Ganely’s campaign has in cash on hand is self-financing. DCCC’s regional press secretary, Gabby Adler, said recently "While most Ohioans are focused on working hard and putting food on the table, multi-millionaire Republican Tom Ganley is looking for the next big thing he can buy for himself.”

If such attacks are merited in this deep blue district, there is very real trouble for Democrats on the horizon.

Ohio has always been a prescient state for followers of electoral politics. President In the last month alone, Obama’s popularity in this bellwether state dropped by 13 points (62 percent in May to 49 percent in June). That kind of movement is terrifying for Washington Democrats.

Recently, even Democratic consultants have been wondering aloud if the Senate is in play as much as the House. Only weeks ago, not even Republicans would have breathed such hopes in fear of being chided for overconfidence. If the picture in other purple states looks like it does in Ohio, 2010 will be some wave for Republicans.

Noah Rothman is the online editor at C&E. Email him at



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