Deep Purple Politics In Ohio Neal Conan and Ken Rudin look at the deeply purple state of Ohio, where Republicans not only took five congressional seats, but every statewide office including the governor's mansion. Jim Renacci, who beat out Democrat John Boccieri in Ohio's 16th district, talks about his win and his plans.
NPR logo

Deep Purple Politics In Ohio

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Deep Purple Politics In Ohio

Deep Purple Politics In Ohio

Deep Purple Politics In Ohio

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Neal Conan and Ken Rudin look at the deeply purple state of Ohio, where Republicans not only took five congressional seats, but every statewide office including the governor's mansion. Jim Renacci, who beat out Democrat John Boccieri in Ohio's 16th district, talks about his win and his plans.


Ken Rudin, political editor, NPR
Jim Renacci, congressman-elect in Ohio's 16th district
Thomas Suddes, columnist, Cleveland Plain Dealer


This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Cleveland.

Speaker future won't back down on taxes. Speaker present vows to stay on as minority leader. And Alaska starts counting its write-ins, with spellcheck.

Unidentified Child: M-U-R-K-O-W-S-K-I.

CONAN: It's Wednesday and time for a Kow-with-a-K edition of the Political Junkie.

President RONALD REAGAN: There you go again.

Former Vice President WALTER MONDALE: When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad. Where's the beef?

Former Senator BARRY GOLDWATER (Republican, Arizona): Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.

Former Senator LLOYD BENTSEN (Democrat, Texas): Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.

President RICHARD NIXON: You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore.

Former Governor SARAH PALIN (Republican, Alaska): Lipstick.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: But I'm the decider.

(Soundbite of scream)

CONAN: Every Wednesday, NPR political editor Ken Rudin joins us to review the week in politics. Today, he's with us from Studio 4 at the Idea Center at Playhouse Square in downtown Cleveland from member station WCPN.

And when we last left our heroes, the election was mostly over. Since then, we've got winners in Connecticut, Colorado, Washington and several other places, not yet, though, in Alaska.

While back in D.C., Nancy Pelosi wants to stay on as the number one House Democrat, but there's a party fight over number two. And he's back: George W. Bush defends his record in "Decision Points."

In a bit, we'll focus on politics here in Ohio, where Republicans swung five congressional districts and swept every statewide office, including the governor's.

Jim Renacci, the representative-elect from the Ohio 16th joins us. Later in the program, "American Splendor" as immigrant art. But first, political junkie Ken Rudin joins us here in the Buckeye State. As usual, we begin with a trivia question. Hey, Ken.

KEN RUDIN: Hi, Neal. Well, of course, you know, Ohio was the launch pad for the 2006 big Democratic wins, and obviously in 2010 big Republican wins. Ohio is a key state.

But you did mention Nancy Pelosi. You did mention speaker-to-be and former speakers and upcoming speakers. Well, here's a speaker question: Who was the last - and also we'll be talking about Newt Gingrich, perhaps.

CONAN: Perhaps, yes, you never know.

RUDIN: Who was the last person who had been speaker of the House who ran for president?

CONAN: Who was the last person to be speaker of the House...

RUDIN: Who had been speaker of the House.

CONAN: run for president of the United States - from a major party, we assume. 800-989-8255 if you think you know the answer. Or you can zap us an email, The winner, of course, gets a fabulous no-prize T-shirt.

In the meantime, Ken, we have some business to catch up on from last week. When last we left our heroes, as we mentioned earlier in the program, we thought we knew the winner in Colorado. It turned out we were right.

RUDIN: We do. It's Michael Bennet. He is the senator, not re-elected because he was an appointee, but he will finish out the term, a new term once led by Ken Salazar, the interior secretary. Ken Buck conceded defeat in Colorado.

Also since our last show, Patty Murray was declared the winner, re-election to a fourth term in Washington the state. In the governor's race, Pat Quinn narrowly was elected in Illinois. He succeeded the honorable Rod Blagojevich. Dan Malloy, the Democrat, was elected in Connecticut, first Democrat elected in that state since - governor since 1986.

