Keep A Buckeye Peeled

It is not too soon to look ahead to 2018. If it weren’t for Russiagate our domestic politics would already be dominated by 2018 discussions. There will be a plethora of interesting and impactful races. Today I want to zero in on one state that I feel has the potential to be extremely impactful on the 2020 elections very much depending on what happens in two races in 2018. Let’s explore.

The title gave away the location – it is Ohio. My argument is to a degree framed by a “prejudice” of mine – for years I have thought that Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown would make a great Democratic Vice Presidential candidate. Of late the problem has been that Ohio’s Governor is a Republican and if Brown were part of a winning ticket his seat, at least in the interim, would go over to the Republicans. What if that changed as a result of the 2018 election? Now here is the curveball; Brown needs to get reelected to his Senate seat in 2018 and although probable, it is far from a lock.

Ohio’s current Governor is the popular Republican John Kasich. Kasich is running up against term limits and can’t run for reelection in 2018. Especially with Trump looking so weak and vulnerable, the smart money is that Kasich will spend his “unemployment” running for President.

I’m not going to begin to explore all the possible gubernatorial candidate of both Parties in Ohio other than to say there are a lot of interesting and viable names on both sides meaning who declares, who wins the primaries and who wins the general election will provide plenty of fodder for newspapers like the Cleveland Plain Dealer. There are several names being mentioned as possible GOP challengers to Brown for the Senate seat, many of which have some viability.

I grew up and spent my young adulthood the other side of Lake Erie from Ohio and visited the state many times. While far from an expert on the state I have a feel for it. Ohio is a diverse state. It has Midwestern sensibility however it is still close enough to the East to have some influences from that region. Its proximity to the South (mainly in the form of Kentucky) makes a southern influence something worth considering if you plan on winning statewide election in Ohio. If you read J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy he details that influence in great depth. Interesting, Vance’s name is one being bandied around as a possible 2018 opponent for Brown. He was born in Ohio, has money and his undergraduate degree from Ohio State.

Ohio is pretty much smack in the middle of the country geographically and to a significant degree demographically. Ohio has two major cities, several medium size cities as well as farmland and mining regions. Ohio is part of the Rust Belt having lost many manufacturing (and mining) jobs over the past few decades. Unions have been weakened or killed off and a lot of blue collar people feel like government has abandoned and forgotten them. This is part of what Trump tapped into.

Those who believe in the science of politics have long looked at Ohio as the bellwether state! No Republican has ever won the presidency without carrying Ohio. That is not to say it can’t be done; but it never has been. While many other elections will offer us hints as to the short-term American political future none will be as insightful as what happens next November in Ohio.

While I think it is much more likely that the 2020 GOP standard bearer will be Mike Pence or Donald Trump (in that order), it is not outside the realm of possibility that it will be John Kasich. In that event one of the few people in the Democratic Party that would have a good chance of besting a Kasich-led ticket in Ohio is Sherrod Brown. The Democrats needs to take back the Rust Belt or they simply cannot win in 2020. Brown can help make that happen regardless of who else is on either ticket.

The only way Brown becomes a practical 2020 Veep candidate is if he wins reelection and the Democrats simultaneously take the governorship in Ohio in 2018. Even sans a presidential race there will be plenty of states to watch on the evening of November 6, 2018 but none more meaningful, ominous and potentially impactful than the Buckeye State.

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