Tomorrow’s primary results will determine the people who will represent the major political parties in this fall’s races for governor, Congress, the state legislature and for the Republicans – US Senate. But they could also hint at what will happen later this year.
There’s definitely a theme on the Republican primary ballot - "conservative". Republican pollster Neil Newhouse sees it in ads that have been airing in the race for governor and Congress and for state legislative offices. “By 2-1, Republican voters are Trump Republicans. It is his Republican Party now. So absolutely – he has taken over the party, and you see that, you see that in advertising here in the state. Ohio’s no different than any other state in that regard,” Newhouse said.
Mike DeWine and Mary Taylor have spent at least $10 million on their primary – by comparison, the nasty primary fight between Jim Petro and Ken Blackwell in 2006 was considered expensive and cost the candidates around $3 million.
And while primaries bring out voters on the far right and the far left, there’s a lot less money being poured in the Democratic race for governor. Only presumed frontrunner Richard Cordray has had the money to run TV ads for a while, which haven’t mentioned his Democratic opponents. Dennis Kucinich is likely his closest competitor, and has been a little tougher in radio ads.
Kyle Kondik is an Ohioan who now handicaps races around the country as the editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball newsletter out of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “Certainly, there’s this kind of insider-versus-outsider thing going on in the Democratic Party right now. It’s just not clear to me that Democrats are rejecting the so-called insiders the way they have been on the Republican side,” said Kondik.
Newhouse said regardless of how Republicans vote, there are three conclusions he can draw right now about the GOP in Ohio. “Number one: alive and well. Secondly: it’s Trump’s party. And third: you see these divisions within the Republican Party – in a very similar way, you see divisions within the Democratic Party.”
While Newhouse said he doesn’t see as much Democratic interest in this primary, he’ll be watching Democratic turnout in the special election in August for the Congressional seat that was occupied by Republican Pat Tiberi. In several other such races, Newhouse says Republican voters were overwhelmed by Democratic turnout. “It is that kind of disparity that we’re seeing in these special elections across the county, from my home state of Kansas to Pennsylvania – you’re seeing Democratic enthusiasm go through the roof,” Newhouse said.
Stats throughout this early voting period that began April 10 seemed to suggest Democrats were very interested in the four-way race for the nomination for governor. But Kondik says that’s not necessarily the case. “There are more Democratic ballots returned than Republican ones, which maybe suggests that there’s more interest in the Democratic side or what have you, but I don’t know if that really means anything,” Kondik said.
And Newhouse said this primary is just the start of the journey toward the November vote. “We have a long ways to go. This is a classic midterm election, it’s going to be – for those of you who like negative advertising, you’re in for a real treat.”
Both experts say that what happens this fall will be interesting to watch, but likely won’t give any major hints about what might happen in Ohio or nationwide in 2020.
(Video of this conversation at the Columbus Metropolitan Club is available here.)