Rick Scott won the big race in Florida, a very close race for governor there. And in members of Congress, we have Jerry Connelly in Virginia; Rick Larsen in Washington; Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona; Raul Grijalva in Arizona, thanks to Keith Olbermann's money; and also Bob Etheridge of North Carolina was defeated for re-election, a big surprise there.

We still have seven undeclared, undecided House races, all of them held by Democrats. Right now, the Republicans are a plus 60, a net of 60, and they're leading in five of the seven. So the Republicans could wind up with 65 new members of the House. And of course, we have the Alaska Senate race to talk about.

CONAN: And the Alaska Senate race, the last time we saw a recount this exciting, it was in Florida.

RUDIN: Yes, and of course, and this time is even more confusing because this is the - leading the race right now is a write-in candidate, and of course that's Lisa Murkowski. She was defeated for re-nomination in the August primary by Joe Miller, Tea Party-backed candidate. But she ran as a write-in, and right now, she is leading - or at least, let me put it this way: Write-in votes are leading, because there have been - there are 160 officially-sanctioned write-in candidates. We assume an overwhelming number are Lisa Murkowski's.

CONAN: But is spelling going to matter?

RUDIN: Well, that's exactly the thing. And Joe Miller, the Republican who apparently was defeated, or at least we think he may have been defeated, has already called for a lawsuit saying that you have to spell Lisa Murkowski or Murkowski correctly. You can't - it's not up to voter intent. You have to spell the name correctly. And that's going to be a big court fight in Alaska.

CONAN: Citing the principle of Bush v. Gore.

RUDIN: Exactly.

CONAN: You mentioned Keith Olbermann, the, of course, anchor on MSNBC, on the "Countdown" program. He was suspended, at least for a few days, for stepping over the ethical lines.

RUDIN: Well, if you - it depends on whether you consider Keith Olbermann a journalist or not, and some people don't. And maybe Keith Olbermann doesn't, because he felt there was nothing wrong in giving money to three Democratic candidates: Jack Conway, the Senate candidate in Kentucky; and two members of the Congress from Arizona.

And he said, well, look, you know, he's very defiant about this, and he loves the attention. And he said: Look, you know, you have to deal with the realities of 21st-century journalism. There are some of us who don't consider what he does, and what O'Reilly does on Fox, journalism, or at least journalists. But, you know, that's not saying...

CONAN: The ethical rules are by the parent company, NBC, which does consider itself - what it does journalism.

RUDIN: Exactly and says that so-called journalists are not allowed to contribute to candidates, and Keith Olbermann gave money to three Democratic candidates.

CONAN: We have some people on the line who think they know the answer to this week's trivia question, again the last person to have been speaker of the House of Representatives to then run for president of the United States.

And let's see if we can go first to - this is Paul(ph), Paul with us from Lansing, Michigan.

PAUL (Caller): Yup, station WKAR. I think I'm going to be wrong on this one because I know he was majority leader in the Senate: LBJ.

CONAN: LBJ did serve a bit in Congress but I don't believe as speaker of the House.

RUDIN: That's right. He was a member of the House, and he was majority leader when he was elected vice president in 1960, but LBJ was never speaker of the House.

PAUL: Yeah. That's what I figured but thought I'd take a stab.

CONAN: All right, thanks very much. Let's see - I'm sorry if I hung up on you there before you were finished, but anyway, Juno(ph), Juno with us from Rochester in Minnesota.

JUNO (Caller): Yes, hi, this is Juno in Rochester, Minnesota.


JUNO: And I believe the answer is - the first one would have been John Bell of Tennessee.

RUDIN: His name is familiar. I think it rings a bell. But no, I want the last person.

JUNO: Oh, Newt Gingrich then.

RUDIN: Newt Gingrich has been speaker, but he never ran for president. He might one day.

CONAN: He's thought about it.

RUDIN: But he has not run yet.

JUNO: Okay, thank you.

CONAN: Thanks very much, Juno. Let's see if we can go next to - this is Bob(ph), Bob with us from Phoenix.

BOB (Caller): Yeah, hi. This is just a wag, but I'm going to guess that it's Tip O'Neill.

