Ohio Daily Blog

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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Five GOP Congressional Seats in Ohio in Play?

Yesterday Markos Moulitsas put up a post at DailyKos.com about states that might offer multiple House pickup opportunities for Democrats in 2008, based on 2006 results and/or perceived incumbent weaknesses. His principal examples were Michigan and New Jersey, but at the end of the post he notes in passing that Ohio has five such opportunities: the 1st, 2nd, 14th, 15th and 16th Districts.

Are these five seats really such great opportunities? Let's take a closer look:

1st: Incumbent Rep. Steve Chabot (R) defeated second-time challenger and city council member John Cranley (D) by 52.25% to 47.75%. This was a painful loss because a number of polls showed Cranley ahead, the state and national parties seemed to be providing good support, and Cranley ran an excellent, aggressive campaign. Although the margin was close, I feel that the Democrats took their best shot in a favorable year and still couldn't dislodge the incumbent. Cranley won't necessarily jump in for a third attempt, and I don't know of any similarly promising challenger waiting in the wings.

2nd: Incumbent Rep. Jean Schmidt (R) defeated Dr. Victoria Wulsin (D) by 50.45% to 49.39%. Achingly close, and not decided until after a protracted recount. Lots of little things (like better support from the national and state parties) could have swung this race the other way, and this was the second very narrow win for Schmidt. However, with two terms behind her and probably some lessons learned, I think Schmidt will be stronger next around and the district is and always has been very Republican. Paul Hackett fans will insist that he can win the district, but remember that he did not come as close as Wulsin. Worth fighting, but a very uphill battle despite the close result.

14th: Incumbent Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Painesville) beat law professor Lew Katz (D-Pepper Pike) by 57.55% to 39.05%. Katz is a tremendous person and was enthusiastically received wherever he went during the campaign, but he had no help from the party and was unable to raise enough cash to get on TV. He was also a novice and had to learn a lot about running for office as he went along. LaTourette limited debates and other joint appearances with Katz to a bare minimum and essentially coasted to victory because Katz got little media coverage and no paid TV time. There are things about LaTourette that are widely disliked, but he has a reputation for bringing federal money to the district. It could be a close contest with a well-financed and otherwise strong challenger, but it's really hard to say since LaTourette hasn't really been tested.

15th: After extended recount drama, incumbent Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Upper Arlington) eked out the closest Congressional victory in the state over Franklin County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Columbus). Kilroy spoke at Ohio Rootscamp last weekend and sounded like she's fired up for a rematch. However, the dynamics in this race may change greatly due to Pryce's decision to step down from her Congressional leadership post and "pay more attention to the district." A dominant theme in the race was Pryce as "rubber stamp" for Bush and that won't work in 2008. She has already shown more independence from the party line in her voting, and I expect that to continue. The gay community in Columbus is huge, and being out of party leadership will help her be more receptive and responsive to that constituency. Kilroy is a terrific candidate, but I'm not seeing why her chances would be better next time than they were in the fall. On the other hand, Kilroy almost won, so she has a legitimate shot in a re-match.

16th: Dinosaur veteran Ralph Regula (R-Navarre) defeated political novice Rev. Tom Shaw (D-Wooster) by 58.34% to 41.66%. Shaw's campaign, however, was practically invisible. Regula's vulnerability is also demonstrated by his relatively narrow (58.40% to 41.60%) primary victory over up-and-coming county commissioner Matt Miller (R), a surprising result for a long-standing incumbent. The big factor here, however, is the prospect that Regula may retire. The rumor was that he was keeping the seat warm for his son Richard, whose star has dimmed because he lost his county commissioner re-election bid. Primary opponent Miller seems like a more likely GOP candidate in 2008. State party committee member Michael Todd (D) has already declared on the Democratic side. This race does indeed seem like a prime pickup opportunity.
So, is Kos right -- are these five districts pickup opportunities? It depends what you mean by that. Sure, they're all races that deserve quality candidates and good support. However, I don't see Democratic chances as being especially stellar in the 1st, 2nd or 14th. Why are those districts any more vulnerable than the 12th, where incumbent Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Westerville) resorted to ugly campaign tactics to fend off former Congressman Bob Shamansky (D-Bexley) by 57.30% to 42.70%? Or the 5th, where incumbent Rep. Paul Gillmor (R-Dublin) defeated third-time challenger Robin Weirauch (D-Napoleon) by the relatively narrow margin of 56.85% to 43.15%? That is not a good showing by Gillmor at all. Weirauch deserves credit for running a much better campaign this year than before, but she has had three tries and I believe that a candidate better suited to this conservative, largely rural district could be found. So, I don't see all five of the races Kos mentioned as being distinguishable from other districts in the state.



At January 31, 2007 11:35 AM , redhorse said...

Excellent work.

At January 31, 2007 12:53 PM , Bill Sloat said...

Jeff --

A great job on the House roundup. I see Schmidt as still on the bubble. So far, she has not really tangled with a D heavyweight in a 15-rounder. Hackett and Wulsin both didn't get up to speed with money and etc. until later in their races. If '08 is a Demo year in the presidential contest, might the OH-02 seat swing? Strickland ran how many times before he got his House seat in 1992? I know that the Republicans have some concerns about Schmidt's strength, and she could draw another primary challenger from her own party.

At January 31, 2007 5:35 PM , Jill said...

Love these posts, Jeff - thank you.

At February 2, 2007 12:32 PM , Jennifer Black said...

Schmidt is toast. Either by her own party or by the Democrats.

The most telling factor in the Schmidt-Wulsin campaign was the fact that Schmidt took Wulsin seriously, but no one else did.

If only the DNC had shifted money from Cranley to Wulsin, they would have picked up one more seat and rid this area of Schmidt.

Schmidt has SERIOUS credibility problems and does NOT have the support of the county Republican machinery in Hamilton and Warren Counties, who are looking to replace her with someone more viable as we speak.

The top challengers being whispered among my GOP friends are Keeting, Brinkman, Heimlich, Raga.

If Hackett gets in and raises a million bucks, the GOP will take Schmidt out first.


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