Voters will head to the polls around the country Tuesday for what can best be described as off-off year elections.
The most important election today is the referendum SB-5 on the Ohio ballot. That initiative supports the repeal of Governor Kasich's controversial legislation to eliminate collective bargaining for state workers in Ohio. By all accounts, polling shows that the measure is going down to an overwhelming defeat as a coalition of liberal and labor activists has organized to put together what appears to be solid majority support against the initiative.
Democrats almost certainly will regard this overwhelming victory for organized labor as a ratification of the Obama populist left strategy which has emerged in recent months. And that strategy, which calls for explicit identification and association with Occupy Wall Street and with organized labor, basically seeks to position to find the Republican party as being out of touch with working people, and supportive of policies that principally benefit the rich. And with this thinking, the defeat of SB-5 will be support for working people, labor unions and a left wing populist Democratic agenda.
In fact, that will almost certainly be something of a misreading of the results, as voters in Ohio are strongly supportive of efforts to curb excessive state spending and high levels of taxation, but they are equally skeptical of efforts to reign in unions-- particularly through the elimination of collective bargaining rights.
This vote will be more a vote about collective bargaining in Ohio than it will be a full throated endorsement of union activism, but rest assured the White House, and more importantly their backers and public employee unions will draw a different conclusion. It will almost certainly embolden the left to continue along the line that they have run, and with Sherrod Brown's numbers in the Ohio Senate race having improved considerably during the course of the fall campaign, with Brown's support of the repeal of SB-5, it will almost certainly lead for further left wing agitation and activism in support of the Democrats and the President.
Moreover, Governor Romney having come to the state and initially having tried to side-step taking position on SB-5, only then to reverse himself and to endorse it the next day, has clearly hurt himself by his less than ideal handling of the matter.
But another initiative, arguably just important, should give some pause to the strategy. SB-3, a referendum on whether the individual mandate for healthcare should apply in Ohio is poised to go down by perhaps an equally decisive margin. And with Ohio voters rejecting the individual mandate at the same time that they reject an effort to limit collective bargaining, they are really saying that they remain in the center of the political spectrum and want to avoid overreaching on either side-- the left or the right.
Ultimately, it is hard to see SB-5 as anything other than a short term victory for the Democrats because of Republican overreaching. If the Democrats overreach in response and draw the wrong conclusions from the results today in Ohio, the Democrats could potentially turn their almost certain success today into an electoral challenge next year, when the stakes are very much greater and larger.
Douglas E. Schoen is a political strategist and Fox News contributor. His most recent book is "Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party Movement is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System" published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins.