Senator Portman

The networks are calling the Ohio U.S. Senate race for Republican Rob Portman over Democrat Lee Fisher.

No surprise there.  Portman has been leading in the polls by wide margins for weeks, and Fisher’s campaign has been pretty much invisible.  Fisher got attention only when he did a curious “24-hours-of-Lee-Fisher” event recently, and that was seen as more of a publicity stunt than anything else.

Portman will replace another Republican, George Voinovich, so the result is not a pick up for the Republicans.  Portman is likely more conservative than Voinovich, but he is not a Tea Party favorite, either.

On the Democrat side, I expect many Ohio Democrats are regretting that they didn’t nominate Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner rather than Fisher.  Brunner is more of a fresh face, whereas Fisher has been in Ohio politics for 30 years — and he didn’t run much of a campaign.

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An Election (And A Map) In The Balance

We’re now less than a week from Election Day, and the furious last-minute push of radio and TV ads, mailings, and get out the vote calling and canvassing is underway.

In Ohio, the marquee races are a gubernatorial contest between incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland and Republican challenger that appears to be close and a U.S. Senate race between Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Lee Fisher that polls are indicating will be a Portman blowout.  Along with those two headline races, Ohioans will vote for a full slate of statewide offices, Justices of the Ohio Supreme Court, the U.S. House of Representatives, and members of the Ohio Senate and Ohio House.  It will take a while to complete our ballots come Tuesday.

Although they haven’t commanded as much attention, two statewide races, for Secretary of State and Auditor, will have great long-term significance.  The occupants of those two offices, along with the Governor and one representative each of the Republican and Democratic parties, will form the Apportionment Board that will redraw the map of Ohio’s legislative districts after the 2010 census results are released.  The results of the Auditor’s race and the Secretary of State’s race therefore will determine whether the Ohio legislative districts are gerrymandered to benefit Democrats, or gerrymandered to benefit Republicans — or maybe, just maybe, drawn to reflect logical geographical and social factors in a way that results in more fairly competitive races for the Ohio House and Ohio Senate.  (But who am I kidding?)

Edited to correct my mistake in the original post, which stated that the Apportionment Board redraws Ohio’s congressional districts.  Instead, it redraws Ohio’s state legislative districts.  The redrawing of congressional districts is reserved for the Ohio General Assembly.  Thanks to the Philosopher King of the Fifth Floor for steering me in the right direction on an embarrassing error.

Two Months And Counting

Election Day 2010 is exactly two months away.  In Ohio, the two races that seem to be receiving the most national attention are the race for the open Senate seat, between Democrat Lee Fisher and Republican Rob Portman, and the contest for Governor, where Republican John Kasich is challenging incumbent Ted Strickland.  The polls indicate that Portman is slightly ahead of Fisher, with somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of the electorate undecided, and that Kasich has a more significant lead over Strickland, with about 10 percent of respondents declaring that they are undecided.

I’m not sure what such polls mean at this point.  I haven’t heard many people talking about these contests or about the individual candidates, their positions on the issues, or their relative merit.  My guess is that political addicts have been focused on these races and polling and fundraising data, but many average people haven’t paid much attention — yet.  When you are dealing with a tough economy and your own issues, why think about an election that is months into the future?

After the Labor Day weekend passes and the barbecue equipment is put aside, the average person will start to pay attention.  (They will be forced to, as the onslaught of political commercials begins.)  People will begin to think about the issues and talk about the races with their friends and colleagues.  During this period, candidates will have the opportunity to reach the undecideds, as they form their opinions about the races.  Given the tough state of the Ohio economy, I think it will be a challenging sell for the Democratic candidates, but time will tell the tale.

Let’s Keep Our Shirts On, Shall We?

There will be an interesting Senate race in Ohio this year, and already it is starting to get . . . well . . . weird.

The Democratic candidate for the Senate seat is Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher, an old-line Cleveland politician who beat Jennifer Brunner, Ohio’s current Secretary of State, in a heated primary.  The Republican candidate is Rob Portman, a long-time Congressman from the Cincinnati area who also served as the director of the Office of Management and Budget during part of the second term of the Bush Administration.

