“That would take us like a slingshot into next year with a great deal of momentum and enthusiasm,” is how Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern described the prospects of defeating Issue 2. The Dayton Daily News ran with the idea with a front page headline, “Issue 2 the first vote in 2012.” An online headline similarly proclaimed, “Issue 2 to shape 2012 election.”
This evening’s defeat of Issue 2 will surely buoy the spirits of the Ohio Democratic Party and public sector labor unions. It is, after all, a rebuke of Republican Governor John Kasich and key piece of his agenda.
Still, Democrats and labor should be wary of reading too much into their victory tonight.
Yes, Issue 2 went down in flames. With about 2/3 of all precincts reporting, Senate Bill 5 met its demise by a 61%-39% margin. Yet this victory may not be the utter defeat many commentators believe.
Polls about Issue 2 indicated that many aspects of Senate Bill 5 were, in fact, popular with Ohio voters. Merit pay and requiring public workers to pay 15% of health insurance premiums and 10% toward retirement are favored by majorities.
Voters simply rejected certain aspects of SB5: the ban on public strikes, limits on the scope of collective bargaining, and eliminating seniority as the sole factor in determining layoffs.
While media outlets like the Dayton Daily News are quick to connect the Issue 2 defeat to President Obama’s fortunes, the president remains unpopular in Ohio. Quinnipiac polls taken in September show the president’s disapproval rating well over 50%.
Likewise, media outlets and commentators have discounted Issue 3, which is a pet Republican issue. The measure—which passed tonight—exempts Ohio from the individual mandate to purchase health insurance found in the Affordable Care Act (AKA “Obamacare”).
Media coverage of the issue was practically non-existent. Yet, Issue 3 appears headed for passage with a greater percentage of the vote than that which rejected Issue 2.
This margin could have many meanings; however, simply breaking down voters into 3 blocks might lend some clarity. Assuming 1/3 of voters is liberal/Democratic, 1/3 is independent, and 1/3 is conservative/Republican, then the numbers make sense this way:
The Democratic base rejected Issues 2 and 3 while the Republican base affirmed both. It was independent voters who rejected Issue 2 while supporting Issue 3. Given the polls indicating mixed feelings about Senate Bill 5, perhaps the Democratic/labor coalition should temper its jubilation at defeating Issue 2. Voters were against them on, say, half of Issue 2 and all of Issue 3. Add in the president’s unpopularity, and the picture doesn’t look as rosy as Dayton Daily News headlines suggests.
Yes, Governor Kasich faced a defeat, but his electoral fortunes are far from certain. He is still 3 years from facing the voters again. Likewise, Republicans now have a second chance to get it right and pass only the parts of Senate Bill 5 that voters favor. So Kasich has plenty of time to repair his image with Ohio Voters.
Another interesting aspect of this analysis, again, concerns media coverage. Democrats and public sector labor unions were extremely vocal in their opposition to Senate Bill 5. Media coverage followed suit. Interestingly enough, Issue 3 passed, again, with more votes than those that rejected Issue 2, and without media coverage of any significance.