Handicapping the Senate race
Because this is what we discuss when a prominent election official suddenly announces their retirement, let the speculation about Voinovich's replacement BEGIN!
Until the nomination petitions are due, I will not be convinced that Rob Portman will be running for anything other than this U.S. Senate. And until the Republican primary results are certified, I will not be convinced that anyone other than Rob Portman will be the nominee. Simple enough? Portman has a Washington resume, and his public statements has shown a stronger preference for the Senate than to ever really run for Governor. DeWine wants to make a comeback, you say? Yeah, the base prefers Portman and is hungry for a statewide win.
A year ago, I would have made Lee Fisher the hands-on favorite for this nomination, regardless if Voinovich retired or not. But that's before the national economy went thermonuclear, thus making his track record at the Ohio Department of Development a more viable campaign issue. Has Lee Fisher done anything in the past three years to warrant this promotion? I'll leave that for the primary voters to decide, but Fisher is probably the institutional favorite at this point if he runs. Don't be surprised if the state's economy is the stated reason for Fisher to stay put.
My grassroots favorite pick is not Paul Hackett. It's Congressman Tim Ryan. Ryan is young, motivational, and become a blogsphere celebrity with his floor speeches about the Iraq war. However, Ryan hasn't been in office long. He has been awarded some plum committee assignments in this Congress, and a safe Congressional seat is a hard thing to give up, especially when you know that Jim Traficant is about to be released from prison and EVERYONE is wondering what he's going to do when he's released. On the legislative achievement side, Ryan's resume is rather thin, but that's an issue insiders focus on far more than voters really care about.
From what I know about Ryan, he's an ideological match for areas in Ohio that Democrats historically haven't done well in (think the 1990s' NEO/urban-centered strategy).
I want to include Columbus Mayor Mike Coleman. I think he's a bright guy who led the way to soften central Ohio for Democratic victory, but his wife's public struggles with alcoholism is a problem. I wouldn't be surprised if he's heading to D.C. for the Obama Administration.
Jennifer Brunner has been mentioned, and she'd be a welcomed voice in the U.S. Senate. However, if she leaves the Secretary of State seat vunerable in 2010 when the Apportionment Board is at stake, I'm blaming Chris Redfern. :)
The Republicans are hungry for a statewide victory and will be focused on this race. I sense the political tides which favored us in 2006 in 2008 will recede. For these reasons, I'd classify this race as leaning Republican right now. If I'm not alone in that assessment, then we may have a harder time recruiting a competitive challenger to Portman.