The Magazine

Ohio Swings Back

Rob Portman’s association with Bush isn’t ­hurting him at all.

Oct 4, 2010, Vol. 16, No. 03 • By FRED BARNES
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Two, the Ohio economy is in worse shape than Strickland. The state has indeed lost 400,000 jobs since the recession began in 2007, all on Strickland’s watch. The unemployment rate jumped from 5.7 percent three years ago to 10.1 percent today. “Ohio is not a business-friendly state,” Portman says. Chief Executive magazine ranks Ohio 44th in business environment. The Tax Foundation says only three states have a heavier tax burden for business.

Fisher has the unfortunate distinction of having been the director of development in his first two years as lieutenant governor. He and Strickland promised job growth. But “Fisher has more of a problem than Strickland,” says Republican consultant P.J. Wenzel. “He’s the job czar. There’s no way he can run away from it.” 

Three, Obama’s fall in popularity nationwide is replicated in Ohio, with all the negative fallout that entails. Obama’s presidential performance rating in the state in a Quinnipiac poll in mid-September was 38 percent approve, 60 percent disapprove. The health care bill is especially disliked. “Ohio is ahead of the country in terms of health care sentiment,” Portman insists. Sixty-five percent of likely voters in Ohio disapprove of Obamacare, 30 percent approve, according to the Quinnipiac survey.

Four, Portman is a likeable and credible candidate, if not particularly exciting. He’s focused almost entirely on jobs, circulating a glossy pamphlet with dozens of proposals, including a cut in the federal business income tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent and a one-year moratorium on the Social Security payroll tax. In Youngstown, he toured a high-tech plant and heard from the owner that paying for overtime makes more sense than hiring—still another sign that an explosion of job growth is unlikely any time soon. 

For all his problems, Fisher isn’t entirely out of gas. Both organized labor and the Ohio Democratic party are loaded with money to spend on his behalf, though they may be scared away by his sagging poll numbers. Saving Strickland may be a better investment.

Richard Nixon believed that winning Ohio was critical to winning nationally, and this year is no exception. Ohio is crucial to Republican goals of capturing the House, Senate, and more governorships and state legislatures. They can’t win the Senate if Portman loses the seat being vacated by Republican George Voinovich.

Ohio, as luck would have it, is close to being a microcosm of the country. It’s an exaggeration to claim that as Ohio goes, so goes the nation. But Ohio is urban, suburban, and rural and even has a slice of Appalachia.

And maybe there’s a lesson in the failure of the Bush connection to harm Portman’s prospects in this all-American state. Jeb Bush, call your political advisers. Your presidential prospects in 2012 may be brighter than almost everyone thinks.

Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.

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