Is DeWine History?
Reuters photo of DeWine shaking hands with his albatross
It was just several days ago that the GOP talked confidently about building a firewall around three key Senate races to stop the DSCC from taking a run at the Senate, with one of those being Mike DeWine’s race in Ohio. My, how things change days later.
Senior Republican leaders have concluded that Senator Mike DeWine of Ohio, a pivotal state in this year’s fierce midterm election battles, is likely to be heading for defeat and are moving to reduce financial support for his race and divert party money to other embattled Republican senators, party officials said.
The decision to effectively write off Mr. DeWine’s seat, after a series of internal Republican polls showed him falling behind his Democratic challenger, is part of a fluid series of choices by top leaders in both parties as they set the strategic framework of the campaign’s final three weeks, signaling, by where they are spending television money and other resources, the Senate and House races where they believe they have the best chances of success.
Republicans are now pinning their hopes of holding the Senate on three states — Missouri, Tennessee and, with Ohio off the table, probably Virginia — while trying to hold on to the House by pouring money into districts where Republicans have a strong historical or registration advantage, party officials said Sunday.
The decision involving Mr. DeWine offers the most compelling evidence so far that Republicans are circling their wagons around a smaller group of races, effectively conceding some Senate and House seats with the goal of retaining at least a thin margin of control when the 110th Congress is seated next January. Democrats need to win 6 seats to capture the Senate and 15 seats to win the House on Nov. 7.
Even before this development, Republicans had been bracing for the defeat of three sitting Republican senators: Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Conrad Burns of Montana and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, based on polling.
At the start of the fall campaign, national Republican leaders developed a strategy to pour most of the national money into three states — Ohio, Tennessee and Missouri — to create a firewall against a Democratic takeover. One Republican Party official said Mr. DeWine’s continued problems in Ohio had persuaded them to in effect rebuild a firewall that has now partly collapsed, and to find a state to replace it.
The decision about Mr. DeWine’s seat came after recent internal polls showed Mr. DeWine’s Democratic challenger, Representative Brown, jumping to a large lead. Mr. Brown’s surge came despite a barrage of Republican advertisements intended to portray him as weak on national security — the very line of attack that had given party officials confidence earlier this year that Mr. DeWine would be re-elected.This decision, if true, is huge for several reasons. By pulling out of Ohio, the firewall been breached already, and this decision will affect the down-ballot GOP house races and winger turnout effort. But more importantly, it reflects a failure of Rove’s national security message against Sherrod Brown’s economic populism message.
Note that the NRSC is retrenching to defend Tennessee, but it appears that Harold Ford, Jr. is gaining strength against the ethically-weakened Bob Corker. And Claire McCaskill is still running neck and neck with Jim Talent in Missouri by tailoring her message carefully, so the prospects for the remaining firewall to hold aren’t strong either. As Nagourney reports, the NRSC is in essence writing off three GOP incumbents aside from DeWine, so Schumer and Reid are cautiously looking at a possible gain of four Senate seats already, with Tennessee, Missouri, and Virginia still out there. I suspect these may be offset by a possible Menendez loss in New Jersey, as I am not convinced that he can beat the stumbling Tom Kean, Jr. But in any event, a pullout by the NRSC in Ohio has many repercussions far beyond that race and signals that the message strategy may have failed as well.