Sracic: An Ohioan for the presidential ticket
Finally, it's all over. I'm pretty sure that is what a lot of Ohioans are thinking. None of us has ever been through anything like this, and it was not pleasant. While we appreciated having the national spotlight on us these past few months, the price was high. It was impossible to get away from the election.
Turn on the television, and political commercials, filled with shadowy pictures and foreboding music, were everywhere. Turn off the TV and turn on a computer, and your IP address would betray that you were coming in from the Buckeye State, and more ads would appear. Try to escape into a book, and the phone would ring. Toward the end of the campaign, most of us were getting about 10 calls every day.
For all of the high-tech Internet ads and targeted robocalls (I had no idea I was on a first-name basis with so many politicians, but the calls often addressed either me or my wife directly), in the end, election day was almost comfortingly old-fashioned.
Candidates and their supporters stood outside the polling locations, usually churches or schools, handing out paper flyers hoping to persuade late deciders to support their candidates. Inside the polling stations, dedicated poll workers -- the unsung heroes of American democracy -- tried their best to adapt to complex regulations governing who among their neighbors was and was not qualified to vote.
Ironically, given how much money was spent here, for the second presidential race in a row, Ohio did not matter. Barack Obama could have lost Ohio and won the election. Still, Ohio, with its hefty chunk of electoral votes and predilection for voting for the eventual winner, will doubtless remain at the center of future presidential contests.
Although Ohio once again voted for the winner (a pattern that now extends to 1964), those expecting a satisfying victory of one party over the other in Ohio were disappointed. In its own gentle way, it was as if the Buckeye State, like most voters across the country on Tuesday night, was admonishing the nation to seek some sort of bipartisan consensus.
While agreeing to give Obama a second term, Ohio voters handed the president a much narrower victory than he had enjoyed four years earlier. In fact, if Mitt Romney had just done a bit better than John McCain had in Ohio, he would have won the state.
And Ohio voters showed their ambivalence by deciding to keep the state legislature solidly in Republican hands and to send Republicans to Congress in 12 of Ohio's 16 congressional districts. While Democrats will argue that these Republican victories are more the result of political gerrymandering than clear voter intent, Ohioans also soundly rejected a ballot measure on Tuesday that would have redistricting out of the hands of the legislature.
While pundits have emphasized the importance of the auto bailout as essentially buying the votes of Ohio auto workers and their families, the harsh headline of the Mitt Romney opinion piece that had been published in the New York Times -- "Let Detroit go Bankrupt" -- might have offended voters more than the president's actions had earned their gratitude.
Over the past few years, Republicans in Ohio have shown themselves to be quite adept at offending voters. They did very well in the state's midterm elections two years ago. After regaining total control of the Ohio government, they passed a bill restricting the collective bargaining rights of nearly all public employees -- not only teachers and other government workers, as had been the case in Wisconsin, but also police and firefighters. The bill was overwhelmingly defeated when placed on the ballot in November 2011, and the anti-Republican momentum generated by the legislation rolled into this year's presidential contest.
Somewhat surprisingly, Republicans spent almost no time in Ohio rebuilding their support. Although there was a massive GOP get-out-the-vote effort, little was done to repair the party's brand name.
One of the most obvious moves that Republicans might have made would be to place moderate and widely popular Ohio Sen. Rob Portman on the ticket in 2012, instead of the more divisive Paul Ryan.
Sixty-eight years ago, in the summer of 1944, the Republican Party nominated Ohio Gov. John Bricker to be the vice-presidential candidate alongside presidential nominee Thomas Dewey. Although the GOP ticket was crushed by FDR, it is interesting to note that Ohio was one of only 12 states carried by the Republicans. It is hard not to credit Bricker with delivering his home state. After all, Roosevelt had never before lost Ohio. Four years later, Dewey, with his new running mate, California Gov. Earl Warren, would lose the Buckeye State in an election that everyone expected him to win.
If there was one Republican winner in Ohio, it was probably Portman. As Romney's practice partner for his debate preparations, Portman played a crucial role in Romney's success during the first presidential debate, the only event over the past few months that seemed to move the polls in Romney's direction. This was actually the fourth campaign in which Portman has played this role, and some GOP insiders are probably contemplating that perhaps it is time for Portman to be a presidential candidate rather than just playing one during debate practice.
It does make some sense to have an Ohioan at the top of the ticket. After all, the one thing we can be sure of in 2016 is that, once again, all eyes will be on Ohio. But for those of us who make our home in the Buckeye State, this is something that we would rather not think about right now.
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