Anyone who’s been in Ohio politics for a minute knows this: It’s not the best use of your money to bet it against Mike DeWine.
Since 1976, he has won elections in Buckeye State – first as Greene County District Attorney, then in 1980 to the State Senate, then in 1982 to the United States House of Representatives, in 1990 as Lieutenant Governor, in 1994 as US Senate, in 2010 as Attorney General of Ohio, and in 2018 as Governor.
On top of all that, in the decades DeWine has been in politics, Ohio has leaned toward its Republican party. And this year, inflation, a possible recession and medium-term political trends would all seem to favor his chances in the general election.
Oh, and he just helped land a $20 billion investment by chipmaker Intel in central Ohio.
But reading the tea leaves from Tuesday’s primary, two Ohio political scientists said on May 4 that Democratic nominee Nan Whaley might actually have a chance against DeWine in November.
“It will be a daunting task,” said David B. Cohen, a political scientist at the Ray C. Bliss Institute for Applied Policy at the University of Akron. But of DeWine he added: “Without a doubt, he is vulnerable. And that vulnerability comes from a lack of enthusiasm within the Republican base.
According to unofficial results, DeWine only got 48% of the vote in the four-vote Republican primary. It’s unusual for a gubernatorial incumbent to draw a serious primary challenge — let alone take less than half the vote.
But anger over the lockdowns and mask requirements DeWine put in place at the start of the coronavirus pandemic has left scars among the Republican base, said Paul Beck, professor emeritus of political science at the State of Washington. ‘Ohio. Although DeWine is the leader of the party, the Republican-controlled legislature humiliated him by passing a bill that limited those health orders and then overruled his veto.
“There’s a lot of dissatisfaction with him on the Republican side,” Beck said. “You can see it in the legislature and the rebuke of DeWine by the Republican majority.”
Add to that the fact that former President Donald Trump publicly undermined DeWine after the governor acknowledged the objective reality of Trump’s loss to Democrat Joe Biden in November 2020.
“Who will be running for governor of the great state of Ohio?” Trump tweeted while still authorized on the platform. “Will be hotly contested! »
Trump’s lack of full support can be seen in the early results, Cohen said.
While DeWine got 48%, former Congressman Jim Renacci got 28%, and farmer and political newcomer Joe Blystone got 22%.
Renacci, a wealthy former businessman, has assiduously courted Trump since 2018, when he dropped out of the Ohio gubernatorial race and instead ran for the US Senate against incumbent Sherrod Brown, a Democratic incumbent against whom he lost 6.8 percentage points.
“Trump, for some reason, decided not to endorse (Renacci),” Cohen said. “I don’t think he and his team thought (Renacci) could win.”
Unlike DeWine and Renacci, Blystone spent a pittance on the campaign. Still, he unofficially got 233,000 votes.
“Blystone had a lot of grassroots support,” Cohen said. “He didn’t have the money, but he had the grassroots support. If Renacci hadn’t been in the running, if it was just DeWine versus Blystone, Blystone might have had a chance.
In other words, others split Trump’s unconditional vote, which DeWine did not have.
“DeWine might have looked like he had a huge win, but the fact is if you add up the MAGA vote in the primary yesterday (May 3), DeWine loses,” Clohen said.
Ohio State’s Beck said that despite Whaley’s pleas that they consider her, Blystone and Renacci voters are unlikely to. But some of them might stay home, he said.
“I was talking to someone earlier today who said where he lives – a small rural town in Ohio – there’s a lot of anger against DeWine; so much so that they might not even vote for him overall.
During her acceptance speech on May 3, Whaley made it clear that she planned to spend the next few months following DeWine over the corruption scandals that occurred on her watch.
They include the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, an online charter school founded by a big GOP campaign donor who got rich but did next to nothing to make sure kids get the education taxpayers financed. They also include a $61 million corruption scandal that culminated in a billion-dollar utility bailout in which people named by DeWine were implicated.
Cohen called it a “political blunder” on the part of Democrats for not making a bigger deal in the 2018 and 2020 election cycles of scandals involving Republicans. He added that they should spend money educating the public about them now.
Beck said Whaley should tie them to a long Republican reign in Ohio.
“She’s going to argue that they’ve been in power too long, that this corruption is clearly present in the legislature and that you have former lawmakers charged and there will be trials,” he said. declared. “She’s also going to argue that DeWine was in the mix with this.”
Indeed, on May 3, Whaley noted that DeWine’s first year in office was the year he was born and bluntly called him “corrupt.” She also referred to rising electricity bills following the utility scandal, a ‘corruption tax’.
Beck and Cohen said pushing such messages could attract independent voters and keep some Republicans at home.
And then there’s Monday’s news that the U.S. Supreme Court is set to overturn Roe vs. Wadepaving the way for laws that could severely restrict abortion in Ohio or even criminalize it in almost any circumstance.
“It’s going to be a real problem for Republicans,” Beck said.
Midterm elections are usually lackluster for the party that has a ruling president. But the deer the news is likely to boost turnout, especially among women and young people — from Democratic-friendly constituencies.
Plus, it could put DeWine, a bitter anti-abortionist, in a bind.
“I expect the legislature to move forward with a more extreme bill than in many other states,” Beck said.
Which would leave it up to DeWine to sign him and risk alienating much of the Republicans and independents who support him. Or DeWine could veto it.
“If he doesn’t sign the bill, he’s going to lose the support of the right-wing, pro-life vote,” Cohen said. “This abortion case is a gift for Democrats in 2022. It’s the spark that will inspire women to go to the polls and energize young voters — voters disappointed by Biden’s first two years.”
The Republican supermajority in the Ohio General Assembly could also wait until after the election, for a lame session in December, to pass more abortion restrictions for DeWine.
This story was originally published by The Ohio Capital Journal and republished here with permission.
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