Politics & Policy

WaPo: Kasich and Portman Bellwethers for Dems’ Blame Bush/Wall Street Strategy

The Washington Post appears to be in full-panic mode about the Ohio Senatorial and Gubernatorial elections, if this story is any guide. Highlights below:

There could not be two better examples of what President Obama and the Democrats want the fall elections to be about than Ohio Republicans Rob Portman and John Kasich.

Portman, who is running for the Senate, was the chief trade officer and White House budget director for President George W. Bush. Kasich, a former congressman who is running for governor, spent a decade working for Lehman Brothers, the Wall Street firm whose collapse helped trigger the massive economic retraction.

Together, their races may provide the nation’s clearest test of whether the Democrats’ strategy of running against Bush and Wall Street can overcome a political climate tilted clearly toward the Republicans.

Economic issues overwhelm everything else in Ohio, and Republicans are, at the moment, capitalizing on voter unhappiness. By November, Democrats must shift the focus of the debate if they are to hold down their losses here and across the country. Whether they can do so is the crucial question.

“It’s a battle between present economic reality and past economic reality,” John Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, said of the two parties’ strategies.[…]

“It’s the largest divide in the country between two candidates running for the U.S. Senate,” Portman’s opponent, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher (D), said of the differences between him and his rival. “The divide is as deep as this economic recession is.”[…]

“I suppose it’s relevant to some people,” Portman said when asked whether what happened when Republicans were in power should be a leading issue in this campaign. But he said the Obama administration’s policies in combating the recession are more pertinent for voters. “The question is, was the stimulus a good idea? Has it worked?” he said. “Is the health-care bill a good idea? Has it worked?”[…]

Strickland still has one advantage: Obama will be in Ohio on Wednesday to raise money for him.Kasich, who was House Budget Committee chairman and a top lieutenant to then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) before working for Lehman, is trying to pin responsibility for the recession and its aftermath on Strickland.

“When you’re the CEO of a company, and they give you a chance and you fail, they fire you, okay?” Kasich said after a campaign event in Portsmouth, in economically depressed southern Ohio.

But Strickland said others bear the blame for the state’s plight. “What I’m saying to the people of Ohio is we’re dealing with a recession not of our own making,” he said in a telephone interview. “Frankly, a recession caused more by Wall Street greed than anything in Ohio.”[…]

In the Senate race, Fisher advisers say Ohioans see Bush’s trade and economic policies as the primary cause of the state’s economic problems. Portman “wasn’t just along for the ride, a casual passerby,” Fisher charges. “He was actually one of the chief architects of the trade and economic policies that got us into this mess.”

Portman does not seem eager to spend the rest of the campaign talking about the past, arguing that “it’s an odd campaign to be running against the past rather than providing a vision for the future. And we’re going to be providing a vision for the future, [because] that’s where people are.”

The Post seems to have told Democrats unequivocally, “As goes Ohio, so goes the nation.” Portman and Kasich look to be in a strong position to win, but the fact that neither man has yet cracked the 50 percent margin could be cause for concern in their camp, and hope for Strickland’s and Fisher’s. Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy few months.

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