In Ohio, new polling shows incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland into a dead heat with former GOP House member John Kasich. Rebounding in Ohio is absolutely essential for the Republicans if they're going to return to real competitivness on a national scale. The loss of this former GOP stronghold has been a slowly developing story over several election cycles and the national media really failed to pick up on it. But Ohio was once reliably Republican. By 2000, George W. Bush had to fight to hold it, and by 2004 the entire election came down to the Buckeye State. In the aftermath of the '04 campaign, too few Republicans bothered to ask themselves (at least publicly) why a state that was once theirs for the asking had turned into one that needed a big turnout on a gay marriage referendum to save Bush.
The obvious answer is that Republican trade policies have destroyed the manufacturing base that the Ohio economy relies on, and Ohioans know it. If cultural questions and national security issues are muted and the election swings on the economy, Buckeyes vote Democratic. We should note that the Democatic establishment has been equally complicit in these destructive trade policies, but Ohio has Dems like Marcy Kaptur in the House and Sherrod Brown in the Senate that are principled opponents of free trade deals. I will also give a nod to Madame Speaker, who has slowed the passage of the free trade agenda in the House. So there at least enough Democrats working against it to give the party an edge on the issue and in Ohio that is the path to winning elections.
Governor Strickland is in trouble because of the economy. It's ironic that a former member of the GOP House leadership, that rammed through the global trade agenda, stands to benefit from the problems his own policies caused. If I lived in Ohio I might well vote for Kasich on other issues--I'm not sure where he stands on the right to life and school choice is a big issue for me at the state level--but he's not the answer on the economy.
Another sign of how much the political environment has changed is this poll from Gallup, which shows the GOP moving ahead of the Democrats on the generic congressional ballot. The primary thrust of the change has been independents going Republican. I think that is something that's just very difficult for an incumbent party to stop. Independents are pretty fickle and its tough to keep them happy, hence the ebb and flow of partisan control in this country. If the Democrats have to avoid a meltdown they have to do something I dread--keep the Left happy. Pass health care reform. Lift don't ask, don't tell on gays in the military. Completely subordinate U.S. national security interests to whatever the U.N. wants and be vocal about it. The Democrats would still lose seats and independent votes, but not much more than they'd probably lose by natural attrition anyway. And it would be countered by a vibrant and active base that would keep their losses manageable.
Meltdowns occur when a party chases votes that are drifting away anyhow and kills the enthusiasm of their own. A big part of the problem is that too many politicians believe their own post-election B.S. about a permanent governing majority or a grand realignment, rather than accepting the fact that their popularity with the mushy middle is very temporary, and figuring out a way to cushion the blow when it goes away.
Finally, Tony Blankely of The Washington Times sees Hillary Clinton as a viable presidental possibility in 2012. I put this one in the category of comic relief. Maybe in '16. But Hillary's chances of holding the top political job in D.C. in four years are about the same as Jim Zorn's chances of holding the top football job in the Beltway come next August.