Obamanomics Paints Ohio Red

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Trader666, Oct 15, 2010.

  1. Obamanomics Paints Ohio Red
    Republicans appear poised for major gains in the Midwest, a region dominated by the president in 2008.

    Two years ago this week, with a little more than two weeks left in the 2008 presidential contest, Barack Obama delivered a speech on the economy in Toledo, Ohio. His advisers touted the speech—on the most important issue of the race, in the state that decided the 2004 presidential contest—as the beginning of his closing argument.

    One month after the collapse of Lehman Brothers froze the global economy and seized the campaign, Mr. Obama laid out his "emergency rescue plan." "It's a plan that begins with one word that's on everyone's mind, and it's spelled J-O-B-S."

    Within a month of the inauguration, the Democratic majorities in Congress had passed Mr. Obama's stimulus plan with very few changes. Today, unemployment is 9.6%. And the Ohio voters that preferred Mr. Obama to John McCain by a margin of 51%-47% are not happy. A recent CBS poll of Ohio voters found that 38% approve of Mr. Obama's handling of the economy, with 55% disapproving. Thirty-two percent say Mr. Obama has made progress in improving the economy, but 61% say he has not.

    In Ohio these numbers will likely translate into GOP victories in next month's election. In this supposedly "anti-Washington" year, voters there are poised to elect two former Republican congressmen, with nearly 40 years in the nation's capital between them, to statewide office. Former Rep. Rob Portman, who also served as U.S. Trade Representative and budget director in the Bush administration, is leading Ohio Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher by some 15 points in the race for the state's open Senate seat. John Kasich, who served in the House leadership for many of his 18 years in Congress, has maintained a small lead over incumbent Gov. Ted Strickland. Three congressional seats currently held by Democrats are expected to flip to Republicans, and two others are toss-ups.

    In many ways, the debate in Ohio echoes the national political discussion. Mr. Fisher has attempted to portray Mr. Portman as a tool of big business and a career politician with close ties to George W. Bush. (The latter charge lost steam when Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm, found in August that Ohio voters would rather have George W. Bush in the White House than President Obama, by a margin of 50-42.)

    Mr. Portman counters that Mr. Fisher has been a politician since 1980. He repeatedly points out that Ohio has lost 400,000 jobs under the Strickland/Fisher administration, a charge that seems to stick because Mr. Fisher, as director of Ohio's Department of Development, had economic growth as a major part of his portfolio. In 2008, exit polls showed that Mr. Obama won self-identified independents in Ohio 52-44. A Fox/Pulse Opinion Research poll this week shows Mr. Portman leading Mr. Fisher among independents 57-21.

    The race for governor in Ohio is tighter. The White House has made Gov. Strickland's re-election a top priority, while the Republican Governor's Association has been running ads accusing Gov. Strickland of misusing the state's stimulus money. Yet even if the GOP candidate doesn't win the governor's race, Republican candidates will do well across the state.

    It's not just Ohio. If the vote counts on Election Day look anything like the polls today, the region will be solid red on the color-coded maps in newspapers on Nov. 3.

    In Iowa former Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, up by more than 15 points in most polls, seems almost certain to defeat incumbent Gov. Chet Culver. In Wisconsin, polls show GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker with a lead in the high single digits over Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, and political neophyte Ron Johnson is ahead by a similar margin against three-term Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold.

    In Michigan, GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Snyder is crushing Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero by some 20 points. Republicans are even competitive in Mr. Obama's home state, with Republican Bill Brady holding a narrow lead over incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn, and Republican Rep. Mark Kirk in a dead heat with banker Alexi Giannoulias in the race for Mr. Obama's old seat in the Senate.

    This is a stunning change. In 2004, Mr. Obama swept the region—painting the electoral map deep blue over a seven-state belt stretching from Iowa to Ohio. He won Iowa (+9), Minnesota (+10), Wisconsin (+14), Michigan (+17), Indiana (+1), Ohio (+4) and his home state of Illinois (+25).

    The failure of Mr. Obama's signature economic policy is a major reason his party faces these potentially historic losses. But it's not the only one.

    The values that have long been associated with the Midwest are almost anachronistic in the Obama era. Thrift, hard work, common sense—the messages and policies coming out of Washington seem to disregard these once-revered virtues. As voters in the Midwest and across the country found themselves increasingly worried about the economy and government spending, Democrats in Washington, led by the White House, changed the subject to health care.

    Wisconsin's Mr. Walker, who cut spending and balanced the budget as Milwaukee County executive, says voters don't want to be insulted. "Voters in this state and in the Midwest are by and large blue collar, working class, no-nonsense kind of people. They don't mind helping their neighbors," he says. "But they hate it when someone is taking advantage of them."

    In Ohio last spring, tens of thousands of voters switched their party registration to Republican in order to vote in the party primaries there. They did so even though the results of the statewide GOP contests were not in question, and the competitive primaries were taking place on the Democratic side. In Lucas County, home to Toledo, Republicans had a 10-to-1 advantage in party-switchers for the May 4 primary: 3,743 voters switched from Democrat to Republican and just 392 voters went the other way. Republicans also had a 3-to-1 advantage among Lucas County voters who switched their registration from "issues-only" to party-affiliated—699 chose the GOP and just 251 chose the Democrats. These numbers would be striking in a county that split its 2008 vote evenly between Obama and John McCain. But Obama won Lucas County 65-34. Registration reports from counties around the state tell a similar story.

    A recent Fox News poll asked Wisconsin voters whether Obama administration policies have helped or hurt the state's economy. Twenty-seven percent of those surveyed said the policies have helped, but 45% said they had hurt. Voters in Ohio have similar views.

    And no wonder. In his speech in Toledo two years ago, Mr. Obama said that it was time to change leadership in Washington because unemployment in Ohio "is the highest it's been in 16 years." It was 7.2%. Now it's 10.1%

    That's change.