The Ripon Forum

Volume 44, No. 1

Winter 2010 Issue

The New Horizon

By on October 23, 2014

John Kasich and Rob Portman stand poised to lead a Republican comeback in Ohio

by MIKE OXLEY

After two dismal showings in the elections of 2006 and 2008, Republicans in the great political state of Ohio are ready for a comeback. Let’s face it, in both of these cycles, the Democrats didn’t win so much as our Republican Party lost, due to scandals and poor judgment exercised by some of our Ohio elected officials.

In a recent piece about Ohio politics for National Review Online, Jim Geraghty quotes a source who observed that the losses stemmed from “an anti-corruption wave in 2006 and the excitement and enthusiasm for Obama in 2008.” Voters in the ultimate swing state are smart and engaged, and they don’t hesitate to make their displeasure known at the polls.

The Republican brand has been damaged, and it’s up to us to restore it with quality candidates who connect with voters on core values and who advocate sound public policy. Just one year ago, few would have predicted the tremendous opportunity for our Party that is now before us in 2010.

President Obama’s campaign message of hope and change has quickly become dismay and disappointment among the electorate. His soaring start has stalled and is now more of a freefall, as Ohioans increasingly disapprove of the broad direction on mega-issues like the economy, health care, energy cap-and-trade, government spending, and security/terrorism.

President Obama’s campaign message of hope and change has quickly become dismay and disappointment among the electorate.

Internationally, despite Obama’s hopes expressed during the campaign and in the first months of his presidency, his personal appeal and popularity have done nothing to budge the world’s dictators and nuclear bullies. The extent to which he has adopted many of the previous Administration’s international policies is remarkable, and he is learning that perhaps many of those policies were the best course, after all.

At home, Ohioans are less than impressed with economic stimulus bills that cost hundreds of billions of dollars but don’t stimulate the economy. At this writing, Ohio’s unemployment rate is 10.6 percent, and behind that number stand hundreds of thousands of out-of-work Ohioans and their families who are paying the human cost of the housing/credit crunch combined with a vicious recession. In July of 2009, the unemployment rate was above 11 percent, the worst since the recession of the early 1980s.

While it seemed overwhelming at his inauguration, President Obama’s job approval is fading fast. It has turned out to be a thin reed on which to build the Democrats’ basis for governing.

OXThe elections of 2009 revealed the shallowness of Democrats’ support, particularly in the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey. In those two races, the first-time voters, unmarried women, younger voters, African Americans, and Latinos that comprised the Obama “surge” stayed home. Candidates (now Governors) Bob McDonnell in Virginia and Chris Christie in New Jersey outperformed GOP presidential nominee John McCain’s 2008 results among conservatives, moderates, and men. The truly independent voters who came to the polls in 2009 were more conservative than those who voted in 2008.

Going forward, it is important to watch the views of true independent, swing voters, as they determine the outcomes of elections. By definition, they are likely to be uncomfortable with one-party rule and with excessive government programming and spending.

Having said all of this, it would be a huge mistake for Republicans to assume that Democrats’ stumbles will result automatically in GOP success.

Should Republicans and conservatives fail to unite, the result will be more years of liberal Democrats in public office.

As Republicans, it is our challenge and responsibility to present proven leaders with effective ideas to the voters. Politically, our candidates must be able to bring together Republican Party loyalists and conservatives, as well as making progress among youth, women, and minorities.

We have a great deal of enthusiasm. However, should Republicans and conservatives fail to unite, the result will be more years of liberal Democrats in public office who generally seek to use government as a means to re-engineer society, as well as to collect and to redistribute wealth. Should we fail to unite, we will be standing by and watching it all happen.

We are fortunate to have talented and capable candidates running for the Republican nominations for Senate and Governor this year. I believe that Ohio Republicans can present one of the most formidable tickets in the nation by nominating Rob Portman for Senate and John Kasich for Governor. I was fortunate to serve with both of them in the U.S. House of Representatives. John and Rob have energy as well as years of experience, policy expertise as well as common sense.

As one of the best budgeteers in Congress during his tenure, John Kasich has what it takes to effectively tackle Ohio’s economic and financial problems as governor. He also knows the workings of business and the media and is one of the most energetic and committed people you will ever meet.

Similarly, I can’t think of anyone better suited to represent Ohio in the U.S. Senate than Rob Portman. Rob’s deep knowledge about budgeting and international trade, as well as his abilities to think strategically and to connect with voters, will make a dynamic contribution to Ohio’s recovery and prosperity.

We are fortunate to have these two intelligent and respected leaders running as Republicans. We should nominate Portman and Kasich and do everything possible to ensure their election in November of 2010.

Certainly, Buckeye football transcends politics for Ohioans. But perhaps the Buckeyes won’t mind if we borrow some inspiration and a page from Coach Tressel’s Rose Bowl playbook: with talent, unity, drive, intelligence, and hard work, the Buckeyes got up from numerous defeats and won. We can too.

Michael G. Oxley is Of Counsel at Baker Hostetler, Washington, D.C. He represented Ohio’s Fourth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives for more than 25 years and was a Member of Ohio’s General Assembly for nine years.

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