Every four years, the presidential campaigns come to Ohio and fight like crazy for the Buckeye State’s Electoral College votes. They know that Ohio is the prototypical evenly divided swing state, with Democrats in the cities, Republicans in the rural areas, and a gaggle of independent voters who tend to vote for the candidate, not the party.
So why has Ohio’s gubernatorial race this year turned into a pathetic rout?
According to the most recent poll, incumbent Republican Governor John Kasich leads Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald by a whopping 22 points, and FitzGerald is even losing 1 in 4 Democratic voters to Kasich. Even more damning — because we know that modern politics is all about money — in September Kasich raised $1.6 million, whereas FitzGerald could only scrape together a measly $54,000. The race is so uncompetitive that Kasich and Fitzgerald aren’t even going to debate, which is the first time that has happened in an Ohio gubernatorial race since 1978.
FitzGerald’s candidacy teaches a good lesson about the judgment, loyalty, and cover-your-ass mentality of our political classes. FitzGerald was the chosen candidate of the Ohio Democratic Party, which engineered the process so that he did not face primary opposition. It’s not entirely clear why they picked FitzGerald, a Cleveland politician who is largely unknown outside northern Ohio, but it is undisputed that they did a poor job of looking into his background. When news surfaced that FitzGerald had been found in a car with a woman not his wife in the early morning hours, which in turn led to revelations that he had weirdly gone for years without a driver’s license, voters began to strongly question his ability to run the state and the flow of contributions turned into a tiny trickle.
FitzGerald’s campaign staffers — showing the commitment and dedication we have come to expect from our steadfast political classes — promptly jumped from the sinking ship, and the Ohio Democratic Party began pointing fingers in every direction in an effort to avoid the blame for a likely disaster. Party Chairman Chris Redfern says there is no way he could have known that FitzGerald didn’t have a driver’s license and blamed the company that vetted the candidate, saying he wouldn’t hire them “to clean out my bird cage.” Left unexplained is why the Ohio Democratic Party doesn’t do its own investigation and why they settled on FitzGerald in the first place, rather than allowing a primary that might have unearthed some of these issues before FitzGerald became the anointed candidate.
It’s sad that Ohio has ended up with an uncompetitive gubernatorial race, but at least it means we won’t be seeing as many political TV ads this fall. And the rest of us would do well to remember this debacle the next time party leaders assure us that they know better than voters do and try to rig the process to avoid an honest test for a chosen candidate.