A poll commissioned by the Ohio Newspaper Association reveals the extent of the Democratic Party's problems going into the 2010 statewide battle. Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, who will be seeking re-election, as will other Ohio officeholders, would be scrambling to hold on to his job if the election were held today.
The poll shows that the race between Strickland, who is in his first term, and the presumed Republican gubernatorial nominee, John Kasich, is a toss up.
What does that mean? Trouble for the Democratic Party, which must not only hold on to the top spot in state government, but retain control of the offices of secretary of state, attorney general and treasurer, and try to wrest the auditor's post away from the Republicans.
In addition, the party has a challenge in its bid to win the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican George V. Voinovich because two prominent Democratic officeholders, Lieutenant Gov. Lee Fisher and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, are vying for the nomination. It could be a bloody primary, which would please the Republicans, who are determined to keep the seat.
All this is being played out against the backdrop of a national economic crisis that has already punished the Democrats in the governor's races in Virginia and New Jersey.
With double-digit unemployment, skyrocketing deficits, a growing national debt and a major divide in the country over health care reform, the Republicans are poised to make gains nationally — unless the economy turns around by next November.
And for that to happen, states like Ohio will have to open the floodgates for federal stimulus spending. It will be a test of the Strickland administration's ability get major projects off the drawing board.
Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras is guaranteeing that Strickland will receive 80 percent of the vote cast in the county in the governor's race. But if the economy continues to sputter, many Democrats will stay home rather than come out and vote the ticket.
To be sure, a year is a lifetime in politics.