RUDIN: Tip O'Neill was speaker of the House until he retired in 1986, never ran for president.

CONAN: Though he came up with one of the great lines, immortal lines of political...

RUDIN: All politicians are loco.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RUDIN: Oh, no, I'm sorry: All politics are local. Sorry.

CONAN: Thanks very much, Bob. Let's see if we can go next to - let's go to -this is Douglas(ph), another caller from Rochester, though this Rochester is in New York.

DOUGLAS (Caller): Yes, in 1932, John Nance Garner competed against Franklin Roosevelt for the Democratic presidential nomination.

RUDIN: Well, not only did he compete in 1932, but he also ran in 1940 to stop FDR from a third term. John Nance Garner is the correct answer.

CONAN: Ding, ding, ding, ding. Congratulations, Douglas. We're going to put you on hold and collect your particulars, and we'll send you a Political Junkie no-prize T-shirt in return for your promise to send us a digital picture of yourself so we can post it on the Wall of Shame. So thanks very much, congratulations.

DOUGLAS: Okay, thank you.

CONAN: All right. In the meantime, Ken, let's get back to politics, and we just mentioned the speaker of the House. The current speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, says she wants to - well, she tweeted that she wants to stay on as minority leader in the next Congress. But there is a battle the Democrats are waging over number two in their caucus.

RUDIN: Right, because of course when Nancy Pelosi was speaker, the majority leader was Steny Hoyer, and the majority whip is Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.

The Democrats being in the minority now lose that position. So Nancy Pelosi goes from speaker to minority leader, and now it looks like Steny Hoyer, who had been the majority leader...

RUDIN: A Democrat of Maryland.

RUDIN: A Democrat, and Jim Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina, apparently are going to both fight for whip. Now, this is interesting because the Democratic Party has really, in addition to all the serious losses in the House, it has moved noticeably to the left.

The Congress is more African-American, more liberal, where a lot of Blue Dog Democrats in the South and in conservative areas were defeated. So there may be a little battle here between Clyburn and Hoyer.

They both like each other. Clyburn, of course, as an African-American, would be - and the Congressional Black Caucus, of course, is backing Clyburn in that effort. But it may turn ugly, or it may not. I mean, there may be - Hoyer may become the whip, and Clyburn may be chairman of the DCCC or something like that or caucus chairman, actually would be caucus chairman.

But most Democrats feel they want Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn all in the leadership.

CONAN: All in the leadership. On the Republican side, Mike Pence has stepped out of the Republican House leadership to maybe run for governor, maybe run for president. Who knows what he's going to do? But in any case, Michele Bachmann, the controversial congresswoman from Minnesota, wants to replace him in the leadership.

RUDIN: Well, right. I mean, right now, the top three are set. John Boehner will be speaker. Eric Cantor of Virginia will be majority leader. Kevin McCarthy, kind of new to the leadership, will be the whip. He is the one who recruited many of these successful candidates.

But Michele Bachmann and Jeb Hensarling of Texas are expected to run against each other for conference chair. That's the fourth-ranking position in the Republican leadership.

CONAN: Congress returns next week for one of two lame-duck weeks. Of course, one of the orders of business is going to be an ethics trial.

RUDIN: Yes, that's correct. Charles Rangel, who is accused of 13 counts of violating House rules, he's expected to go on trial as early as Monday the 15th. And as you know, that's two days after my birthday. I just thought I'd throw that in.

But the trial is supposed to last several days, and of course, the Democrats are very concerned about what Rangel's going to do because, I mean, after all, it was kind of an embarrassing - Nancy Pelosi promising to drain the swamp of Washington, and you have two ethics trials coming up, both Charles Rangel then Maxine Waters, both Democrats.

CONAN: And in the meantime, the former president of the United States has emerged from seclusion right after the election. George W. Bush's new book came out. It's called "Decision Points," and in an interview with NBC's Matt Lauer, he described, well, the decision he made about one of the most controversial steps towards the end of his administration: the Wall Street bailouts in 2008.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: I'm paraphrasing at this point: You'd better do something big because if we don't, you're liable to oversee a depression.

