Friday, July 16, 2010

How Lee Fisher Can Win

 Yet again, Ohio will be a battleground state for a hard fought race. In 2004, this state was ground zero for campaigning as Bush and Kerry focused all their efforts here. Kerry did well in traditionally Democratic cities and even did well in urban swing counties. He unfortunately could not match Bush's margins in rural and suburban counties so he lost. In 2008 though, Obama turned out the cities even more. He improved in certain rural areas, most specifically the northern and western parts of the state. The area Obama was most successful in improving over Kerry was the suburbs of the big cities. Still, the national trend to Obama over Kerry was higher than the trend in Ohio. In the 2010 Senate race, Lee Fisher (D) will need to perform well to be successful in winning Ohio like Obama. Fisher is the Lieutenant Governor and he is from Cleveland. Before he was elected Lieutenant Governor in 2006 , Fisher was a State Senator from Cleveland. Polls show him in a tight race for George Voinovich's (R) open U.S Senate seat against Rob Portman (R). Besides being a former congressman from the Cincinnati area, Portman worked under the Bush Administration. Although 2010 should be a good year for Republicans, Fisher has a chance of actually picking up a Republican Senate seat by beating Portman. Fisher will soon have to face Portman's deep pockets but Fisher can still win this race. Here are some good ways for him to do that:
  • Make the race about Portman and his background. Rob Portman was a U.S trade representative under the Bush Administration.  On his website, Fisher does mention how he will not be a continuation of Bush policies. Unfortunately, this strategy is starting to become stale with the Democrats' popularity falling. The strategy works though because Portman is not an outsider Republican, he was a Republican in the Bush Administration. Fisher must remind voters about how bad Bush was while portraying himself as someone with new ideas. Already, Fisher mentions on his website frequently how he  does not represent the policies that lead us into this economic decline but Portman does. Something else Fisher does well is that he has a page devoted to jobs with a detailed plan for creating them. He needs to keep focusing on jobs. It did not work for Kerry in 2004 in Ohio but it will work now.
  • Focus more on the rural voters. Fisher's website does have a page for rural voters but it should be more detailed and show specific ways Fisher helped farmers and others in rural communities. Farmers and others in rural areas were the reason Bush won Ohio in 2004 so if Fisher can swing some of them to the Democrats, he should be successful. Fisher should run an ad showing how Portman wanted to cut farm subsidies by 60% while Fisher has strongly supported the 2008 farm bill and development for rural communities. Fisher highlights how he strongly fought crime and helped children in urban areas. These issues should help with votes in Cleveland, Akron and will probably play well in Columbus. Farmers working on their crops will not be thinking about crime in urban areas right now though.
  • Win the rural counties near the Ohio River (also known as Southeast Ohio.) Fisher has roots in Northeast Ohio while Portman is popular in the Cincinnati and Southwest Ohio areas. The union presence may help Fisher in Southeast Ohio but if Fisher wants to win, he must run up numbers here. In 2006, successful Gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland (D) and Senatorial candidate Sherrod Brown piled up large margins in these counties. In 2004, Kerry tried to win by winning big margins in Northeast Ohio. Even though he won areas outside of Northeast Ohio like Columbus and Dayton, it still was not enough to win. Overall, Kerry proved that unless you do well in rural areas (or run up margins in urban areas outside of Northeast Ohio,) you cannot win in Ohio. For Fisher to win here, he needs to highlight his family's background as eastern European immigrants. Although many voters are Scots-Irish, there is a good portion of eastern European immigrant descendants throughout Northeast Ohio and the river counties. Also, Fisher needs to highlight strongly how he helped workers rights with his support of the Paycheck Fairness Act for example.
  • Win the progressive base that supported Jennifer Brunner (D) before Fisher beat her in the Senatorial primary. This should not be too hard for Fisher even though Brunner said she will not endorse him. This should not impact Fisher strongly because there is not a large progressive base in Ohio. Many of the Democrats here are more liberal on issues like the economy but are not the environment liberals you find in California or the social liberals you find in New York City. Columbus and Athens are two of the few areas where progressives are strong. Fisher is trying to appeal to the base by highlighting his work on civil rights. Also, the results from the primary show Fisher not doing poorly in progressive areas so maybe he never had any trouble with them at all.
  • Match Portman on the money front. Rob Portman is beating Fisher on the money front. Fisher could consider pandering to the progressive base but that could hurt his standing among moderates. Anyway, Brunner was considered the progressive but she received little money from donors, even the progressive base. At the primary, Brunner interestingly won some rural counties with few progressives though. If Fisher successfully painted Portman as a product of the Bush Administration, he could energize some progressives which would cause him to raise money. Still, Fisher should not nationalize the race. I believe the best way for Fisher to get money is through the unions because they are powerful in Ohio and he has a record of supporting workers rights.
Overall, Fisher is running a good campaign with putting jobs as front and center and making comparisons between Portman and Bush. He is also solidifying his lead in urban Ohio by talking about how he helped reduce crime. What he needs to do is focus more on rural issues and rural voters. Highlighting his family's background as immigrants from Russia and working in the steel industry helps him along the Ohio River and strengthens him in  Northeast Ohio. Many farmers and other rural residents cannot relate to Fisher's family story though. Fisher does not give specific examples of bills he helped work on or sponsored to help rural areas. Saying you support rural residents is good but Fisher must give specific examples of how he helped them. If urban voters turn out strongly for Fisher because he highlighted important issues for them such as crime and workers rights but if Fisher also keeps down margins in rural areas, Fisher can be Ohio's next Senator.

No comments: