I promised you in March that I would produce my predictions for the Ohio House, Ohio Senate and Congress three times prior to Election Day. This is how I weigh the races before endorsements are made, TV commercials are viewed, and direct mail is read. Two factors strongly influence this report. First, the new 2010 district lines and second, current voter enthusiasm that is trending more Republican than Democratic. As a result, I do not see the same voter turnout model that existed in 2008. The lines are just too hard to overcome.  I eagerly await your feedback – as you know, I live for this stuff!

My Election Predictions as of July 2012

With less than 100 days remaining until the November 6, 2012 Election, most campaigns are operating in full gear. Today, armed with the most recent election and polling information, combined with over three decades of experience, I composed my second of three Ohio Election Predictions document for the composition of the 130th Ohio General Assembly and Congress.

You may recall that in my March 2012 newsletter, I wrote about a card that I first used 15 years ago. That card was an outline that I used for a speech on campaigns and elections. In doing so, I wrote what I considered to be the seven most important variables that determine whether or not a candidate can win an election. This little card has proven to be invaluable over the years and I tuck it into a little hiding place and unearth it during each election season. (If you know me, the mere fact that I remember where I’ve hid the card proves how valuable it is to me!)

When candidates call or visit me to discuss election strategy, they know I will gladly share with them my experiences that I developed over thirty years ago when I was part of the Republican team that took back control of the Ohio Senate (which we haven’t lost since). During these meetings, I always refer to the magic card that started and has since evolved through the years. Without revealing too many secrets, here are the highlights:

At the top of my card are these four categories:

Lines 50%
Money 15%
Issues 10%
Candidate 10%
Organization 5%

Lines:
As you know, redistricting of the 99 House districts and 33 Senate districts is carried out by the 5 members of the Apportionment Board every 10 years. This was completed in late 2011, and applies to the races beginning in 2012.

Before the “one man, one vote” decision by the United States Supreme Court, Ohio elected two members from each of its 88 counties. Because of this, Ohio developed a strong, rural “Corn Stalk Brigade” philosophy that dominated the political agenda.

Today, the vast majority of the seats in the Ohio General Assembly are classified as safe seats. From my point of view, that is a district with an index that supports a political party 55% or better – meaning about 84% of the members in the Ohio House are from districts that have strong leanings toward their political party. Another 5% live in districts that range from 53.1% to 55%. Combining the two classifications equals 89%.

Conversely, the number of districts considered “in play” or contested, are districts that have an index of 53% or less. There are only 10 seats or 11% that are contested at this point.

In the Ohio Senate, 26, or 79% of the 33 seats are considered safe. Only two incumbents currently hold seats that could flip based on the indexes – but that won’t be decided until the 2014 election. That means 5 seats fall into that 53% or less index. With that explanation you can easily see why I give the category of

As I have illustrated, the lines generally determine winner. But there are exceptions; an impressive one being Senator Scott Oelslager’s career. The Senator, and now “Dean of The Senate,” was first appointed in 1985 and hasn’t lost an election since, despite having districts with Republican indexes as low 47% to a high of 52% for the last three decades.

So Lines get top billing with a few exceptions.

Money:
If you have any doubt about the importance of money in the elections process, I’m sure open to hearing your point of view. To illustrate my point, I literally receive 20 to 30 requests a week for political contributions. And as any lobbyist will tell you, it certainly doesn’t stop after the election. I get more calls for money than for substantive political or policy purposes. And it’s not the caucuses raising funds for individual, future leadership races but for TV, Radio, Polling, and Direct Mail needs. Why? Because sadly money can cure most election problems – enough said.

Issues:
When the lines are right, and a caucus has money in the bank, the legislative issues or the Governor’s agenda will draw a candidate into a campaign. You only need to remember the Celeste 90% income tax increase, or the 2006 “Culture of Corruption” sentiment that lead to the Democrats’ landslide and to the Republicans’ recapturing the Ohio House in 2010 based on strong voter disapproval of President Obama. What I have found over my career is that you don’t need a ton of issues to win a race…just three…and I am equally sure that there are enough issues already.

