Ohio Senate Contest Shows Incumbent Seats Aren't Safe

Many incumbents are facing tougher reelection challenges than they anticipated. Mark Naymik, political writer for the Cleveland's Plain Dealer discusses a key U.S. Senate race between Republican incumbent Mike DeWine and Democratic House member Sherrod Brown.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

If Republicans want to keep the Senate, it may help them to win the two elections we'll describe next. If Democrats want to take the Senate, they might have to win these two elections. It is a tough year for incumbents, including incumbents in Ohio, the state that decided the 2004 presidential election. Ohio Republicans under pressure this year include Senator Mike DeWine.

We begin our coverage with Mark Naymik, who writes for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He was watching the campaign over the weekend, and, Mr. Naymik, what did you see?

Mr. MARK NAYMIK (Reporter, Cleveland Plain Dealer): I saw a very energized Democratic Party ticket led by the gubernatorial candidate and a colleague of U.S. Senate candidate Sherrod Brown. They traveled together on a bus, which is a little unusual in this state. The party has not always had the money or the organization to be out there. But they went to southwest Ohio, which really is red territory; places where Bush won 70 percent over Kerry just two years ago. And they really tried to take a message of change with the backdrop of all the corruption going on to the voters, as well as a little bit of talk about the war and other things.

INSKEEP: Well why is the Republican Mike DeWine considered vulnerable just two years after that big Republican sweep?

Mr. NAYMIK: Well, the backdrop is that in Ohio we've had our governor, Bob Taft, who has faced one of the lowest approval ratings in the history of Ohio in part because of his own ethics problems as well as Washington's problems. For example, Sherrod Brown this weekend always referred to DeWine as, quote, part of the gang in Washington. They tie him to everybody from President Bush to Karl Rove to Jack Abramoff, and I think that message has gotten through to the people in Ohio.

INSKEEP: What about the usual Republican advantage on national security?

Mr. NAYMIK: That has been very much an issue in the race, and I think Mike DeWine came out first with it. He ran a commercial just about a month ago in which he said that his opponent, Sharrod Brown, is vulnerable because he's voted against the Patriot Act, that he has voted to cut intelligence. But there is a little bit of a reflection here in Ohio similar to what we saw in the Washington Post poll last week that maybe those security moms and those people that traditionally supported the president are nervous. I interviewed a woman with four children playing in a park and she said, I supported the president with going into the war, but I'm starting to get nervous now. And I think that is affecting DeWine a little bit. The polls suggest that Brown is up slightly. Not enough to where things won't change, but Mike DeWine is, you know, I think is a little more vulnerable than he maybe even thought.

INSKEEP: Mr. Naymik, thanks very much.

Mr. NAYMIK: Sure.

INSKEEP: Mark Naymik is politics writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

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