COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Last week, voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot issue that the Ohio Republican Party backed, and many right-leaning groups and organizations backed; this was the first major loss for Ohio Republicans in years. But analysts on both sides of the aisle said it may not indicate a shift in the state’s overall political ideology.
“As much as I would love to say that Ohio is becoming the quintessential swing stage again, I think it’s way too early to make that judgement,” Democratic strategist Dale Butland said. “Ohio is not a purple state and I think anyone suggesting that may need to be tested for color blindness,” Republican strategist Matt Dole said.
Dole and Butland said while the issue was rejected, it is was not a partisan election with a clear ‘R’ and ‘D’ next to the choices. “That’s not a measure of ideology,” Dole said. “It’s a measure of turnout.”
“This was a great win, no doubt, for the Democratic side,” Butland said. “But I think the only thing it ensures is we are very likely to win in November as well and enshrine abortion rights in our constitution.” The state has been comfortably red for decades: Ohio has had a Republican governor for 28 of the past 32 years, republicans currently hold super majorities in the Ohio House and Senate, and Republicans hold all statewide offices.
But this loss for the party comes just before another major vote in November, asking Ohioans whether they want to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution. “There will be momentum, there’s no doubt,” Butland said. “I think the Democratic Party has been energized in a way it hasn’t been in many, many years.”
But Butland and Dole said while these hot-button issue elections may garner wins for the Ohio democratic party, it is going to come down to who is coming out on top in candidate races to determine where Ohio stands. “I think democrats need to win Statehouse seats, state Senate seats, Congressional seats and statewide elections to turn Ohio purple or blue,” Dole said.
“When you get to party affiliation and you have elections that are partisan elections or a Democrat running against a Republican, I think it remains to be seen whether we are on the road back now,” Butland said.
In 2024, Ohio will also have a race for U.S. senate. Currently, incumbent Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), is polling neck and neck with two of the republican candidates and Butland said those results could yield a strong indication of Ohio’s ideology. “If the incumbent with almost universal name ID is running even with two challengers who are lesser known on the other side, that is a cause for deep concern,” Butland said.