I just read Sabrina Eaton of the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s story previewing John Boccieri’s re-election campaign for the 16th Ohio Congressional District.  And I cannot help but think of the Ohio conservative blogsphere’s hyping of the 6th Congressional race in 2006.

We were told, time after time, that there was no way that the Democrats would hold onto the Sixth Congressional District now that Ted Strickland left the seat to run for Governor.  Charlie Wilson was an unknown in what should be a Republican district.  His campaign was inept (so inept that his campaign manager, Wilson’s son, failed to turn in enough valid signatures to get Wilson on the primary ballot.  Wilson had to win the Democratic primary by a write in campaign.  After the election, Charlie Wilson punished his son by having him appointed to replace Wilson in the State Senate.  Some think Charlie was too hard on the lad.)

We were told, mostly by Republican consultant/blogger Matt Dole, that Wilson was a dead duck and that the national Republicans were going to make that open seat a major race.  It never materialized.  Wilson coasted to a large and relatively easy election.

Now, we’re told that freshman Congressman John Boccieri is the latest dead meat.  Why?  Well, according to Republican strategists:

“They say its turf, encompassing Stark, Wayne and parts of Medina and Ashland counties, favors Republicans and note that GOP presidential candidate John McCain got more votes there than Obama.”

You know what I love about the Republican presidential performance fact that is always touted as evidence of a Democrats’ vulnerability?  It’s always reported in a vacuum, as if the incumbent hadn’t also ran in that same environment.

While John McCain eeked out a majority of the presidential ballots cast in 2008 in the 16th Congressional District, John Boccieri won it by roughly eleven points against State Senator Kirk Schuring, whom the national Republicans were then touting as the inevitable heir to retiring Congressman Ralph Regula (Regula endorsed Schuring, whose State Senate district covered much of the Congressional district, for the GOP primary) and would easily defeat the Democratic “carpetbagger.”

Despite wider name recognition in the district, partisan advantage, competitive fundraising, and enormous assistance from the NRCC, State Sen. Schuring got whacked with an 11-point loss in an open seat race for what had been a reliably Republican district.

Fast forward two years, and what do we have?

  • A Republican opponent who’s highest elected office was a former mayoral position.
  • Boccieri has an 8:1 cash-on hand advantage to his Republican opponent.  That’s substantially worse that what Schuring faced just two years ago.
  • If his campaign repaid its loan from the candidate, the GOP candidate would have only roughly $30k left.
  • The Republican opponent is a used car salesman who is upset because his dealership was closed as a result of the GM bankruptcy.

Yeah, I’m not seeing much of a race on paper.  Remember that for every outside group that could come and finance ads to help the GOP nominee, there’s at least one that will for Boccieri as well.

As Republican performance in the district goes, Zack Space is in a more Republican district, and I don’t see many people writing that they believe he’s vulnerable as well.

For every GOPer talking about Charlie Wilson, there’s a Democrat talking about Pat Tiberi.  Sometimes in an election cycle, we get a little crazy about our party’s chances on certain congressional seats.

I think of this every time I see a Republican talking about John Boccieri or Betty Sutton.  I’m not saying it’s impossible that these Democrats could lose.  But I think the Republicans are greatly overstating their chances.  I just find it difficult to see how a Democrat could go from winning a nationally targeted open seat by eleven points in a district that favored his opponent, only to be voted out two years later.

Specifically, I’ve yet to see anything credible that suggests that is the case in the Boccieri race.  If the GOP is still spending money in this district come August, I’ll be surprised.

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