Here’s what the Issue 2 map looks like:

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[Update:] Final numbers from the Ohio Secretary of State’s office shows that 46% of registered voters cast a ballot last night.  In comparison, 49% cast a vote in 2010 election.  Last night was the highest turnout for an off-year election in at least 20 years in Ohio.  Turnout was higher than expected, but so much for the idea that the polls oversampled Democrats.

The most southern “green county” is Shannon Jones’ Warren County.  Warren-Butler-Clermont Counties is the belt of > 60%  GOP performance counties that the GOP regularly uses to neutralize Cuyahoga County’s heavy Democratic performance.  Last night, John Kasich’s Issue 2 did carry one of these, but with less than 52% of the vote.  Issue 2 only won Warren County with roughly 2,200 votes.  Once again, that’s Shannon Jones’ home county.  Her husband was on the ballot in a township trustee race.  He lost.  The husband of the Senate Majority Whip lost an election in the deep red Warren County where Issue 2 barely passed.

Hey, Toledo Mike Bell, you better hope voters forget your support for Issue 2.  Lucas County went 67% to 33% last night.   Ouch!  Apparently, the folks back home weren’t moved any more by your endorsement than the rest of the State was. At least it wasn’t as bad as it could have been for you, over 80% of the voters in Athens County voted against Issue 2.

Where did Kasich spend the final day of the campaign?  Rallying supports in the other two GOP stalwarts Butler and Clermont Counties.  Again, these are counties where GOP candidates and issues are routinely expected to run up the score to neutralize Democratic counties.  Issue 2 was defeated in the two GOP counties Kasich ended the campaign by visiting.  More importantly, not just John Kasich and Building a Better Ohio, but Citizens United’s only media buy was in the Cincinnati media market, with an ad that focused entirely on the Cincinnati Enquirer’s endorsement of Issue 2.

Maybe this was an attempt to make State Senator Bill Seitz and conservative talk radio host Willie Cunningham look politically irrelevant, but it didn’t work.  Issue 2 did poorly in Southwestern Ohio.  Bill Seitz/Willie Cunningham won last night, and any third-party group that spent money to support Issue 2 wasted their money.

Which brings me to…

The irrelevancy of newspaper endorsements

Building a Better Ohio made much to do about getting the endorsements of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Cleveland Plain Dealer, and the Columbus Dispatch.

Here’s the splits on Issue 2 for those counties:

  • Cuyahoga: 31% (endorsed position)/69% (against endorsed position).
  • Franklin: 36%/64%.
  • Hamilton: 42%/58%.

The Dispatch and Plain Dealer saw their endorsed position perform substantially worse in their home counties than they did overall.  How is endorsing a position that is opposed by roughly two-thirds of your customer base smart business?

Let’s also not forget that it was many of these media outlets who called labor “foolish” for risking an all-or-nothing political gamble on a referendum campaign, even as polls at the time showed them with twenty-point leads.  That was the main argument for a compromise… because Issue 2 was too divisive.  Issue 2 won by almost the same margin as Ted Strickland did against Ken Blackwell in 2006.  Nobody called Strickland’s election “divisive” with those numbers.

Keep in mind, there wasn’t a single newspaper in Ohio that endorsed Issue 3, either.  There is nothing in the 2011 results to suggest that these endorsement brought about anything but cancelled subscriptions.

I was wrong.

kasich.jpgI’ll admit it.  I never, ever thought we’d see an election result as strong as we were seeing in the Quinnipiac and PPP poll, and apparently neither did Capt. Sunshine to the right over here.  Issue 2 was defeated by a nearly whopping 23-point margin.  Regardless of the margin, last night was historic as no Governor of Ohio has ever seen voters repeal any portion of their agenda within the first year in office.  First, the ability of anyone to pull off a referendum so early in a new Governor’s term is itself incredibly rare.  Second, this is the only time it worked.  So even a one-vote victory for We Are Ohio would have been historic.  A twenty-point margin, by comparison, just looked like overkill.

But in my defense, if I had told you that more Ohioans in 2011, an off-year election, will vote against Issue 2 than the number of Ohioans who voted for Kasich in 2010, would you believe that?  Except that’s true.  No on Issue 2 got roughly a quarter of a million more votes than John Kasich did in 2010.  How can Kasich argue he has any mandate on collective bargaining reform when No on Issue 2 received more votes than he’s ever gotten?  That’s the new problem for those few legislative Republicans who still want to revisit collective bargaining reform.  I don’t think we’ve ever seen an issue so definitively tied to a Governor defeated with more votes than that Governor had gotten in their most recent election, either.  That may be a feat never repeated again.  And yet, there are still “pundits” who say Kasich can recover by 2014… although they will probably now say that such things are less probable than they used to suggest.

A twenty-three point margin is precisely what PPP predicted and within the margin of error of what Quinnipiac predicted. (Although it should be said that PPP was wildly off the mark as it related to Issue 3).  But the larger point is this: How can any Republican see this result and claim a mandate to revisit collective bargaining for a SB 5 redux?

