Substantial Cash and Polling Lead Positions Kasich for Major Victory
Following the defeat at the ballot box of Senate Bill 5 — the collective bargaining legislation — it appeared Governor John Kasich and his Republican counterparts were in trouble in Ohio. They appeared in electoral trouble because they had moved too far to the political right with budget cuts and anti-labor legislation. Move up the clock a couple years and Governor Kasich appears in a strong position to not just win re-election, but do so with a margin that will likely carry most other statewide elected Republicans across the victory line. In a politically volatile state like Ohio, it is too early to claim victory for anyone, but the Republicans appear in strong positions in fundraising and polling.
Post Primary Campaign Finance Reports indicate a substantial lead for Governor Kasich in the fundraising battle. Kasich’s campaign has a cash balance of $9.3M pulling in $1.76M over just the last two months. Kasich’s Democratic opponent, one term Cuyahoga County Executive Ed Fitzgerald, had a balance of almost $2M. More troubling for Fitzgerald is his current balance is about maxed out with support from the Democrats prime political and fundraising supporters- organized labor. Of the $835,571 raised by Fitzgerald in the Post Primary Period, nearly half came from organized labor. Unions gave the maximum amount permitted under Ohio law to Fitzgerald as soon as they could for the General Election with contributions of $323,385 in the Post Primary Report. Add in the Ohio Democratic Party, who is heavily supported by labor, and two-thirds of Fitzgerald’s money comes from labor and the state party.
As an unknown statewide candidate, Fitzgerald will need to substantially increase his fundraising beyond organized labor who lacks the ability to fully fund a statewide campaign for Governor. The large fundraising gap between the two gubernatorial candidates dwarfs that of the 2010 post-primary filings where Gov. Kasich reported an on-hand campaign balance of $5.7M to incumbent Gov. Ted Strickland’s $7.6M. This massive fundraising lead will not only permit Governor Kasich to get his message out to voters, but will give him the resources to define the unknown Fitzgerald.
Of greater concern for Fitzgerald is the fact that the Democratic Governors Association nor any other independent group failed to answer a two-commercial salvo fired by the Republican Governor’s Association supporting Kasich around the Primary Election. The RGA ads ran for several weeks and simply went unanswered by Democratic aligned groups. As July begins, no independent groups have lined up to assault Governor Kasich.
Traditionally, the performance of the Party’s top of the ticket dictate’s voter turnout. Close races generate interest from both parties. Blow-outs can result in the losing party struggling to turnout voters. A Kasich victory by 10 or more points may well make it difficult for other statewide Democrats to win. The Democratic candidates for Auditor, Secretary of State, Attorney General and Treasurer all face the additional challenge of not being elected statewide and only one candidate has even run statewide before. Fitzgerald’s weak performance creates a tough decision for the Democrats. Do they cut him off and focus big on one other statewide race? Do they pump more money into Fitzgerald’s campaign thinking it is the key to turnout? Tough questions for any party leaders to face on July 4th.