Democrats Brace For a Bloodbath in Ohio

Democrats battle bleak poll numbers and widening enthusiasm gap.

October 19, 2010, 6:33 PM

October 19, 2010 -- Democrats are bracing for a political bloodbath in Ohio. Perhaps no state has swung more dramatically away from the Democratic Party over the past two years.

John Kasich, former chairman of the House Budget Committee and Republican candidate for governor, is feeling confident about his chances of victory in November, and a poll out today from Quinnipiac University might be a good indication why: Kasich leads Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, 51 percent to 41 percent, with just 7 percent of Ohio voters undecided.

Strickland is continuing the fight. He rallied supporters and campaign volunteers today at a Cleveland union hall. He was one of the most popular governors in America two years ago, but supporters say he is a victim of the current political climate. Strickland's job approval rating among Ohio voters in the Quinnipiac poll is now lower than even President Obama's, looming at 39 percent.

When ABC News caught up with Strickland today in Cleveland, he was realistic about his chances.

"I'm not sitting here telling you that I am going to win. That's yet to be determined," he said. "But I'm telling you that I think I'm going to win, and know we will win if we carry out our plan."

With early and absentee voting almost a month underway, the Democratic game plan is to use the same organization that helped Barack Obama win big here two years ago to get voters to the polls, and to get them there early.

In Cuyahoga County, where tens of thousands of ballots have already arrived and are being sorted, an undeniable enthusiasm gap is emerging. According to the county board of elections, Republicans are voting at twice the rate they did in 2008.

And it's not just the gubernatorial race where Democrats are in trouble. They trail badly in the Senate race to replace retiring Republican Senator George Voinovich, and six of the ten Democratic House members here are in danger of losing, according to the ABC News analysis.

"People are in a surly mood," Strickland told ABC News today. "Many of them are angry, as they should be. I am angry, but I want the anger to be directed toward those who caused the problem."

Republicans Surge in Ohio, Key State in Polls

An unemployment rate over 10 percent, the ninth highest in the nation, certainly doesn't make voters happy with the party in power, a sentiment echoed by former Rep. Kasich.

"There's only three issues that matter in the voters' minds, and that's jobs, jobs, jobs," he said. Ohio voters believe by 52 percent to 38 percent that Kasich would do the better job rebuilding Ohio's economy. They gave Strickland a measly 36 percent approval rating for the way he is handling the economy as the state's top official.

It's hard to overstate the importance of Ohio in these midterm elections. Republicans are unlikely to win back the House this year if they do not win big in Ohio.

"Ohio's the firewall. They need to win Ohio," Kasich said.

-John Parkinson and Gregory Simmons contributed to this report.

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