Everyone forgets just how poor the voter turnout was in 2014, the last midterm election year when only 40.65 percent out of Ohio’s 7,748,201 registered voters voted. Ohio Gov. John Kasich easily won a second term, garnering media fixation on how lopsided the spread was with his snake-bitten Democratic rival Ed FitzGerald.
At 63.64 percent for Kasich compared to 33.03 percent for FitzGearld, with Green Party candidate Anita Rios winning just 3.33 percent, the story Team Kasich feasted on in anticipation of running for president again was his 2-1 win margin, not how few registered voters actually voted for him.
The story lost in the dust of Kasich’s “big win,” based on voter turnout being the lowest since World War II, was that fewer than one in four registered voters voted for him. This was not an impressive showing for someone who claimed to be both popular and successful. Knowing media would fail to drill down on the hidden numbers, Kasich and company used his large win in a low-turnout election as proof he was presidential timbre. Unfortunately for Kasich, his big win in 2014 had no coattails in 2016, when he won just one Electoral College vote after losing 49 state Republican Party contests.
Mindful Of Midterms
Four years earlier, in 2010, the Tea Party rose to prominence as warm waters from the passage of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) earlier that year fueled its strength to elect Republicans as less than half (3,956,045 or 49.22 percent) of 8,037,806 registered Buckeyes bothered to vote.
Citizen John Kasich, a congressman for 18 years until he retired in 2000 to run his first campaign for the White House, barely defeated incumbent Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland by fewer than 78,000 votes statewide. Kasich, who had spent years working on Wall Street for Lehman Brothers and years on Fox News where he often substituted for one-time Fox megastar Bill O’Reilly, couldn’t win a plurality by barely beating Strickland 49.04 percent to 47.04 percent.
In the midterm election of 2006, 53.25 percent or 4,185,597 of 7,860,052 registered voters bothered to vote. In 2006, Democrats won big as four of five statewide offices were won with the exception of Auditor, where Mary Taylor won it over Barbra Sykes by fewer than 50,000 votes statewide.
Voters had had it with Republican corruption in Columbus, topped by the Tom Noe scandal that went bust when $50 million is fraudulent investments using Bureau of Workers’ Compensation money went to buy rare coins and other collectibles Noe, a powerful Republican donor of the day, invested in that proved unworthy of investment.
In the first midterm election of the 21st century in 2002, less than 50 percent (47.18 percent) of 7,113,826 registered voters or 3,356,285 bothered to vote.
Estimated Voter Turnout In 2018
To gage what Ohio’s voter turnout might be in 2018, averaging Ohio’s four 21st century mid-term election voter turnout percentages produces an reliable estimate of 47.56 percent. Can any Democrat running for an open statewide office win the most important Ohio election of the next ten years or more? Sure, 2020 will be another presidential election year, and whether President Donald Trump is still president by then is pure speculation, given the trouble he finds himself in after just eight months in office.
Will buyer’s remorse from voters in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, the three states that elected him president if just Electoral College votes are considered – Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by three million votes – bleed into Ohio, where he won by almost a half-million votes or almost nine percent? According to a new Marist poll, Trump’s luster is wearing thin or off.
When declared Democratic candidates for governor undertake the first of six debate sponsored by the Ohio Democratic Party on Sept. 12 in Belmont County at Martins Ferry High School, what will they say that will convince Democrats to show up next year in numbers not seen since the 20th century? Will their message be all anti-Trump, or will it be full of the kind of economic promises Trump made that won him plaudits from Buckeyes voters?
Will a new Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity proposed by former Democratic congresswoman Betty Sutton be the missing message from years past that will find traction with disillusioned, disinterested or lazy voters next year?
“We can facilitate the growth of good jobs and enhance the well-being and economic security of Ohio’s workers and their families,” Sutton said.
Can Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley‘s outrage at how Kasich and like-minded Republicans have run the state hit home with people who are no better off today than they were when the Great Recession laid waste to Ohio jobs?
“For too many years now, the Statehouse Republicans have balanced their budget on the backs of local communities – slashing the funding our communities need to provide police, fire, and emergency services,” Whaley opined. “The partnership between the state and our local communities is completely gone. Larger cities like Dayton can leverage public-private partnerships to help mask some of the cuts from the state, but our smaller towns often don’t have that option.”
Will Democratic State Senator Joe Schiavoni’s call for more investment in education, job creation, infrastructure initiatives, the opioid epidemic, community redevelopment and other issues wake up Democratic voters enough to convince them that if they don’t want a repeat of the last eight years, they had better vote for the Democrat?
Can Connie Pillich, who performed the best in 2014 when she ran for state treasurer and managed to win over 40 percent of voters, light up voters based on her claims of leadership based on her military experience?
Waking The Sleeping Giant
In a ruby red state where gerrymandered districts are among the many hurdles Democrats will have to surmount if they expect to win any statewide race, especially governor, or reduce the super-majority margins Republicans enjoy in the legislature, can the 2018 mid-term election be the election where the Democratic giant wakes up and goes to the polls? If the Democratic giant wakes up from a long snooze that helped Republicans win because Democrats didn’t vote, voter turnout will have to top 50 percent.
That’s a tall order, so tall that it seems downright unfair when Republican power and prowess in the Buckeye State is considered to extend from top to bottom. Except for two short years from 2008 to 2010, Republicans have controlled all statewide seats and both chambers of the Ohio General Assembly since 1994, the same year a Georgia Congressman and political friends like Ohio Congressman John Kasich took back the U.S. House.
Trailing big time to their GOP rivals in money, Democrats should not expect state media to help them spread their word like media helped John Kasich box in Strickland, even though Strickland suffered through the Great Recession with smart budgeting that put Ohio on the road to recovery, making Kasich’s claim that Strickland “didn’t get the jobs done” totally fake news.