The blockbuster story of this election cycle in Ohio and the nation would have been the return of former Democratic Governor Ted Strickland to take on first-term incumbent Republican Governor John Kasich, following Ohio media’s obsession over Ed FitzGerald’s string of silly snafus, including his ten-years of driving without a valid drivers license and being identified by a police officer who found him in his car in the wee hours of the morning two years ago with a women from an Irish trade delegation who was not his wife.
Both stories occupied newspaper front and editorial pages, and some reporter’s minds, for weeks in late July after the clock ticked past the date when Ed FitzGerald could have stepped down and been replaced by another candidate endorsed by the Ohio Democratic Party. When FitzGerald stepped forward to take his whipping from media, some of whom relished reprising themselves as a mini but modern version of the Spanish Inquisition in their questioning zeal, that hinted sex had occurred between FitzGerald and his passenger when they had no evidence of any kind that it did, it became clear then that FitzGerald’s future was futile and that John Kasich would waltz to an easy win on Election Day on Nov. 4. The return of Strickland would have suddenly put Kasich’s cruise control campaign in danger of going off the rails. The matchup everyone wanted to see between Kasich and Strickland would have come with ready made issues for Strickland, who not only took the worst the Great Recession could dish out but produced a level of job recovery Kasich has yet to match despite his blatant blustering that Ohio was broken and he put it back together again.
Such a comeback from the grave might have given John Kasich, a Biblical scholar of sorts based on his every other Monday studies of the Good Book, the idea that Lazarus had indeed risen from the dead and was gunning for him. The SB 5 coalition, which totally thumped Kasich and his cohorts in 2011 when by a margin of about 2-1 his bill gutting public union collective bargaining rights was overturned by an outpouring of voters, would have had a reason to wake up and turn out at the polls again this year one more time to show Kasich his big loss nearly three years ago wasn’t a fluke of fortune. Kasich, who mocked Strickland for losing hundreds of thousands of jobs, has since his skinny victory in 2010 taken bows for Strickland’s recovery efforts.
One long-time, loyal Republican strategist said Strickland returning would have been very dangerous for Kasich. “He can say that he would have won by 500,000 votes had Kasich told anyone he planned to move SB 5, and he could say that the fastest growth we’ve seen came in his last year and Kasich is taking bows for his work. In one sense, a sprint over a few well designed issues would be better for Strickland than a long campaign. Hilliary and Bill could raise some money pretty quickly and he would start with good name ID and ready made issues. The debates would be high stakes and anything could happen.” For a number of reasons, the return of Strickland from the dead was one big story that didn’t happen.
Now that Ohio media has essentially called the fall election for Gov. Kasich, following months of FitzGerald falling behind in fundraising, in campaign operations, in the polls, and maybe worst of all, in the hearts and minds of newspaper reporters and editors across the state, political pundits may be yawning at the top of the ticket race, while Dems downticket fear fallout from FitzGerald’s fiascoes.
But wait, is it possible another October surprise could become the impossible dream of 2014? The voices are few, but some Democrats still think a robust get out the vote [GOTV] effort could upset the perfect storm of conventional wisdom that dashes the Edmund FitzGerald against the rocks of outrageous fortune.
According to one informed source, voter registration and name-address updating along with having applications for early voting available all summer at various events could deliver an Ohio miracle even John Kasich would have to look skyward and wonder where it came from. Democratic county parties and ODP have been focused on GOTV efforts since spring. “It isn’t a secret that voters do not participate in mid-terms as well as presidential elections,” one ODP insider said, noting “the numbers speak for themselves.” What is known, though, is that Ohio has about 800,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans. So considering citizen Kasich only got 49 percent of 49 percent of the vote in 2010 over Strickland—finally winning by 2 percent or just 77,127 votes—if Democratic GOTV efforts are successful, “the voters will be there.”
It may be a dream of outlier dreamlike proportions, but Democrats have a chance of winning, including FitzGerald and down the ticket, if ODP and the combined campaigns can rejuvenate the energy that put Kasich down just three short years ago. Too much to ask? Maybe, but the Democratic message, that Voters have much more to loose this election than any other due to all the issues/levies on the ballot due to Kasich’s cuts to local governments, could push upset voters to finally connect the dots between why local ballot levies are flourishing and the billions in budget cuts Kasich made that made them necessary. “The voters get po’d at their local school/government districts putting on levies, but don’t lay the blame where it belongs…GOP in Columbus,” a source said.
And it’s too bad the Democratic Governors Association has written off Ed FitzGerald. By doing so, it almost guarantees Ohio is going to cost them and other allied groups more money in the end if “Kasich and his team of inept goofs get re-elected by duped voters.” Even though some reporters have moved their vistas past 3014 to 2016 and 2018, voter turnout could turn FitzGerald-the-loser into FitzGerald-the-winner. Lazarus need not come back from the dead this century if Democratic voters would just vote in proportions resembling their turnout in presidential election years.
And while media seems resigned to watch Kasich be sworn-in a second time, then start his national campaign to be the GOP presidential standard bearer two years from now, they might do their readers a service by actually covering issues people are interested in, instead of the fetch-journalism sticks Gov. Kasich’s campaign pros toss out, hoping they’ll serve as red herring issues designed to distract for another eight weeks.
“FitzGerald needs to continue hammering Kasich, the down ticket candidates need to continue hammering their opponents,” a Democratic insider says. “ODP needs to focus on GOTV efforts and encourage ALL 88 counties to be involved in GOTV programs. Again…if the GOTV efforts are successful, the numbers will be there and Democrats should be able to pull this off – maybe not all of them, but most.”
In separate news, a new Buckeye Poll shows Gov. Kasich’s lead over FitzGerald has widened to 19 points, 46 percent to 27 percent, with 23 percent undecided and four percent favoring other candidates. The poll, whose sample was only 600, comes as little surprise following the intensity media has devoted to FitzGerald’s failings while essentially giving Gov. Kasich lots of leeway. The FitzGerald campaign Monday pointed to one of the few positives from the poll conducted recently by the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron as latent proof that Kasich has a long way to go in the eyes of voters even though media has already put him in the winners circle.
“Despite $5 million spent on ads promoting Kasich and slamming FitzGerald, support for the Governor remains well under 50 percent and unchanged from previous polls,” FitzGerald Campaign Press Secretary Lauren Hitt said in prepared remarks. She said poll numbers support the campaign’s decision to focus resources on voter turnout and expressed confidence that Democratic efforts will consolidate the base.
“Democrats across Ohio agree that an expired driver’s license pales in comparison to Governor Kasich’s cruel statements and even harsher policies on women, teachers, police officers, unions, the LGBT community, and middle class families,” she said.