It was only about 14 hours after the poll results from Tuesday showed President Barack Obama had won Ohio a second time that the battle for midterm elections, including Governor John Kasich’s run for a second term, had started. On Wednesday Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern, who will be back next session as a sitting member of the Ohio House after again winning his old 89th District seat, fielded questions from reporters on post-election analysis while also offering some appetizers going forward for the midterm elections.
This election is over, but the next one has just started
More subdued than at the height of jubilance Democrats showed Tuesday night after learning their candidate had won the Buckeye State, Mr. Redfern was more subdued but none the worse for wear, as he showed he was fired up and ready to go after first-term Gov. Kasich, whose re-election campaign has underway for some time, and who continued it at each of Mitt Romney’s rolling Ohio campaign road shows he attended.
Gov. Kasich won’t announce his candidacy officially for a second term until early 2014, but everything his administration does between now and then will be geared to winning the General Election against a Democratic candidate yet to be named.
In addition to celebrating the president’s win in the key battleground state of Ohio, Mr. Redfern, who can celebrate his own return next session, in January, to the Ohio House of Representatives, following a return to representing the 89th District, didn’t mince words on the moving target the party will focus on next: John Kasich, the former nine-term Republican congressman from central Ohio who once made a short lived run for president in 2000 before he turned to investment banking as a managing director for the one-time legendary Wall Street banking firm of Lehman Brothers whose demise fueled the meltdown on Wall Street that triggered the Great Recession that his the nation and Ohio so hard. Fresh from decisively dousing Mitt Romney’s chance of winning a term in the White House by denying him a victory in Ohio, Redfern spoke pointed words to Republicans in general and Gov. Kasich in particular.
Exhibiting the rhetorical surgery he’s known for, that thrills Democrats, because he’s delivered big wins in 2006, 2008 and this year even though his off year was in 2010 when Republicans swept the field in all big races, and infuriates Republicans, who are taking stock of what just happened to Romney, knowing the same medicine is coming Kasich’s way given his tight alignment to Romney’s values and beliefs, including their belief that lower taxes and less government lead to prosperity. On election night eve, Gov. Kasich offered a limp if empty statement congratulating the president on his victory, but for state races, he gushed over the GOP’s continuing control of the Statehouse. Kasich has enjoyed the help a friendly legislature can give to the state’s CEO, and has reciprocated by executing laws related to women’s health issues, public sector unions and voting laws, among other issues, that have already backfired on him. Ohio Democrats, Redfern said, will use what proved to be successful on Mitt Romney on John Kasich.
The chairman’s disdain for the son of a Pennsylvania postman was palpable as he ticked off one issue after another that John Kasich will be vulnerable to, just as Mitt Romney was in a state he couldn’t lose and still expect to win the presidency, without an electoral miracle even Mormon faith founder Joseph Smith would have had to tip his hat to Romney for performing.
The question CGE posed to Redfern on the call was this: Now that the presidential election is over, Ohio Democrats and others can focus their attention on the midterm elections, including John Kasich’s re-election race. Can you give us a preview of issues relevant to Ohio voters you think will be in play, and what factors if any of Obama’s win yesterday you think will be durable enough to carry forward two years?
Echoing the observation made on the campaign trail this fall by Vice President Joe Biden, Redfern, a former Ohio House Minority Caucus Leader, said John Kasich’s budgets reflect his priorities. Gov. Kasich has often touted at Romney rallies, as recently as the last one on Monday night, how he and his team, including a Republican-led legislature balanced a budget $8 billion dollars out of balance without raising taxes, but Redfern says he did it by withholding billions from counties, cities and school districts, which has forced local taxpayers to decide whether they want to save money by reducing what government does or maintain or improve public services by picking up the burden left to them by Gov. Kasich.
