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Ohio's 'Dumb v. Dumber' Election Campaign

That said, Kasich has done some strikingly dumb things, leading one to fear that he has developed a false sense of invincibility. Recent revelations that he was on retainer as an occasional guest lecturer at Ohio State during most of last decade and served on a corporate board that voted to outsource several hundred manufacturing jobs out of Ohio in 2006 (the company involved still employs over 1,300 Ohioans) could have been and should have been disclosed and explained away months before someone else discovered them.

Fortunately for Kasich, incumbent Governor Ted Strickland has been much dumber, having decided months ago that he could win reelection by relentlessly reminding voters that Kasich used to work for Lehman Brothers instead of defending his record -- an admittedly difficult task, given that Ohio has lost almost 400,000 jobs since he took office.

Unlike Kasich, U.S. Senate candidate Rob Portman, the GOP ticket's other marquee statewide name, dumbly believes that being a Washington insider is a feature, not a bug. In June 2009, the Washington Post correctly described Portman as "casting himself as a dealmaking insider" based on this quote: "I know enough now about where the bodies are buried [and] how the Senate works that I know I can be effective there for Ohio." In 2005, when he was leaving Congress to become the Bush administration's trade representative, he told the Cleveland Plain Dealer the following about his reputation for risk aversion: "Some things are worth it for my career and some things aren’t." It shouldn't surprise anyone that Portman's dealings with tea partiers have ranged from tense to nonexistent.

In any other year against almost any other Democratic opponent, the two problems just described would be very dangerous, if not fatal. Fortunately for Portman, it's 2010, and his opponent is Lee Fisher. Despite sometimes comedic struggles to find a coherent message, the current lieutenant governor has none. Meanwhile, Fisher's staff turns over so often he should consider relocating his campaign headquarters inside a Pillsbury factory.

The upshot of all of this is that Ohio appears to be on track for a change in the party holding political power. Whether it will finally be run like a red state or represented by a genuine conservative in the United States Senate remains to be seen.