Ohio's stake in the game of politics is significant. It has long been considered the quintessential bellwether state. Ohioans have voted for the winner of every Presidential election since 1964. Strategists on both sides of the aisle believe that winning key races here in 2010, like the gubernatorial contest, can help lay the ground work for success in the 2012 presidential race.
"The president's people are very smart and they know if he wants to have a chance for being reelected, Ohio is part of that firewall," said Republican strategist Terry Casey.
Mr. Obama has visited the Buckeye State twelve times in the last two years, campaigning for incumbent Governor Ted Strickland and other down-ticket Democrats struggling to keep their seats against a predicted GOP surge.
Both parties recognize the benefits of having an ally in the state capitol and Republicans are aggressively working to unseat Strickland who's facing off against former Congressman Republican John Kasich but, Democratic strategist Greg Haas says the president may not need a governor in place to win Ohio in 2012, as he did in 2008, beating Senator John McCain by four points.
"In fact, if you go back and recite history when Jim Rhodes was Governor of Ohio, LBJ won. When Jack Gilligan was Governor of Ohio, Richard Nixon won. When Dick Celeste was Governor of Ohio, Reagan and Bush both won. When George Voinovich was Governor of Ohio, Bill Clinton carried the state twice," said Haas.
In the Senate race, Ohio Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher is expected to loose to Republican Rob Portman, who served as the Director of Management and Budget in the Bush Administration. The open seat is now held by retiring Republican Senator George Voinovich.
There are 18 congressional districts in Ohio. Ten are now held by Democrats. Half of those races are considered very competitive and the GOP hopes to pick up five seats. If Republicans score big congressional victories across the country Ohio Congressman and House Republican Leader John Boehner will very likely become the next Speaker of the U.S. House.