So the decision point is do you adhere to your philosophy and say let them all fail.

Mr. MATT LAUER: Free market.

Pres. BUSH: Yeah, free market. Or do you take taxpayers' money and inject it into the system in hopes that you prevent a depression? And I chose the latter.

CONAN: And the president, the former president there, taking responsibility for a decision that many pin the blame for on President Obama and the Democratic Congress.

RUDIN: But also, a lot of things. I mean, you don't usually see President Bush being so introspective as I've seen in these interviews regarding weapons of mass destruction, whether to pardon Scooter Libby or not, you know, reaction to Katrina. He seemed to be far more introspective than I expected from him.

CONAN: Political junkie Ken Rudin will stay with us. You do, too. We're going to be talking about politics in Ohio, which is where we are this week. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan, broadcasting today from the Idea Center at member station WCPN in Cleveland. We've imported the political junkie, Ken Rudin, with us as well.

This state is often referred to as a bellwether and a perennial swing state. In rapid succession, it swung right, then left, then right again. We want to hear from Ohioans. What does this political volatility tell us about your state and about politics in your state? 800-989-8255. Email us,

Jim Renacci is one of the winners swept in on Ohio's red tide. He won in Ohio's 16th District, beating out Democrat John Boccieri. And he joins us today on the line from Columbus. Jim Renacci, congratulations.

Mr. JIM RENACCI (Representative-elect, Republican, Ohio): Thank you very much, appreciate it.

CONAN: And how tough was it - that's all right. I didn't mean to cut you off there. How tough was this fight? Your opponent won two years ago by 10 points.

Mr. RENACCI: Well, you know what, it was - for me it was 435 days of meeting people, shaking hands and talking about what they're happy with, what they're not happy with. And in the end, we were successful. And I think the key was that people were not happy with the direction that our federal government was going.

CONAN: I understand that, and I think that's the verdict in a lot of places around the country and not just in your 16th District but in Ohio broadly, and in much of the country, as well.

Nevertheless, do you look at the landscape and say, whoop, right, then left, then right again, what do I have to do to make sure I'm in the right place two years from now?

Mr. RENACCI: Well, I think the answer is we got to - you know, when you're elected to serve, you have to represent your constituents. And clearly, my opponent did not do that.

I mean, two major votes he cast, of course, were health care, you know, he voted against it first and then voted for it; and then cap and trade. And both of those, every time I ran into people in the small business community, in the - you know, at any of the functions we had, they kept bringing up those two major votes, which clearly were not taken very well in the 16th District.

CONAN: And those were the two key issues, you think?

Mr. RENACCI: Well, I think spending, jobs. Let's face it, this district, the unemployment rate has almost doubled in the last two years. Spending's out of control. But when you talk about votes, those two votes continually came up in conversation.

CONAN: If unemployment is still around nine and a half, 10 percent, two years from now, do you think you're going to be in trouble?

Mr. RENACCI: Well, I think what we need to do is we need to start making sure that we take - bring certainty and predictability back to the marketplace so that businesses can grow. And we need to get banking - you know, right now, the banking regulations are so tight.

I just met with a number of bankers in Columbus, and they're saying the same thing. They can't lend out money. They're actually calling loans on very strong businesses that, you know, have lived through this recession, but because of banking regulations now, their loans are not - you know, they're not strong anymore. And we've got to be able to turn the tide and turn it in a different direction.


RUDIN: The polls leading up to the election showed that the Republicans were faring just as poorly as Democrats. And some people are saying that the results from last Tuesday were less an affirmation of Republican principles and more of a rejection of Democratic politics. Do you agree with that?

Mr. RENACCI: Well, I'll tell you, since the Republicans in many - you know, when the Republicans had control, they did some things that people are not happy with, and then the Democrats took control, and they did some things even worse that people are not happy with.

I think we need to start looking at our future, as all Americans, and start making things right and the future right. And ultimately, you're right, people are not happy with the direction the country's going, but they're not happy with the way the Republicans, when they were in control, did it. And now they're definitely not happy with the Democrats.