The weirdness began when Fisher’s son took video footage of Fisher sitting shirtless at a desk late one evening.  Apparently the footage was used in some Ohio Republican Party ad that featured “suggestive music,” although I haven’t seen the ad and haven’t been able to find it on the web.  The Ohio Democratic Party reacted with outrage, then produced a website and commercial featuring a bunch of bare-chested workers who say Rob Portman’s work during the Bush Administration took the shirts off their backs.

All of this seems very strange to me.  I agree with a friend who questions why the Democrats would do anything to increase the name recognition of Portman, who is not well known outside the Cincinnati area.  I also think, however, that the Democratic commercial really leads with its chin.  Most people don’t look good in shirtless mode, and the overweight workers featured on the commercial are no exception.  Frankly, they look pretty well fed for people who are supposed to be out of a job.  And are they advocating protectionism?  That message strikes a jarring note in the era of the Obama Administration, where the federal government has bailed out so many American industries and pumped borrowed “stimulus” money into the economy — without doing much of anything to stimulate real job growth.  Are they complaining that we need to do even more to allow union workers to keep their jobs and high-value benefits?

The other point of the commercial is to criticize the budget deficits during the Bush Administration, which is odd because the Obama Administration is presiding over much larger budget deficits that stretch far into the foreseeable without and promise of reduction.  Do the Democrats really want to call attention to deficit spending under the circumstances?  Are they saying Lee Fisher is going to be a more hard-bitten budget-cutter than Portman?

The election is still months away, and I imagine the parties and their candidates will be experimenting with “messaging” as the election draws nearer.  The “shirtless” commercial seems like a failed experiment to me.  I’d appreciate it if the parties and candidates would keep their shirts on until we get closer to the election.

Older vs. Newer In The Ohio Democratic Party

Ohio’s primary election is only a few days away.  It’s kind of a dull election (although people in Columbus should care deeply about Issue 2, which would move the “constitutional casino” away from downtown).  The only statewide primary that has received much attention is the contest between Ohio Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher and Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.

I’m not sure there is a lot of disagreement between Fisher and Brunner on the issues, for the average voter at least.  (Take a look at the “issues” pages of their websites — here and here — and judge for yourself.)  Either of them would be a reliable vote for President Obama’s programs and for the Democratic leadership in the Senate.  If there is a significant difference between them, it is more a difference of style and perception.

Fisher seems to have been around in public life forever.  The “About Lee” page on his campaign website apparently is sensitive to his age, because it doesn’t give his birth date.  (Another sign that Fisher may be sensitive about his age can be found in his campaign photos, which make it look like he has been liberally doused in Man Tan.)   The bio page indicates that Fisher was first elected to the Ohio General Assembly in 1980, served as a legislator for 10 years, was elected Ohio’s Attorney General in 1990, served for four years in that position, then worked in a non-profit until he became Ted Strickland’s running mate in 2006.  So far as his website indicates, then, Fisher has worked in government and non-profit jobs since 1980.  I’m not sure that he has ever worked for a private business.

Brunner clearly is younger than Fisher — although her website bio doesn’t give her birthdate, either — and she spent a considerable part of her career as an attorney in private practice here in Columbus.  She was elected to the Franklin County C0mmon Pleas Court in 2000 (interestingly, her bio describes Franklin County as a “largely conservative county” even though the lion’s share of Franklin County voters live in Columbus, where the city government is dominated by Democrats) and then was elected Secretary of State in 2006, when the Democrats pretty much ran the table in non-judicial statewide elections.

Fisher has raised far more money than Brunner.  His campaign seems more traditional, with rallies and TV ads.  Brunner is more of a “new Democrat” who seems to follow the Daily Kos approach.  Perhaps because she is cash-strapped, Brunner appears to have taken more advantage of new communications forms.  I gave money to a Democratic candidate two years ago and, perhaps as a result, ended up on Brunner’s campaign e-mail list.  At least once a week,  I get an e-mail from the Brunner campaign asking for money, calling on a Republican to apologize for some perceived outrage, or breathlessly describing Brunner’s purchase of an old school bus for about $2000 to use on her bus tour of Ohio.  I’m not sure precisely what Twitter is, but I imagine she uses that medium, too.

In the battle between older and newer, who will win?  I’m not sure anyone outside of the campaigns really cares very much.  According to the latest polls, Fisher has opened a commanding lead — but we will get the real answer on Tuesday.