Missed Opportunities and Other Observations About Ohio's Midterm Results

Nov 7, 2018

While national election results indicate there remains division in America, Ohio appears to be a different story. One party took all five statewide executive offices and remains in control of both the State House and the State Senate.

Professor Dave Cohen, assistant director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron says Democratic party officials are likely "in a state of shock over the fact that they were not even able to capture one statewide race." 

"The Democratic party fielded a good slate of candidates for statewide offices. It's the best slate I've seen in a long time," Cohen says. Yet even the race for governor, which leading up to Election Day had frequently been considered a toss up, ended with Republican Mike DeWine claiming victory by a larger than expected margin. "That was a bit surprising," Cohen says. "Many people felt the governor's race would go right down to the wire or maybe even that we'd be talking about a recount the day after the election, but clearly that wasn't the case and that really was the pattern that was demonstrated with the other statewide races as well."   

Missed Opportunities
"Republicans were able to assemble a good slate of candidates themselves," Cohen says. But Democrats did not take advantage of several incidents that the Republican-controlled statehouse has presided over in recent times. 

I think Democrats missed some big opportunities to campaign on issues of scandal and corruption in Columbus.

"I think Democrats missed some big opportunities to campaign on issues of scandal and corruption in Columbus," Cohen says. "Frankly I was perplexed throughout the entire campaign, the fact that you had candidates, many of them were talking about ECOT and that scandal, but you had a scandal where the speaker of the Ohio House had to resign because of corruption. I did not hear Cliff Rosenberger’s name in any Democratic campaign commercial or even when the candidates were talking about their candidacy during the campaign. I think that was a missed opportunity. It really was."

Democrats did manage to capture five seats in the state-controlled House of Representatives, including district 37 which covers much of Summit County. Democrat Casey Weinstein of Hudson defeated Republican Mike Rasor of Stow by a narrow margin. 

"Two very good candidates," Cohen says. "I know that Democrats I think have to be very pleased to be able to at least add a couple seats in the Statehouse. That has been an institution completely dominated by Republicans for really the last several election cycles."

One Bright Spot
There was one bright spot for Democrats on the statewide level. Sherrod Brown handily won reelection to the Senate for a third term.

"Obviously his future’s real bright," Cohen says. "He has won three times now for U.S. Senate in Ohio which is not the nicest territory for Democrats. He's always been an attractive candidate nationally. He has a bit of a national profile and he's a perennial vice presidential candidate," Cohen says. 

"Even if he decides not to run for president in 2020, certainly his name will be mentioned as a potential running mate," Cohen says. "I think you can even throw Tim Ryan into that mix as well. Congressman Ryan won rather easily in a district that’s been changing, leaning much more to people that support Donald Trump and his kind of republicanism." Cohen thinks Ryan may run for president. If he doesn't, "he'll be somebody people talk about as a potential running mate as well." 

And what about Governor John Kasich? 

Kasich as a Spoiler?
Cohen thinks Kasich will run for president in 2020. But maybe not with the intention of winning the office. 

"Y'know he's got two paths. He could either challenge Trump for the Republican nomination. Or he could run as an Independent," Cohen says. "I think he's going to run as an Independent. Because if he does that, it means he's going to be on the ballot for the general election, and I think John Kasich has one thing in mind in terms of running as an Independent. He knows he would not win the presidency. He knows if he runs as an Independent he has the potential to ensure that Donald Trump doesn’t get a second term. Because Kasich will get an awful lot of Republican votes. He won't get a lot of Democratic votes. But those Republican voters that would've voted for Trump that vote for Kasich, that's going to hurt the president. And I think Kasich isn't going to lose any sleep over that."  

As far as Ohio's status as a swing state, Cohen thinks it "is definitely going to be questioned." When the 2020 campaigns begin to consider where to invest resources, Cohen says "if it looks like Ohio is no longer that much of a purple state but more of a red state, it's possible both parties may decide to invest their resources elsewhere."