CONAN: You mentioned at the beginning of your remarks that you spent 385 days shaking hands, going around your district, meeting people and finding out what their concerns were. How much of your time between now and November 2012 are you going to be spending in your district, continuing to find out what they want and what they need, because once you're in Washington most of the time, they gets difficult?

Mr. RENACCI: Well, one of the things I've said all along, I've been a businessman for 27 years. I always wanted to make sure I knew what my customers' and clients' concerns were.

When I was the mayor of Wadsworth, I did the same thing. I think you have to make sure that you're listening. And even though I'm in Washington, I have said that I want to build a strong opportunity to listen, even being in Washington. And we can do that. We can do it with the technology we have.

But I have to be able to hear what they have to say. And as I told them: We may not agree 100 percent of the time, but if we don't agree, at least I want them to understand the differences and maybe the reasons why I don't agree or they don't agree with me. And that's what will make us stronger together.

CONAN: So you expect to be back in Canton every weekend, at least?

Mr. RENACCI: I am going to commute, so absolutely I'm going to get back into the district every week.

CONAN: And as you look ahead to the future, I wonder: Your party is now in the majority in the House of Representatives, but the Democrats still have a majority, a much slenderer one but a majority in the United States Senate. Of course, President Obama is still in the White House.

What do you think you can get done? Is this going to be two years of saying no to the Democrats and the president, or are you going to be proposing ideas that you want enacted, areas where you think you can find cooperation at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue?

Mr. RENACCI: Well, I think the answer is, you know, for myself, we're going to - I would always say no if it affected my district the wrong way. And I think that's the key.

It's - no is just not against the Democratic idea. No is because it's the will of the people who do not want certain things passed or certain legislation passed.

So I think there will always be no votes when it affects my district, and ultimately, we have to be able to bring things forward so that the country moves forward in the right direction over the next two years and even longer because I'm a forward-thinking person.

We have to be able to make sure that the policies we enact allow our economy to grow, allow jobs to come back to Ohio. And we're going to continue to work real hard at that.


RUDIN: One of the reasons that Congressman Boccieri lost is said to be his vote in favor of the health care overhaul. And many Republicans ran against that.

Given the fact, as Neal just said, that the Democrats still control the Senate, there's still a Democrat in the White House, and there's unlikely to be a veto override, a successful veto override, does it make sense for the Republicans to push for a repeal of health care? Is it just a sop to the base, or is it a legitimate attempt to change the dynamic about health care?

Mr. RENACCI: Well, I can tell you as I traveled the district the last 435 days, health care came up a tremendous amount of times. People are not happy with the bill. There were some good things in there that we need to take a look at, like pre-existing conditions and caps on illnesses.

But quite frankly, 85 percent of the problems in our health care today is cost. And that bill is driving costs up. I've talked to business owners where increases are as high as 68 percent in their premiums, and we cannot have a job-killing bill.

I've said many times, the six pages in that bill were very good; 1,994 pages were toxic. And we need to be able to repeal it and replace it with good legislation that not only takes care of the safety net but brings costs down.

CONAN: Congressman-elect Renacci, again congratulations, and thanks very much for being with us. We hope you'll join us again sometime.

Mr. RENACCI: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

CONAN: Jim Renacci, the congressman-elect in Ohio's 16th District. And joining us now on the phone from his office here in Cleveland is Thomas Suddes, a columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. And nice to have you with us today.

Mr. THOMAS SUDDES (Columnist, Cleveland Plain Dealer): Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be here.

CONAN: And you've had a complete tide sweep out the Democrats in almost everywhere in the state of Ohio, certainly on the statewide level.

Mr. SUDDES: Yes, that's correct. It's a very, very strong showing by the Republican organization, in every statewide elected executive office and obviously the U.S. Senate race, and Republicans, of course, reclaimed or claimed five of our 18 congressional seats.

CONAN: And two years ago, just two years ago, the Democrats in this state were jubilant. They had overthrown decades of Republican control and saying a new era had begun. What happened?

Mr. SUDDES: The new era did not turn out to be as congenial to the average Ohioan, I gather, as maybe people suspected it to be. We are in an economic difficulty. Our unemployment rate, which is not as bad as it's been, it's 10.1 percent, that's higher than the nation's rate.

