Sunday, November 05, 2006

Final predictions for Ohio's elections

I'm not going to do a last minute endorsement piece, because I think everyone who reads this blog knows I'm a Democrat. Therefore, it would be hardly shocking to find that I'm endorsing a straight statewide Democratic ticket. I will, however, try to make some objective predictions as to the races which includes the potential for some Republican surprise upsets.


  1. Governor: Ted Strickland wins in a landslide. After a year of polling data, the best Ken Blackwell can say is that "polls are just a snapshot in time, and elections are about closing on a one-day sale." What Blackwell doesn't say is that if you took all those "snapshots" in chronological order and flipped through them fast enough, you'd see an animated Strickland campaign go from the low 40s up into the 60s while Blackwell looks like a mime running in place in the mid-30s. For a politician that has won three straight statewide campaigns by significant margins, the fact that Blackwell is behind, by most measures, by twenty points means that GOTV isn't going affect the outcome of this race.

  2. U.S. Senate: This race is over. Brown wins over DeWine, but I predict it'll by the margin in the low teens, not twenty-point margins recently predicted in Rasmussen's latest poll. Nobody shows this race within the margins. DeWine could only win if the polls seriously have the turnout makeup wrong, or DeWine's latest attacks about a former Brown employee from twenty years ago is more relevant in voter's minds than I think they are.

  3. Attorney General: This is probably one of the tougher races to measure. Betty Montgomery has been the prohibitive front-runner for so long both in the polls and in fundraising, it's hard to imagine the race has tightened. But it's an inescapable conclusion that the race has tightened remarkedly. First, we heard rumors reported in the Cleveland Plain Dealer of an internal Montgomery poll showing Dann slightly behind, but within the margins, of Montgomery. Then, the Cleveland Plain Dealer's own poll, conducted by the nationally respected Mason-Dixon poll firm, showed the race tied at 44% each. Today's Columbus Dispatch poll reports Dann winning by ten-points 55%-44%, but this poll is a mail-in response poll which had a heavier response rate among Democrats than typically seen in actual voter turnout. Does this mean that Democratic voters are more energized than Republicans? Could be.

    Although Montgomery is currently State Auditor, the fact that she used to be State Attorney General and has been in statewide office since 1994, I am applying the rules regarding polling usually used on incumbents. And that rule is that when an incumbent is polling in the mid-40s shortly before the election, that candidate is in trouble, especially when their opponent is polling at or near the same level. By that measure, regardless of which poll numbers you believe is accurate, the picture becomes clearer. Undecided voters over the past month have been overwhelmingly breaking towards Dann as Dann began to introduce himself to voters with his ads highlighting his newspaper endorsements and attacks on Montgomery's as being "asleep at the switch" in regards to Tom Noe, a political contributor of Montgomery's who currently is being tried in the Coingate scandal.

    What's interesting is that you can take the Plain Dealer poll, which reflects more of the partisan turnout from the 2004 Presidential election, and look at the Dispatch poll which may reflect a more Democratic favored turnout in 2006, and you'll see Montgomery polling in the mid-40s in both. It's clear that Mongtomery's campaign has lost their swagger as the teflon has worn off, and are genuinely concerned. If Dann wins, it looks like Strickland's lopsided victory affected the turnout enough to help Dann surpass Montgomery. If I were the Ohio Democratic Party, I hope they dumped a ton of money to get Dann's ads in heavier rotation. They clearly have had more of an impact than hers which have been criticized by current Attorney General Jim Petro and the Ohio State Bar Association for insinuating that Dann was unqualified to be Attorney General because he represented accused child molesters.

  4. State Treasurer: This race has been exciting to predict as any race for State Treasurer can be when the front-runner is a former Jeopardy champion. Rich Cordray has run an impressive campaign both on the ground and in fundraising, Cordray is uniquely qualified, and his opponent is the complete opposite of Cordray in just about every aspect. It's two days before the election, and Cordray has been on the air for a few weeks, including with an ad with former U.S. Senator/American hero John Glenn. Remember that memorable ad by his opponent? Remember her name? Yeah, I don't either.

  5. State Auditor: I promised a Republican upset, and this is it. I predict that Republican Mary Taylor will win the State Auditor's race if Strickland doesn't create an overwhelming Democratic tsunami. Taylor's use of being a CPA has framed the race about qualifications. Lately, Democrats have accused Taylor was engaged in a "pay-to-play" scandal where she lobbied for state appropriations for a project based on its desire by Republican donors who then donated to Taylor shortly after sending the letter. It turns out that the funding project may or may not involve Taylor's husband's company that Taylor herself had earlier claimed to have a financial interest in? Get that? Yeah, and most voters haven't heard about it, either.

    Taylor gets the edge because her ads are effective (as regards to framing the campaign on experience) and are in heavy rotation. If Sykes has ads in Southwestern Ohio airing, I am somehow missing them completely.

  6. Secretary of State: What's good for the goose is good for the gander. In other words, just as I think the experience issue gives Taylor an edge, so does it give Jennifer Brunner an advantage. Again, the Plain Dealer/Mason-Dixon poll gives Brunner a nine-point lead 41%-32%. The Dispatch poll shows Brunner winning 58%-37%. Again, comparing the two polls shows that differences in turnout doesn't help her opponent, but that Brunner could be safely elected in a high Democratic turnout. The PD poll makes it closer, but has a 25% undecided rate. That also explains the huge difference between the two polls.