Redfern’s sharp tongued evaluation of the peripatetic, CEO-style governor produced this comment: “As we’ve come to know that budgets reflect one’s priorities, in the case of John Kasich, stripping away billions of dollars from public education, frankly has an impact on the local community. I think the way John Kasich continues to govern, as the leader of the state of Ohio, is divisive, it is corrosive, and I think that will impact the electorate. As far as polling, he still under-performs Republicans, he is at .5 in terms of approval, and a rating in a PPP poll, against a generic Democrat without a name attached, Democrats are just one point behind, 44-43. Going into the next budget cycle, we need to define John Kasich for who he is. He is the champion of giveaways to corporate Ohio and corporate America. He stood against the auto rescue, he stood with Mitt Romney and others who said women shouldn’t have the right to control their own reproductive health care, he’s opposed to Obamacare and believes that preexisting conditions should continue to keep people from adequate health, these are the kind of issues that defined Mitt Romney will continue to define John Kasich.”
Kasich spokesman responds
Asked to respond on behalf of the administration, Scott Milburn, a long-time, close Kasich aide and chief spokesman, told CGE via email, “The progress that jobs-friendly policies are producing for this state is why Ohioans returned Republican majorities to the Senate and House. We’re getting Ohio back on track and the governor looks forward to working with people of every political stripe to keep that momentum going.”
ODP spokesman Jerid Kurtz was asked to comment on Milburn’s statement. [He] “Forgot to say ‘and sending jobs from companies like Diebold to India after receiving corporate welfare from the Kasich administration.'”
On Thursday, the Ohio Democratic Party released what they called “A Look Inside the Ohio Democratic Party’s Decisive Wins.” Among its contents was this statement by Redfern: “The 2012 election marks the first time since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1940 victory that a presidential candidate received more than fifty percent of Ohio voters’ support twice. And these historic wins occurred up and down the ballot, from the President, to the Senate, State legislative races, and even State Supreme Court. Senator [Sherrod] Brown was able to overcome an unprecedented $40 million dollars spent against him in attack ads because of the infrastructure we put in place for him, and because he was simply right on the issues. Despite a redistricting period controlled by the opposing party where three of our State House incumbent seats were eliminated, we won races that were supposed to be out of reach, and overcame a 3-1 financial disadvantage to re-elect a Democrat to the State Senate. And for the first time in a generation, Democrats won a Supreme Court race that we were never thought to win.”
The Ohio Democratic Party believes it is back, “that we are strong, that we are united, and that we have the momentum … [that] will carry us to victory once more just two years from now in the critical 2014 elections.” Following a bruising 2010 cycle, ODP says the results of its efforts are incredibly clear.
“The Ohio Democratic Party is back, and anyone that stands in the way of progress, including Governor John Kasich, is on notice.”
Numbers to mull
Redfern reminded reporters in the room and on the call that John Kasich was a weak candidate in 2010 because he only won a plurality of the vote, not a majority. In a low voter turnout election two years ago, then candidate Kasich only won 49 percent of a 49-percent turnout of voters. He beat then-Governor Ted Strickland by two percentage points [77,127 votes] that represented just 23.5 percent of registered voters statewide, a number that if they were Ohio State University football fans would leave about 25 percent of the seats in The Shoe unfilled. If it were a Saturday game day, OSU officials would be severely disappointed with this turnout.
In 2010, there were eight-million-plus registered Ohio voters, but only 3.9 million [49.22%] voted. In 2010, Gov. Strickland, the incumbent Democrat, won 26 counties: Ashtabula, Athens, Belmont, Cuyahoga, Erie, Franklin, Harrison, Hocking, Jefferson, Lawrence, Lorain, Lucas, Mahoning, Meigs, Monroe, Montgomery, Noble, Ottawa, Pike, Ross, Scioto, Summit, Trumbull, Vinton, Washington and Wood. Kasich won the other 62.
For a comparison at the presidential level, 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry won only 16 of Ohio’s 88 counties: Ashtabula, Athens, Belmont, Cuyahoga, Erie, Franklin, Jefferson, Lorain, Lucas, Mahoning, Monroe, Montgomery, Portage, Stark, Summit, Trumbull. In 2012, of the 7.98 million registered voters in Ohio, 5.36 million [68%] just voted, according to unofficial vote tallies posed by the Ohio Secretary of State.
President Obama this year also won just 16 counties, but they were not the same 16 Kerry won: Hamilton, Montgomery, Franklin, Athens, Lucas, Wood, Ottawa, Sandusky, Erie, Loraine, Cuyahoga, Summit, Portage, Mahoning, Trumbull, Ashtabula.
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