We now have about 19 percent of our population on the Medicaid caseload, and it's been growing at the order of something like 13,000 or 14,000 a month was the July to August growth in Medicaid caseload.

And so we're talking about a very difficult environment for the average person, I think.

CONAN: And it was all jobs, jobs, jobs?

Mr. SUDDES: That was the tenor of the campaign. Yes, it was all jobs, jobs, jobs. A difficult thing because officeholders of both parties like to claim success when things are successful, and when the economy's not so good, it's always someone else's fault somehow, and it doesn't seem to take - the voters don't take that too seriously that way, I don't believe.


RUDIN: Tom, I was just going to ask you a follow-up on that. Governor Strickland, it seemed like from the beginning, was talking about what a lot of - what President Obama said, that he and the Democrats inherited these problems. But when voters went to vote on Election Day, they looked at who was in power and they saw Democrats, and they voted against the Democrats.

Mr. SUDDES: Well, I think that's probably true. I can only speak to Ohio specifically, though, about that, and I think that it gets - well, it doesn't get overlooked, but people sometimes forget that this is a very closely divided state.

It's certainly true the president carried the state handily when he ran. He had a 260,000-vote margin, I believe, but he was the first Democrat to carry the state and win more than 50 percent of the vote since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. This is a very competitive environment in this state, and it's a state in which historically Republicans enjoy at least something of an advantage historically. And that explains part of the Ohio story.

And the other thing is that, in all fairness to the incumbent governor, Governor Strickland, he won four years ago by a very substantial margin on the order of more than 900,000 votes, I believe, but he's won it against a very, very, very weak Republican opponent, and that's why you see a kind of change in - part of the reason for the contrast between today and four years ago.

CONAN: We're talking with Tom Suddes, a columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. We want to hear from voters in Ohio. How do you explain the right-left-right march in your state? What does it say about the state and about politics in your state? We'll begin with Tom(ph) and Tom with us from Circleville in Ohio.

TOM (Caller): Hi. Thank you for letting me on your show to talk. Many times I've tried to call and couldn't get through because everybody else is calling. But, yeah, I love your program.

CONAN: Thank you.

TOM: I think they let the foxes into the henhouse. We've got a governor who's going to - he's already told us that he's going to bring his cronies in from Wall Street to help him make all the decisions and everything that he needs to make, you know, on how to turn this state around. We have no idea what he's going to pay them. He's already talked about giving them bonuses and everything else. You know, the Republicans, all they care about are the people with the money. They do not care about the working man and...

CONAN: We'll take that as a caller who did not vote for the Republican red tide.

(Soundbite of laughter)

TOM: No.

CONAN: But, Tom...

TOM: I did not vote for the Republican red tide...

CONAN: Tom Suddes...

TOM: I vote Democrat...

CONAN: ...did...

TOM: I'm sorry. Go ahead.

CONAN: I just wanted to ask Tom Suddes to respond to your remarks. As you look ahead to the future, of course, John Kasich, after he left Congress and before being elected governor, did work on Wall Street. But is he bringing his cronies in, as our caller suggests?

Mr. SUDDES: Well, look, every politician brings his or her allies and not his or her opponents to work. Otherwise, they program themselves for failure, but I think the remarkable story of this election - in Ohio, anyway - is that - and I don't disagree with the concerns the caller has, and one should always be asking questions about those things. We had a circumstance in this state in which we elected a U.S. senator, a new U.S. senator who was in George Bush -the second George Bush's Cabinet as a budget director and as foreign trade representative...

CONAN: Rob Portman.

Mr. SUDDES: Mr. Kasich worked on - worked for Lehman Brothers, didn't work on Wall Street per se. And I think - so we have to ask ourselves - well, voters knew that and did what they did. And maybe it was a question of the status quo as they saw it being unacceptable and almost any alternative being better than the status quo - doesn't make it right. I think that's what maybe happened.

CONAN: All right.

TOM: Well...

CONAN: Tom, thanks very much for the phone call. We're talking with Tom Suddes, a columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.


