If you needed a succinct understanding of why Ohio’s gubernatorial race has become such a crucial race for Democrats, this post at the Atlantic by Marc Ambinder pretty clearly sums it up. Highlights:
In an election cycle where so many Democrats are running away from President Obama, Ohio’s Democratic Governor Ted Strickland has unflinchingly embraced Obama from the beginning. And the White House and Democratic establishment have gone to the mat for Strickland.
But for Team Obama, this is not an act of altruism. They know Ohio, even though it may lose two electoral votes, will be crucial in 2012. They know their chances of carrying the state are drastically improved with a friendly governor. And they know how important Strickland can potentially be for them during redistricting. Democrats are looking at a horrible election night this Tuesday. But winning the gubernatorial race in Ohio would be a huge victory–and relief–for the White House. In fact, though Team Obama may not admit it, they probably care as much about this race, along with Florida’s gubernatorial contest, as any this cycle.[…]
Kasich has a slight lead even as Republican Senate candidate Rob Portman, who carries a monumental financial edge over Democrat Lee Fisher, will probably win his race far and away. And here’s a wildcard. There has been a lot of buzz over the White House’s broad allegations–without any specific accusations–that foreign money has financed many of the independent groups, such as Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie’s American Crossroads, that have been putting up ads for Republicans and against Democrats across the nation. The media played referee and ridiculed the White House for bringing up these charges. But in Ohio, where workers are upset that blue collar jobs have been shipped overseas, where economic nationalism matters, such a charge may have an impact. It could turn just enough Republicans away from Kasich, and this could make all the difference for Strickland.
Given the recent poll results, color me unconvinced of the last piece. Kasich has enough of a lead among independents, and he appears to have lost as many Republicans as he can already.