Prof. Larry Sabato, the Director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics does a “Crystal Ball” in which he like Charlie Cook and Stu Rothenberg gage the state of various competitive races.  Back in March, Sabato’s Crystal Ball held that the Ohio Governor’s race was “Leaning Republican.”

Today, based on multiple factors, Sabato conservatively upgraded the race to a “Tossup“:

Gov. Ted Strickland (D) was an early favorite for reelection, but a rotten economy has made his second term bid a shaky one. Former Congressman John Kasich is the GOP nominee. Remember that Ohio was one of the more difficult Purple states for Barack Obama in both the 2008 primary and general election. Obama’s popularity has faded here faster than most states. We’re a long way from the election, and a better economy will rescue Strickland. Moreover, Strickland has been running an aggressive campaign against Kasich, who was associated with Lehman Brothers—and therefore, for the purposes of TV ads, with the Wall Street scandals. Strickland has come back from an early deficit against Kasich to a slight lead. Unlike some of the northern tier of states that we see clearly tilting to the GOP, this one is salvageable for the Democrats, and they know it. Expect a close, hard-fought campaign down to the wire in America’s most durable swing state.

I actually think Sabato was too abundantly cautious.  He lists several governor races as “tossups” that I believe most other pundits believe are, at least, leaning Democratic.  Furthermore, the same polling that favored Kasich in the winter when Sabato said that the race “Leaned R” now favors Strickland… by a similar margin.  Perhaps Sabato is waiting to see if the political environment has truly changed or is just really volatile.

Regardless, it’s clear that there’s a national recognition that Ohio’s economy is improving and that Ohioans are recognizing that and coming back to supporting Ted Strickland.  It’s also clear that the national pundits see a race where Strickland has gone from embattled Governor over the economy to going on the offensive aggressively.

I don’t think Ted Strickland wins re-election just because a Virginia college professor says so.  That’s not the point.  The fact is that there’s a growing sense nationally that the political environment is improving for Democrats like Ted Strickland and that John Kasich is running a rudderless campaign that was banking on the political winds of a bad economy without having to, you know, stand for something.

I’m starting to question whether Kasich’s prediction that they’d have seventy-percent of their plan figured out by the election will not come even close to being true.

I guess all that poll spinning from Virginia by the Carpetblogger failed to impress Prof. Sabato.

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