RUDIN: Tom, you know, there's a lot of concern about a lot of focus on the Tea Party, the Tea Party candidates, and Tea Party candidates did very well in Ohio as well as they did elsewhere. But Rob Portman, the guy who was elected to the Senate, is not a Tea Party person. He has shown that he can work with Democrats. He can be bipartisan, work across the aisle. First of all, what role do you see for Rob Portman in a more conservative Senate, even though it's a Democratic-controlled Senate?

Mr. SUDDES: Well, I think one strong possibility - first of all, leave talking ahead a little bit, as a given that Ohio was seen as crucial to the presidential forces of either party, I suspect that Senator-elect Portman may be a very strong candidate for a running mate for somebody. I don't know that. That's just a suspicion on my part. No one said that to me, but I think that may be crossing the minds of some Republican operatives.

I think that given the fact that he has had time in the United States House and been a Cabinet-level officer, I suspect that he will be in a position to deal well with what's going to be a very fractious, I think, Senate - maybe even more fractious than it's been up to now. I don't think he's an absolutist on many issues. And, of course, his campaign was predicated, as were the other campaigns statewide, on jobs, jobs, jobs and more jobs. So I think it - looking at economic issues in that perspective, and that would make him probably someone who would want to work on some level, I think, with President Obama's administration.

CONAN: Let's get another caller in. This is Steve(ph). Steve with us from Oxford, Ohio.

STEVE (Caller): Yes. I'm calling because I think that there is a message in the results of the election for attorney general in Ohio. And the facts are that at one point Richard Cordray, who was endorsed by every single newspaper that I can think of in Ohio, was up by six points not long before the election and who lost by a devastating margin. And I think the message there is simply that people were not actually reading or evaluating the merits of the candidate, in this particular case especially, but they were simply voting out of their anger and not actually paying attention to what the candidates offered in many cases. Richard Cordray, one of the most outstanding attorney generals Ohio has ever had, so the fact is that people were not really evaluating. They were simply reacting out of their gut.

CONAN: Tom Suddes, would you disagree?

Mr. SUDDES: I wouldn't disagree in a sense that I think all down-ticket races in a state that elects as many people as we elect - five or six statewide executive officers. The governorship result often helps determine the down-ticket results. And particularly in the attorney general's race, the margin - and this is from memory right now - the margin that the attorney general had over his opponent was not much different than the margin between Governor-elect Kasich and Governor Strickland.

One other important point: you asked about the Tea Party earlier, the Republican who won the attorney generalship by defeating Attorney General Cordray is former U.S. Senator Mike DeWine. And Mike DeWine is not someone who is, you know, is not beloved by the Tea Party people. He was seen by some people as a Republican in name only because he was insufficiently hard right, again, to some people, and yet he won anyway.

So I think there's truth in what the caller says, that there was an overall backlash, but I also think that it's remarkable that if the Tea Party was a significant factor, it seems to me that former Senator DeWine might not have won that race against Attorney General Cordray.

CONAN: Okay. Steve, thanks very much for the call.

STEVE: All right.

CONAN: And, Tom Suddes, there is - getting back to the governor, Mr. Kasich now inherits a deficit between 4 and $8 billion. He will not be raising taxes, I don't believe.

Mr. SUDDES: I don't - first of all, I think at the risk of making a bigger fool of myself and I do oftentimes in print, I think probably the amount of the financial problem is worse than $8 billion. I don't know how much worse, but I think it's more than just a smidgen. I think it may be several billion dollars worse than that. That's number one.

Number two, it is certainly true that he has said he will not raise taxes and -but that does not include the possibility of him and other Republican Ohio leaders asking the voters if they will do this or not do this. We do have initiative and referendum in our state constitution. And there are a myriad ways in which one could say, well, the voters are the sovereigns in our state, and if they decide to do this, they decide to do this. That I think is one way around that difficulty.

CONAN: Thanks very much for your time. Thomas Suddes, a columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Our thanks also to political junkie Ken Rudin who joined us here in Cleveland, Ohio. We'll be back with more in just a moment.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.