There was some huge political news made Monday morning but I bet it slipped by a lot of Americans. It shouldn’t!
Monday Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman announced he would retire at the end of his term rather than run for reelection in 2022. That takes that race from lean Republican to toss-up. The Senate is currently 50-50 and should stay that way excluding the death of a sitting Senator from a state with a governor of the other Party or a defection. I feel the latter is increasingly unlikely but I won’t totally rule out Lisa Murkowski becoming an independent and caucusing with the Democrats however I feel that is highly unlikely.
Ohio has been a swing state for decades. Recently it has turned a more reddish shade of purple but it is far from a lock for the Republicans. I felt Portman’s seat was marginally in play in 2022 but with his retirement it is now game on.
Portman cited the partisan gridlock as the reason for his retirement. Considering he was one of Trump’s principle water carriers I find that laughable. It is as if Al Capone announced he was leaving Chicago because of all the organized crime activity in the city. So why did Portman decide not to run for reelection?
It can’t be his age. He will be 66 on Election Day 2022; that is a spring chicken by the standards of the Senate.
It can’t be his track record in his previous two Senate races. He won both garnering votes in the mid to high 50s; comfortable margins for a swing state.
One factor may well be that Portman, like everyone in either chamber of Congress, doesn’t like being in the minority. Evidentially he doesn’t buy the Republican rhetoric that they will easily take back the Senate in 2022. When coupled with another relatively obscure Monday morning news item I think his retirement tells us a lot about the current state of the GOP. Monday morning Sarah Huckabee-Sanders declared her candidacy for Governor of Arkansas in 2022. I think she has a good chance of winning. I think Portman has decided that a Trumper has a good shot at winning statewide in Deep South Arkansas but not so good a chance in mid-western Ohio.
Portman by spreading the talking points of the Kremlin and SVR has, like Trump, proven to be Putin’s puppet. Enough Buckeye State voters will remember that to have made his reelection questionable.
This is the third Republican Senate 2020 cycle retirement in a swing state. (Richard Burr in North Carolina and Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania.) It is simply much less difficult to win an open seat than it is to defeat an incumbent. The reality is that these three states present Democrats with opportunities to swing seats.
Now we get into the crucial behind the scenes of electoral politics. Candidates matter and the next step is recruitment. In order to flip theses seats the Democrats will need to recruit their number one draft choices. New DNC Chair, Jamie Harrison, has a proven track record as a fundraiser; we’ll find out if he can recruit. He will have to work closely with the Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). A problem is that as of this writing that position is vacant. Those two will also have to be in consultation with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
The right candidate can make all the difference! I have not looked at the Ohio Democratic “bench” yet so I will not offer an opinion on the optimal candidate. However I suspect one person will put her name forward who is absolutely the wrong candidate.
On the other side of the candidate coin is who the GOP picks. Part of me hopes it is a right wing extremist who should be easier to beat in the fall of 2022. The flip side of that is that if the radical is elected we are most likely stuck with another nut case in the Senate for at least six years. That is out of the Democrats’ control. What they can control is who their candidate is. It has to be someone progressive enough to get out the Democratic vote but not so far left as to alienate the moderate voters of Ohio.
It is far from over – in fact it is just starting – but the road to retaining the Senate in 2022 just got a little wider for the Democrats and one of those lanes goes through Ohio.
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