Yes, you read that right.  This morning, Jon Keeling claimed that the Strickland campaign’s reaction to the Kasich campaign’s elitist anti-rural comments were actually a ploy to shore up rural voters.

Here’s Keeling’s “killer” argument that Strickland is in trouble in his geographical base.

  • “15 Southern and Southeastern Ohio counties saw a net gain of 2,845 Party switchers in the May primary.”

That’s your lead off argument, Keeling?  Wow, words can express how underwhelming that statistic is especially once you realize that Keeling is including the most Republican counties in Ohio in counting this.  Southern Ohio should be a mecca for the Tea Party movement as Ross Perot, who ran a very similar message, was very popular in that region of Ohio.  Unless Keeling under-reported the figure by a factor of 100, I’m totally unimpressed by this as that is virtually no change at all when you consider the sheer numbers of registered voters in those same counties.  That’s hardly a regional sea change… it’s barely a ripple.

In other news, the Republican geographic base in Ohio saw little movement towards its way from party-switchers.

  • Kasich took more votes than Strickland in 10 of the 14 counties that Strickland represented from 1992-1994 and from 1995-2002, and in six of the 12 counties that Ted Strickland represented from 2002-2006.

Let’s ignore, for the moment that Keeling’s statement includes about half the same counties in both samples.  First, there’s the little problem that Kasich supposedly ran a massive 88-county GOTV effort in the primary to drive turnout because, well, he wanted headlines about how he got more votes in the primary than Strickland did.  Let’s also keep in mind that the Strickland campaign did absolutely nothing to try to get Democratic voters to vote in the May primary.  Let’s also forget that while the GOP had two hotly contested ORP/Tea Party proxy primaries, the Democrats only had a Senate primary that just about everyone (including Keeling) had called over a long time ago (that turned out more competitive than people predicted.)

Despite the totally opposite efforts to turnout primary votes, Ted Strickland still got more votes in half of his most recent congressional district than John Kasich did without lifting a finger while Kasich was moving heaven and earth.

Let’s also keep in mind that despite have a more seriously contested primary in 2006, Ken Blackwell still got more votes in his GOP primary than Strickland got in his nominal opposition primary in the following counties:

  1. Adams
  2. Allen
  3. Ashland
  4. Auglaize
  5. (nearly Brown)
  6. Butler
  7. Champaign
  8. Clermont
  9. Clinton
  10. Crawford
  11. Darke
  12. Defiance
  13. Delaware
  14. Fairfield
  15. Fayette
  16. Fulton
  17. Hamilton
  18. Handcock
  19. Hardin
  20. Henry
  21. Highland
  22. Holmes
  23. Huron
  24. Jackson
  25. Knox
  26. Licking
  27. Logan
  28. Madison
  29. Mercer
  30. Miami
  31. Morrow
  32. Paulding
  33. Preble
  34. Putnam
  35. Richland
  36. Shelby
  37. Union
  38. Van Wert
  39. Warren
  40. Wayne
  41. Williams
  42. Wyandot

Let’s also keep in mind that more people cast ballots in the 2006 Republican gubernatorial primary than the Democratic primary (that wasn’t already listed above) in several other counties.

Of the counties specifically listed above, Strickland at one time or another represented Clinton, Highland, Jackson, and Warren County.  Blackwell got more votes in his more competitive GOP primary than Strickland did in nearly half the counties in Ohio.

So how did Blackwell fare in those primary voter advantage counties?

Blackwell Strickland 2006 General Election map

Blackwell only carried sixteen of those forty-two counties.  Greene County was the only county that Ken Blackwell carried that he did not get more votes in the primary than Ted Strickland got in his.

Ken Blackwell lost roughly two-thirds of the counties in which he had a primary advantage.  Of the four counties that Strickland at one time represented that Blackwell got more votes in his primary than Strickland had in his, Blackwell carried only Warren County—a county Strickland never won in a single Congressional election.

It’s no stretch of the imagination to believe that John Kasich will carry at least three of the counties Ted Strickland at one time represented in Congress (Warren, Clinton, and Highland counties).  These are counties that Strickland either never won at all even in the face of nominal opposition or rarely carried and only by the slimmest of margins against token GOP opposition when serving in Congress.  Yes, I’ve said it, John Kasich should do better than Ken Blackwell.  Then again, that’s like predicting Lee Fisher would do better than Robert Burch after 1994.

The idea that comparing primary to primary votes is a reliable gauge of the general election map was disproven four years ago.  Despite winning his nomination by only eleven and half points, Ken Blackwell managed to lose two-thirds of the counties in the general election that he got more primary votes than Ted Strickland.  By Keeling’s logic, these should have been counties that Blackwell’s primary support would indicate were “in the bank” come the general election.  They weren’t.   Several of the counties that Keeling is crowing about that Strickland used to represent are mostly counties that Kasich should win and Blackwell probably should have won.  The rest are likely to be in the Strickland camp, primary votes casted be damned.

  • “A rough review of the campaign finance data from Southeast and Southern Ohio since Kasich entered the race shows Ted earned a grand total of only 308 contributions of $25 or less.”

The fact that Keeling doesn’t even bother to offer Kasich’s figures as a contrast is telling (apparently the Kasich campaign never bothered to even research when they spoonfeed him all this data for his post.)  Regardless, this is hardly a barometer of Strickland’s support in a region.  This is not a region known for having the resources to even be a small political donor, especially during this Lehman Brothers recession.  Strickland has a volunteer army where retail politics and voter contact matters more to electoral victory than campaign donations and paid media. Strickland has a huge advantage in the region in what matters most to carry those counties, just like he did in 2006.

  • “In the latest Ohio Poll, Strickland’s job approval sits at an even 50% in the SE region, tied with Central Ohio for the lowest rating of all regions. It’s even worse on the economy, with Strickland getting only 46% approval, 2nd worst only to the Central Ohio region. Remember, SE Ohio is supposed to be his geographic base. This is where he should perform strongest, and he’s very clearly not getting the job done.”

First, the Ohio Poll specifically says that it’s sample size for SEO is too small to have any real degree in confidence in their numbers.

Second, Keeling leaves out a key detail of the Ohio Poll’s SEO numbers. In the head-to-head matchup with Kasich, Ted Strickland leads Kasich by twenty-two points. That’s by far the biggest regional advantage for either candidate and is over four times the spread of the State overall.  (BTW, that’s even a substantially BIGGER spread in SEO that the Ohio Poll showed than Ken Blackwell faced shortly before the General Election.)  Again, the Ohio Poll data, especially when its 2006 historical data is taken into consideration, betrays the Kasich campaign’s Keeling’s thesis that Ted Strickland has problems within his geopolitical base.

Keeling apparently wants you to believe that the Strickland campaign is such masterful strategic thinkers that they had the running mate make a speech about urban policy knowing that it would trick the Kasich campaign into attacking Strickland’s rural roots, thus letting them go after the rural voters that they’re doing better than they were four years ago with.

If that’s true, then the Kasich campaign is doomed because they walked into the “trap” hook, line, and sinker.