Here are four factors behind the Ohio governor’s race blowout

By Jason Hart | Ohio Watchdog

The big question in the Ohio governor’s race is whether incumbent Gov. John Kasich will take all 88 counties and win by more 20 points.

Why?

When leftists and like-minded Republicans claim Kasich’s landslide win proves “compassionate conservatism” is sound swing state policy, consider the factors — other than incumbency and a huge cash advantage — leading to Tuesday’s result.

Democrat self-destruction

Early Quinnipiac University polling on the governor’s race showed practically no name recognition for eventual Democrat nominee Ed FitzGerald. In December 2012, 84 percent of respondents to a statewide poll said they hadn’t heard enough to form an opinion of the Cuyahoga County executive.

SUNK: Don’t expect to see much of Democrat Ed FitzGerald after this week

This August, Northeast Ohio Media Group reported FitzGerald and a woman who was not his wife were found in a car in a Cleveland parking lot at 4:30 one morning in 2012. FitzGerald was not cited and insists nothing untoward was going on, but his explanation of the incident conflicted with an aide’s.

If a story with the makings of a political sex scandal was not enough, The Columbus Dispatch discovered FitzGerald did not have a permanent driver’s license at the time of the incident and was not licensed to drive alone from 2008 to 2012. The governor’s race was over by September, as Ohio Democratic Party chairman Chris Redfern implicitly acknowledged by criticizing FitzGerald in a New York Times interview.

Redfern’s tenure as head of ODP is likely at an end, but Matt Mayer, president of free-market think tank Opportunity Ohio, noted Democrats have had little success statewide over the past two decades.

“The Ohio Democratic Party is historically inept given total statewide Republican control from 1995 to today except for one gubernatorial, Attorney General, and Treasurer win in 2006 due to a national anti-Bush wave and a two year House speakership due to Obama’s first wave election,” Mayer explained in an email to Ohio Watchdog.

“Despite what he thinks, Kasich is just another chapter in that twenty year story,” Mayer added.

Keeping a Lid on Republican Criticism

The Ohio Republican Party has been run by hand-picked Kasich supporters since 2012. Unburdened by a party platform, ORP works to promote Kasich and his allies while attacking their critics on the left and the right.

Last summer, when dozens of county Republican Party chairs were asked to comment on the Obamacare Medicaid expansion — which Kasich campaigned against in 2010 — instructions went out to adhere to Kasich’s new pro-Obamacare talking points.

With ORP and legislative caucus purse strings held by backers of the governor, his administration has been able to minimize legislators’ public criticism of Medicaid expansion and other Kasich proposals. Kasich’s history as a Fox News host also helps him convey the appearance of strong Republican support for his policies.

Ted Stevenot, a leader of limited-government nonprofit Ohio Rising, encourages Ohioans to get more involved in a political process that starts long before general election season.

“Kasich’s victory is more a statement about the power of the party’s control over elections than it is about the voter’s support of his agenda,” Stevenot said in an email to Ohio Watchdog. “The same is true in other races and we will see many people ‘undervote’ in this election either by not voting at all or by not voting for either candidate.”

“For things to change, the people must engage in reforming and taking back the party apparatus,” Stevenot continued. “Until they do, voters should only expect more of the same.”

No Libertarian Option

Libertarian Ken Matesz took 2.39 percent of the statewide gubernatorial vote in 2010, but even if this year’s race were close Kasich wouldn’t have to worry about the impact of a Libertarian candidate.

Libertarian Charlie Earl initially qualified for the ballot but was removed after a legal challenge coordinated with input from Kasich’s re-election campaign. As a result, the only other candidates on the ballot are FitzGerald and Green Party nominee Anita Rios — unlikely recipients of protest votes from dissatisfied Republicans.

Press promotion of Kasich’s Obamacare expansion

Legacy news coverage has framed Gov. Kasich’s Obamacare Medicaid expansion as a self-evident good, burying evidence the expansion will not improve health, will hurt the state’s labor force and will cost Ohio billions.

Since early 2013, Ohio’s largest newspapers have repeated pro-Obamacare rhetoric without skepticism and hammered critics as hateful ideologues. The Dispatch, in particular, has made little effort to differentiate its news and opinion coverage of the issue.

Openly advocating in favor of the signature policy of the governor’s first term, the press encouraged Kasich to expand Medicaid unilaterally and then applauded his bravery and leadership when he did so. Editorial boards emphasized Kasich’s Obamacare expansion in their endorsements this fall.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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