Mitt Romney does have John Kasich in his camp, but the Ohio governor’s buoyant message on the state’s economy clashes with the Republican presidential candidate’s insistence that a lack of progress on the jobs front under the Obama administration requires a change in leadership.
If the economy is so terrible, voters might wonder, then why not start thinking about getting rid of Kasich in 2014?
In terms of ideological compatibility, Romney’s pick for vice president, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, is a better fit for Kasich, who, when not talking about how he’s already saved Ohio from economic oblivion, likes to talk about cutting spending and lowering taxes, just like Ryan.
But this presidential election in Ohio isn’t going to be decided by firing up the Republican base, even though, one must presume, that’s a big reason for Ryan being on the ticket. What’s taking shape is a contest in which the partisans on either side are locked in, with a few swing voters likely to decide the outcome in Ohio, which could decide who wins in the Electoral College.
So, the question lingers, would U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio’s favorite son, have been a better choice?
Well, maybe, in a very, very close election. Any analysis of Portman’s potential impact must take into account the circumstances surrounding his one and only statewide race, his 2010 victory over Democrat Lee Fisher, then lieutenant governor.
History points to the ticket of Thomas Dewey and Ohio Gov. John Bricker beating Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman in Bricker’s home state — by less than half a percentage point — in 1944.
As Romney pondered his choices for vice president, some saw Portman as more helpful than that in Ohio’s swing counties. One of Portman’s local supporters, Mike Hudkins, a former deputy mayor for economic development in Akron, analyzed six counties that voted for George W. Bush in 2004 and Barack Obama four years later.
In those counties (Hamilton, Lake, Ottawa, Sandusky, Tuscarawas and Wood), Portman beat Fisher with 57 percent of the vote or better.
Portman was certainly amply qualified to be vice president. He is a steady campaigner, with virtually no likelihood of making mistakes, let alone gaffes of Palinesque proportions. Still, his numbers in 2010 were inflated by several factors, making it very difficult to determine whether he would have made much of an impact on the presidential race in Ohio.
First, Portman rode a GOP wave in 2010, compensating for his lack of name recognition beyond his former congressional distict in the Cincinnati area. Even now, few voters in other areas of Ohio have much of an idea who Portman is.
Next, Fisher, a veteran of races for attorney general, governor and lieutenant governor, “wasn’t a good enough candidate,” by his own post-election analysis.
Fisher was state development director, too, during part of his time as lieutenant governor, making him vulnerable to attacks over Ohio’s job losses. Even so, he failed to connnect to voters and fundraisers, leaving him behind in the polls and without enough money to match Portman in television ads.
The race did show that fears Portman might tie Romney to George W. Bush were probably overblown. Portman, head of Bush’s trade office and budget director, never seemed to suffer for that during the 2010 race, beating Fisher by almost 20 percentage points as Democrats tried to paint him as a protege of Bush.
Ryan, who continues an Ohio campaign swing today with a morning rally at Walsh University in North Canton, may be able to connect to tea partyers and conservative policy wonks. To really help Romney in Ohio, he will have do a better job than he did at the Iowa State Fair on Monday, his first solo appearance as vice-presidential nominee.
There, according to reports, Ryan faced a crowd of everyday Iowans, some of whom started shouting slogans about cutting Medicare and making war on the poor. Allowed 20 minutes to speak, Ryan left his soapbox after 12.
In picking Ryan, Romney opted for a campaign about big ideas. To win Ohio, he and Ryan also must convince swing voters they aren’t hopelessly out of touch with everyday people here.
Hoffman is a Beacon Journal editorial writer. He can be reached at 330-996-3740 or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.