Yesterday, I took advantage of a great opportunity to attend the Congressional Quarterly-Roll Call 2010 Election preview. It featured Political Wire’s Taegan Goddard as the moderator, Scott Rasmussen from Rasmussen Reports, Peter Brown from Quinnipiac, Tom Jensen from Democratic (but well respected) Polling Group PPP, and Greg Giroux from CQ-Roll Call.
But I digress.
William Hershey from the Dayton Daily News nailed the points driven home by these pollsters this weekend when he said Strickland has another opponent, besides John Kasich:
It’s Ted Strickland, the governor himself. Elections almost always are about the incumbent’s record and 2010 won’t be different.
When times are good, incumbents get credit, whether they helped the economy boom or just went along for the ride.
When times are bad?
They get blamed, even if they’re mayors and governors and the economic collapse is national and global.
That blame helped fuel Dayton Mayor Rhine McLin’s defeat on Nov. 3 at the hands of political newcomer Gary Leitzell. [see the 3BP post on Rhine McLin’s defeat here]
Hershey nailed what these three major pollsters repeated over and over again.
It’s the economy, stupid.
We’ll leave behind the argument about whether or not better leadership by Strickland would have minimized the economic blow felt by Ohioans [though a quick look at how Mitch Daniels managed Indiana during the same time period answers that question pretty quickly].
Instead, we must focus on the political reality, as these well-respected pollsters see it.
I discussed this issue with Quinnipiac’s Brown after the event, and we agreed that the reality is this – at the end of the day, incumbent politicians are victims of circumstance. They can play offense or defense all they want, but what matters is how voters perceive the state of the top issue in their lives to be – and in the case of 2010, that’s the economy and jobs.
I also had the opportunity to ask Brown and Scott Rasmussen about an issue that’s been bugging me for awhile, and that’s this – how soon must Ohio’s economy show marked improvement in order to pull Ted Strickland out of the abyss?
In other words, if Strickland wants to win, when must we see a continuous and strong string of job growth in the state begin?
Scott Rasmussen did a great job answering the question:
Economists tell us the recession is over. 75% of voters disagree…When we interview voters, their primary gauge about how they view the national economy…is what is happening at their workforce….as we sit here today, 52% of Americans say the economy is still getting worse. That’s actually an improvement from the beginning of the year. But what hasn’t improved is perceptions of their own personal finances. A majority still believe their personal finances are getting worse, and that’s unchanged.
When bad news comes…consumer confidence tanks immediately…When good news comes in, it takes a long time before people believe it….there is typically one indicator that drives perceptions…. in 2002, 2003 it was foreign affairs, then it became jobs for a little while, then it became gas prices….now, the indicator is jobs. And it’s not going to take one good jobs report. It’s going to take 6 months worth of jobs reports before people believe things are changing.
6 months. May 21st, 2010. That’s D-Day for Ted Strickland. The day the jobs report is released- five and a half months away from election day.
If a strong jobs rebound has not happened by then, Ted Strickland is in a world of hurt.
Brown reinforced the point here:
Ted Strickland’s chances of turning around the Ohio economy when the rest of the nation’s economy goes like this [points down] is zero. And intellectualy, everybody understands that, but that won’t stop them from voting him out.
Voters are much less complex than many of us think. They like things. They don’t like things. Most of them don’t focus on specifics. [In 2008,] Barack Obama was the antidote to George W. Bush. In Ohio, John Kasich is the antidote to Ted Strickland.
I like that.
Now, the question becomes, how likely is it that Ohio will “Turn Around” in time for Ted Strickland to save his political career?
One of the pollsters I spoke with after the event said, “we both know that’s not going to happen. Ohio is the first in and the last out of recessions. And that’s bad news for Ted Strickland.”
Indeed, it is.