Candidate:
Political consultants get giddy and sassy when the perfect candidate comes their way. Perhaps they’re a seasoned veteran of politics or even a political unknown. I see value in both types. When I was working in the Ohio Senate we had a candidate from a marginal district, running against a very popular Ohio House member. Our initial baseline poll showed our candidate with a 4% name ID. I remember saying that 50% of the polled respondents were lying. In the end this supposed unknown won 60-40.

Organization:
I continue to be a believer in the importance of a strong organization.

In 1984, the Ohio Senate Republicans had an awesome organization. By 2006, the Democratic Party had an envious grassroots organization. And in 2010, the Ohio House Republicans created an organization that everyone wanted for Christmas! When a strong, versatile campaign committee is nimble and experienced, it can deploy resources within the critical time required thus resulting in victory. Investing resources to keep up with technology and the times only helps you in the future when times are rough.

Governor’s Popularity 3%
Generic Ballot 3%
Presidential Popularity 4%

Every morning while I’m having my coffee, I click on RealClearPolitics.com to get the most recent polling information on the President’s popularity and the Generic Ballot. October 15, 2008, Rasmussen polled the Generic Ballot question, “Are you going to vote this upcoming election R or D?” At +12 Democrat. A few weeks later, the D’s won the Ohio House.

Then on October 15, 2010, the Generic ballot was +12% R – and sure enough, two weeks later the House R’s took the majority. By October 15, 2011 the Generic Ballot had dropped to +3% R and today it is +1.8% R. When a district falls into high-risk competitive category, 53% index or less, the variables in the second category are extremely critical. A candidate rarely bucks the trend, so it’s important to pay attention to the numbers. However, beating the lines is not that easy.

Here are some of the latest poll results;

Looking at the Battleground States:

Obama leads in 11 of the 14 original battleground states. However, with 98 days remaining there are now only 9 toss-up states. They are highlighted below in red:
Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Nationally, Obama leads Romney by an average 1.4%

In Ohio, Obama leads Romney by an average of 5.0%.

In Florida, Obama leads Romney by an average of 0.6%.

In Iowa, Obama leads Romney by an average 1.3%.

In Virginia, Obama leads Romney by an average of 1.2%.

In Missouri, Romney leads Obama by an average of 6.0%

In North Carolina, Romney leads Obama by an average of 0.4%

Obama’s national average approval rating is 47.3% approve and 47.7% disapprove.

Battle for the White House Electoral Map:

Real Clear Politics currently has; Obama 231, Romney 191 and toss-ups at 116. The winner needs 270 Electoral College votes.
Romney’s solid 13 states make up 76 Electoral College votes. It takes 10 of those 13 to equal California, which is solid Obama. Obama is beating Romney 142 to 76 in solid state Electoral College votes.

Battle for the US Senate:
US Senate is currently projected at 47 D’s to 45 R’s with 8 toss-ups. 51 are needed for Majority.

Battle for the US House:
US House is 172 D’s to 214 R’s with 49 toss-ups. 218 are needed for Majority.

The Congressional Generic Ballot is plus 1.4% Republican.

Congress’s approval rating has a national average of 17.5%. Disapproval is 76.3%.
The national mood, on average, towards the Affordable Health Care Act is 50.8% for repeal and 41.2% against repeal.
Obama’s national average approval rating is 49% approve and 46.3% disapprove.

I have included my worksheets for your review and my spreadsheet can be found on my website at www.GrantStreetOhio.com under the Documents heading.

As it stands today, I see the Ohio House with 60 R’s and 39 D’s and the Senate with 23 R’s and 10 D’s. Congress at 11 R’s and 5 D’s.

I’ll update you again as we get closer to Election Day, likely in late September.

But the REAL STORY IS WILL THE INITIATIVE PETITION FILED BY VOTER’S FIRST MAKE IT TO THE NOVEMBER BALLOT?  IF IT DOES – AND PASSES – THEN THIS YEAR’S ELECTION FOR THE OHIO HOUSE, OHIO SENATE AND CONGRESS LOSES IT’S SHINE.

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