A funny thing happened to Republican Gov. John Kasich and his GOP allies on their way to a national tour de force: They were body- checked by the labor unions and their Democratic Party allies.
The rejection Tuesday by Ohio voters of State Issue 2/Senate Bill 5 is a political defeat for the Republicans of monumental consequence.
By preventing the collective-bargaining reform law from taking effect, Ohioans have delivered a stern message to the governor and the GOP-controlled General Assembly: The November 2010 general election, in which your party swept all the statewide offices, was not an invitation to go forth and be as politically venal as you desire.
The defeat of State Issue 2, a referendum on the law that would have stripped Ohio’s 300,000-plus public employees of many of the workplace rights they’ve enjoyed for almost three decades, also has national implications. Had Kasich and his allies succeeded at the ballot box, they would have become a major topic in national discussion of the 2012 presidential election. The candidates for the Republican nomination for president would have been making a beeline for Ohio to court the governor and the leadership in the House and Senate.
Now, however, the GOP must contemplate the fallout from Tuesday’s election.
Kasich and the Republicans have awoken a sleeping giant, and the national and state Democratic parties are sure to keep fueling the union anger triggered by the collective- bargaining reform law.
In the November 2010 general election, Republicans won not because they had a more compelling message than the Democrats but because many union members and Democratic Party faithful either stayed home or voted the GOP ticket.
Not a mandate
The fact that Kasich defeated Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland by about 97,000 votes of the 3.75 million cast makes it clear that the people of Ohio weren’t blown away by his candidacy
The election a year ago was more a referendum on President Barack Obama’s handling of the anemic economy than Strickland’s four-year tenure. Had voters bought Kasich’s contention that Ohio lost hundreds of thousands of jobs because of Strickland’s mismanagement, he would have won by a landslide.
The passage of Senate Bill 5 — as Republicans in the General Assembly rode roughshod over the Democrats and the unions — caused a public uprising the Democratic Party had craved since January. Thousands signed petitions to put SB 5 on the ballot.
Now, with the defeat of State Issue 2, the party in power is politically wounded, and the unions and their Democratic allies can be expected to close in for the kill — in 2012.