- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ohio is turning a “reddish tinge,” says the Columbus Dispatch, and it isn’t referring to the autumn colors but a rising Republican tide that threatens to break the Democrats’ political grip on this pivotal Midwestern state in next year’s mid-term elections.

Recent polls show the Buckeye State’s Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, who led by 10 points in mid-September, has seen his re-election support fall and is now in a dead heat in next year’s gubernatorial race with his Republican challenger, former Rep. John Kasich - 40 percent to 40 percent. And for the first time, Republican Rob Portman, former trade chief and budget director under President George W. Bush, has pulled ahead of his two possible Democratic rivals for an open Senate seat that is widely rated a tossup.

Moreover, President Obama, who carried the state by 4 points in 2008, is drawing negative reviews from a majority of Ohio’s voters who now disapprove of his job performance by 50 percent to 45 percent - with 53 percent disapproving of his handling of the economy, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll.

The Democrats’ eroding election numbers stem in large part from Ohio’s blistering 10.1 percent unemployment rate amid growing voter disillusionment in Mr. Strickland’s failed pledge to turn the state’s economy around and disappointment that Mr. Obama’s nearly $800 billion economic stimulus bill has not delivered the millions of private sector jobs he said it would.

Mr. Strickland was swept into office in 2006 on a tide of economic decline that was blamed on the state’s long-running Republican rule. But the overall jobs picture has worsened in the Midwestern manufacturing state “as more Ohioans dropped out of the labor force” in September, the state Department of Job and Family Services said last month. The 10.1 percent jobless rate compares with 6.8 percent in September 2008.

That has sent Mr. Strickland’s numbers down and Mr. Kasich’s numbers up, boosting Republican prospects in 2010 in a strategic electoral state that campaign analysts say could play a pivotal role in the 2012 presidential election. “The state that swept Democrats into virtually all statewide offices in 2006 and helped Barack Obama clinch the White House last year suddenly is taking on a reddish tinge,” the Columbus Dispatch reported last week.

In September, Mr. Strickland led Mr. Kasich, who has been out of office for nearly nine years, by 46 percent to 36 percent. “Obviously, a lot has changed: the governor’s own ratings have gone down more than the challenger’s have come up,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

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