COLUMBUS, Ohio – No silver lining is to be found in the still cloudy story of millions of investment dollars missing from and lost by the Ohio State Bureau of Workers Compensation (search ). But if anyone did find something positive, it would be a new sense of political optimism among Ohio Democrats.
In Ohio's Republican-dominated state government, summer has featured a steady rain of bad news, starting with the disappearance of rare coins.
Republican fund-raiser Tom Noe (search) took $50 million from the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation trust fund to invest in collectible coins. More than $10 million worth of those coins is missing. Another investment by the same state agency in a Bermuda-based hedge fund went bust, losing the Buckeye state more than $200 million.
"The problems that have been uncovered at the Bureau of Workers Compensation had has an impact on the party," said Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett.
Gov. Bob Taft (search) seems to be the most affected by the finances. Two polls put his job approval rating at 34 percent of Ohio voters. Taft's support is shaky even in solid Ohio GOP turf like Delaware County.
"I'm a Republican but yet ... I am not a big fan of Taft," said Ohio resident Bob Watts.
Asked by reporters if he will step down, the governor said last week he has "no intention" of doing so.
Thanks to the state's term limits, Taft's time as governor ends at the end of next year. Because of dwindling approval numbers and continuing coverage of the financial scandals in the state government, Ohio Democrats are starting to think that 2006 could be their year.
"I'd say on the state elections: I'd be surprised right now if the Democrats don't sweep [the state's top four statewide offices]," former Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Paul Tipps said.
All four may be open seats. Auditor Betty Montgomery (search), Attorney General Jim Petro (search) and Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell (search), who are all Republicans, are intending to leave their current jobs to battle in the Republican gubernatorial primary to succeed Taft.
"The Democrats, who have been fairly inept in this state for some time really seem to be on top of it for a change," said Joe Hallet, senior editor of The Columbus Dispatch.
Seemingly boosting prospects are Democratic gubernatorial candidates Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman (search) and Ohio Rep. Ted Strickland (search). And the state party has run cable television ads charging the Ohio investment scandal comes from 16 years of GOP rule. But Bennett said his party has seen the worst of it.
"All storms pass sooner or later. I look for the sunshine to come out shortly," he said.
Click in the video box above to watch a report by FOX News' Steve Brown.