Personhood Amendment still coming to Ohio?

Last night, voters in Mississippi were asked to pass a proposed constitutional amendment declaring that a human fertilized egg constitutes a legal person subject to legal protections.  It was endorsed by Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and both parties’ gubernatorial candidates.  It failed miserably.  Efforts have already been underway to try to put a similar issue on the 2012 ballot in Ohio.  That was one of the issues we were told to expect next cycle.

But with the repeal of Senate Bill 5 and the fact it didn’t even pass in Mississippi, why would they try something that radical here in Ohio?

If Pro-Life forces were politically smart, they’d look at the defeat of Issue 2 in Ohio and the defeat of a similar measure in culturally conservative Mississippi and conclude that they don’t want to make a negative political precedent for their movement in Ohio.

What does this mean going forward?

Waiting in the wings already for the 2012 election is the referendum on HB 194.  That’s a referendum which will be voted on during a presidential election year in which voters will be asked whether to repeal legislation that rolled back their own personal rights that made it easier for them to vote early.  In other words, an issue where they already have skin in the game and are asked about it when voters are most concerned about voters’ rights.  After the overwhelming defeat of Issue 2 this year, how hard is it to expect voters will find the same legislature overreached here, too? 

Back to collective bargaining, though.  There was expectation that Kasich and the Statehouse Republicans would talk about revisiting Issue 2 next year but in a limited fashion.  Some thought maybe they’d just exempt the public safety forces from changes.  It seemed to depend on the result.

After the twenty-three point drubbing Issue 2 took, the Republicans could get by politically with perhaps passing the 15% cap on insurance premiums and 10% contribution to pensions.  But that’s hardly much of an achievement since the reason those provisions were “popular” is because that mandate is already being largely met, so it’s not a change for most union members.  That’s about as far as the GOP can feel relatively safe going, but even then they still risk a backlash from being seen as attempting to re-enact any portion of SB 5 after such a lopsided loss.  Again, where’s the mandate for collective bargaining reform?  Newspaper editorials like today’s Plain Dealer?  How much political advantage did those editorials help give you last night again?

The real question is what is the lasting damage done to Kasich from this defeat?  You can kiss the heartbeat abortion bill goodbye.  No way is the GOP legislative leadership taking on something that controversial after getting slapped by voters over Issue 2.  Expect some “I like sunshine and puppies” legislation to move to the forefront soon as the Republican legislature hurries to improve its imagine before the 2012 elections.

But what about the media?  Some, like the Dispatch, had bought into the notion that SB 5 wasn’t really Kasich’s bill, and that somehow Shannon Jones had jumped the gun.  (Kasich loyalists even had the National Review write that Husted worked with Jones on putting all of collective bargaining reform into one bill.)

But now, after the fact, we see just how deeply and intimately Kasich was involved in the bill drafting.  Shortly before the election, the Toledo Blade reported it was Kasich’s office that decided to put the ban on “fair share” fees and limits on labor’s PAC contribution collection efforts into the House version of the bill.  Today, the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes:

And when it appeared it did not have enough votes to clear the Senate, Kasich began lobbying senators individually in private meetings in his office. He eventually helped get the measure the one-vote margin it needed to clear the Senate. The more conservative House was an easier sell.

The media has caught Kasich lying to them, which is far worse than him lying to you or me.  This could make things increasingly more difficult for Kasich in the future.

The only thing a Governor can really do to convince a nervous or skeptical legislator to support a piece of legislation is that he can make sure the politician will be safe from any major political repercussions from supporting the bill.

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This map is going to have plenty of Republicans in the legislature less accomodating the next time Kasich comes calling.  There aren’t many House districts that you can say a Yes vote on SB 5 wasn’t rebuked last night.  Kind of hard to draw a map giving the GOP a majority where Issue 2 prevailed what with it passing in only six counties (most of them barely.)

Frank LaRose can rest assured that he still has until 2014 to face the voters again… of course, that is also when voters will finally have the ability to vote against Kasich directly, and not by proxy, again.  So, maybe that’s not such a good thing.

John Kasich was only elected with 49% of the vote.  He still only has an approval rating stuck in the 30s.  A clear majority of Ohioans disapprove of him.  Party loyalty can only get you so far.  There was a limit on Kasich’s political capital among even his fellow Republicans in the legislature.  He spent a considerable amount of it on SB 5. 

Kasich political capital

The voters just said he spent that capital for a failed effort.  But he doesn’t get that capital back to re-spend anew.  It’s gone.  If you’re a Republican on the ballot in 2012 after last night, do you really want to do something that easily frames you as a rubber stamp for John Kasich?  Look at that map again.

Kasich is going to have plenty of time to work on reinventing himself since there’s no way the national Republicans will want Kasich anywhere near the ‘12 Presidential nominee in Ohio next year.

 

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