Democrats exiting sinking ship? Part 16: Ohio 

The left-wing website Fire Dog Lake has commissioned two polls on incumbent Democratic House members from SurveyUSA. One showed seven-term incumbent Vic Snyder trailing Republican Tim Griffin 56%-39% in Arkansas-2, and Snyder promptly announced his retirement. Now we have another SurveyUSA poll showing Ohio-1 freshman Democrat Steve Driehaus trailing Republican former Congressman Steve Chabot also by 56%-39%.

District voters disapprove of Barack Obama’s job performance by a 55%-42% margin—a pretty negative verdict. Fire Dog Lake seems to be wary of the House and Senate bills’ requirements that individuals purchase health insurance, and the question on that issue in this poll reflects this: 28% favored a health care bill with such a requirement, 28% a bill without such a requirement and 40% opposed any health care bill. Fire Dog Lake makes much of the fact that only 40% are totally opposed, but when respondents are given three possible choices they tend to respond somewhat differently than when they get two choices. The results are interesting but not utterly dispositive. 

Steve Chabot was first elected by a 56%-44% margin in this district in 1994, defeating one-term Democratic incumbent David Mann. He won 54%-43% in 1996, 43%-47% in 1998, 53%-45% in 2000, 65%-35% in 2002, 60%-40% in 2004 and 52%-48% in 2006. Driehaus won 52%-47% in 2008. In other words, Ohio 1 was just a little more Republican than the national average vote for the House in most elections, with a spike upward in the good Republican years of 2002 and 2004, when Chabot’s Democratic opponent (the same man in both contests) spent less than $100,000. Ohio 1 includes most of the city of Cincinnati and its west side suburbs, plus a small part of suburban and rural Butler County to the north. It’s historically Republican, but its population in 2000 was 28% black and that percentage is probably significant higher now since there has been much white flight in this decade from the city of Cincinnati.  

The two Fire Dog Lake polls are ominous for congressional Democrats. The Arkansas-2 result suggests that Democratic incumbents in districts in what I have called the Jacksonian belt are in deep trouble. The Ohio 1 result suggests the same for Democratic incumbents in a much greater numbers of inner suburban districts around the country. Of course, polls are a snapshot at a point of time and these two may be capturing opinion at a moment which will prove to be passing. But these results suggest very strongly that, unless there’s a change in the tide of opinion, Republicans have an excellent chance of capturing the 40 seats they need for a majority in the House. Whether Steve Driehaus will choose to fight it out or retire remains to be seen.

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Michael Barone

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