I would think that with all the drama being created about possible congressional seats that are in close races giving Democrats hope for the upcoming midterms that the news would be reported the other way. But then again, of course not. One of the biggest races in the country which is threatening one of the Senate’s biggest liberals is that between Sherrod Brown and the conservative challenger Jim Renacci. Where was this news on Fox and the other networks? It’s one of the biggest political stories in the nation yet nobody is reporting it. Can you imagine the earthquake heard around the world if Sherrod Brown fell on election night in Ohio to a handpicked Trump senatorial candidate? Yet only 4% is all that stands between them taken from a liberal poll at the start of September 2018. As it stands Brown has 46% to Renacci’s 42% which is within the margin of error and can be said to be a tie statistically speaking. In the case of this poll sampling, the name recognition and demographics favor Brown by a lot, so to have a statistical tie is big news. Probably the biggest news of the election because it says a whole lot about the true nature of the midterm race.
Sherrod Brown is a liberal in the Senate at the level of an Al Franken or Elizabeth Warren—perhaps even as liberal as Bernie Sanders. In conservative Ohio Brown has managed to stay in office because of the large union vote north of Columbus. But just two years ago many of those union voters, particularly in Cuyahoga County had Trump signs in front of their homes meaning things have changed for the liberal Senator. Renacci is cut from the same cloth as Trump and isn’t an anti-union guy meaning that those typical Brown supporters can feel good about Renacci if they want to vote for a piece of Trump, who had won the state with a roughly double-digit margin over Hillary Clinton. It’s a new political era in Ohio and Brown’s long run as a sitting senator is coming to an end.
There is still a long road to the election, but this particular election has the feel of a football game where a favored team is on the ropes holding on to a slim point advantage. To protect their victory they have to go into a prevent defense which is usually a ticket to a loss from a team that can afford to take risks. In Renacci’s case, he is the aggressor and he has Trump on the sidelines. Brown can’t afford to make Trump supporters angry because he is going after the same voters in many cases that gave Trump that big lead in Ohio. So by attacking Renacci he attacks Trump and that is dangerous for Brown.
There are three debates planned between the two candidates and this is where Brown is very vulnerable, because Renacci has a business background specifically in accounting and can talk numbers in a way that Brown needs to avoid. So in looking at the polling data supplied by Innovation Ohio I would project Renacci to be around 7% above Brown in all actuality. Of course voter turnout will be the key in the end, but at this point Republicans are just as energized in Ohio as Democrats. The problem with the Democrats is that they are at the disadvantage of trying to hold a vulnerable seat as opposed to being able to loosely defend themselves, which is the case of many Republicans like Ted Cruz in Texas facing challenges. Only this race in Ohio is a much bigger story. While Ted Cruz will surely end up with a comfortable victory, Sherrod Brown is poised to lose to Renacci. There is too much time on the clock for Brown to defend his seat against a very sharp Jim Renacci, and a very aggressive candidate at that. Knowing a bit about Renacci that I’ve been able to learn over the course of this year is that he is very competitive. Like Trump he will do whatever it takes to win, he will pound the pavement, give the speeches, energize his base, he’ll do the work. The same can’t be said about Brown. He has grown to take his seat for granted except for election years and he is already on his heels in uncomfortable ways. If he’s hoping to run out the clock on Renacci, that is a sure strategy to defeat. But if he wants to fight Renacci, and indirectly Trump himself, then he risks alienating his union support. Brown is in a really bad position.
The difference with Renacci however as opposed to Trump is that he is pretty mild-mannered and is very likable. He’s a traditional business person who has done things in life for the right reasons and when people meet him, that is what comes across. He’s just so likeable, so the more he goes around Ohio and meets people, the instant association with Trump is a plus, but for his own standing, Jim Renacci is just a good person, and a dedicated fighter which people can trust. That is what is the biggest danger to Brown over the coming two months of the political chess game. Brown for so long has managed to be that “other” senator which allowed Ohioans to feel like a bipartisan state with federal representation. Rob Portman is the conservative senator in the state who doesn’t make much by way of waves, and Brown has been that more blue-collar representative. But times have changed and Renacci has a real blue-collar background which gives voters who lean to the political right as blue-collar union types a person they can vote for without betraying the union hall. For them Renacci is a win, win. For Brown that is a nightmare.
Without question the Ohio senate race is the biggest indicator of Trump’s strength as president and the fact that Renacci is doing so well against the entrenched Brown says everything. But with two months to go, all Brown can really do is try to keep everything in front of him in a prevent position. But that won’t win this game at all. Against a weaker candidate, it might, but not with Jim Renacci. Jim is just the kind of guy who can beat Brown and the old Senator knows it. If the poll had come from Fox News or even the Republican party these numbers might not mean so much, but from Innovation Ohio, its huge news. They are not friendly to conservatives in any way.
I can proudly say that my bet has been on Jim Renacci from the very beginning. When I first learned the strategy of what Trump wanted to do in Ohio I was very supportive of it. And over the months that have followed it was easy to see how smart it was. Renacci is not a loser and he is committed to winning that Democratic held Senate seat and there isn’t much Brown can do to stop him. And that should be the lead story on every network, even CNN. But like any crowd who is rooting for a team they think is a sure thing and are trying to hold a lead against a much more aggressive team, they can only sit there in silence and hope things stay the way they are. But in their gut, they know that’s not the case. Their team is going to lose and all they can do to meet that reality is to sit there in silence and pray.
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