    Hartmann's ads have been hitting Brunner solely on some her sentencing decisions while a Franklin County Common Pleas judge. Most observers don't how that criticism is relevant to her becoming Secretary of State, and apparently, neither do the voters. In fact, the ads have a side benefit for Brunner, as it reinforces that she is a former judge, a qualification that voters probably tend view as someone who is objective, independent, and highly qualified. Her opponent's ads also repeatedly use Brunner's name. In fact, you'll hear Jennifer Brunner's name in her opponent's ads more than you'll hear his. I'd bet you'd even hear her name even more than in her own ads.

  7. Congressional races: This is probably the most unpredictable part of the night. Currently, Republicans have a 2:1 edge in Ohio's Congressional delegation. There are, at least, four seats that national pundits say in Ohio are hotly contested races which could change hands, and all seats are currently held by Republicans. If Democrats win three of those seats, then the Ohio Congressional delegation will be evenly split between Republican and Democrats. If Democrats pull off a complete sweep, then Ohio's Congressional delegation will have a Democratic majority. The four races are: OH-18 (Ney) Padgett vs. Space; OH-15 (Pryce) against Franklin County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy; OH-01 (Chabot) against Cincinnati City Councilman/U.C. Law Prof. John Cranley; and OH-02 (Schmidt) against Dr. Victoria Wulsin.

    OH-15:The conventional wisdom seems to suggest that Democrats are likely to take OH-15 and OH-18, which would be historic. Deborah Pryce is the fourth ranking Republican in Congress, but her district has grown more and more Democratic each year. Kilroy is a popular County Commissioner from the most populous county of the district, and ran a great campaign. Pryce has gotten so desperate that she's actually stalked her opponent to challenger her to more debates, not the actions of an incumbent who's ahead.

    OH-18: The Padgett-Space race is very surprising to me. During the gubernatorial primaries, Joy Padgett was Jim Petro's running mate, and many credited Padgett being on the ticket as being the reason why Petro carried the counties in OH-18. When Padgett won the special election, everyone expected that Space would fall behind because he didn't have Bob Ney's corruption anymore, and the district is a Republican district. Padgett's personal bankruptcy, and questions about it and a SBA loan Padgett just got shortly before the bankruptcy, became issues. Also, Padgett got tagged as Bob Ney's "hand picked" successor. To top it off, Bob Ney pled guilty to the very corruption he repeatedly denied to his constituents. And in what can only be described as the final kiss my arse to the Ohio Republican Party, Ney waited until this weekend to resign his House seat, infuriating Republicans who knew the story would hit the final news cycle before the final weekend of the campaign. The RNCC dropped its financial support a few weeks ago, and several stories suggested that they hung in as long as they did simply to force the DCCC to continue to spend money in the race. Space wins, but he enters Congress with a big target on his back.

    OH-01: John Cranley leads the most recent polls in the race, but Steve Chabot has made a career of surviving races while be the most heavily challenged Ohio Republican in Congress over his career. The only thing that might make this race different is the toxic environment overall for Republicans, and the fact that the traditionally Republican reliable Cincinnati Enquirer actually endorsed Cranley in this race. History favors Chabot, but the current environment favors Cranley. Whomever wins, it's a tight victory.

    OH-02:I want to write that Victoria Wulsin wins. The reports on the ground suggests that Victoria Wulsin is getting a good response in the district, and Jean Schmidt is about the most politically toxic politician in the Ohio delegation. One year after winning a closer than expected special election to replace hugely popular Rob Portman, Schmidt may have actually lost ground. Her attack on Murtha makes her a cause celeb among movement conservatives, but turns off moderate Republicans, independents, and fires up Democrats. Her public support of turning parts of her district into a "toxic waste" dump (for spent nuclear fuel recycling) has had an immediate impact on the eastern part of the district where Paul Hackett carried, and will likely have a huge turnout for Strickland since those counties mostly comprise of Strickland's old Sixth Congressional. Vic Wulsin will carry those counties by wider margins than Hackett. If she wins there, and decisively in Hamilton County, it may overcome Schmidt's advantages in Clermont and Warren counties. If the Republican candidate was anyone other than Schmidt, this race wouldn't be on anyone's radar. I believe Wulsin has a real chance, but she needs a stiff Democratic breeze to her back in the district to win. If she does win, she's the Republican's top target in 2008 nationally.

  8. Ohio General Assembly: I don't predict either houses to change hands, but I must note that recent news suggests that a Democratic takeover of the Ohio House could be possible for details, see my post on Buckeye State Blog. I believe that a Democratic takeover is improbable, but on the outer limits of the possible. The State Senate will remain in Republican hands.

So, Democrats will likely win almost all of the statewide races, but I predict a tradeoff of upsets with Marc Dann squeaking by Betty Montgomery but Mary Taylor doing the same over Sykes. Worst case scenerio I can see is Montgomery and Taylor both winning, but I think a complete Democratic sweep is more likely. I predict that Democrats will pick up three Congressional seats in Ohio leading to a parity in Ohio's Congressional representation. A fourth pickup is more possible than a two-seat pickup because I predict turnout strongly favors Democrats because of the weakness on the top of the ticket. If Democrats don't pick up at least those two seats, then it suggests the prediction of a Democratic wave was overstated.

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