Recent polls have suggested the Ohio Senate race may be tied, but the nonpartisan analyst isn’t treating it that way.
Why? In particular, poll analysts (myself included) believe that the poll failures of recent years will be repeated to some extent this year.
The Democrats’ path to holding the Senate, according to most analysts, depends on defending Arizona, Georgia and Nevada and flipping Pennsylvania. Picking up Ohio, a long-standing swing state in the red, is not usually cited as a road map to preserving a narrow majority.
If the polls are correct, however, Democrats may have a chance that few acknowledge is at least as good as Wisconsin, where GOP Sen. Ron Johnson is the only incumbent running for re-election in a state carried by President Joe Biden. 2020. Republicans need a clean one-seat gain to win the Senate next month, so Democrats would like to put some GOP seats up for grabs to cushion their losses in the Senate, which is currently split 50-50 with Vice President Kamala. Harris enjoying the tie-breaking vote.
And that’s where Ohio could come in. Check out the polls released this week by Marist College (among specific 2022 voters) and Siena College. Both were tied with Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan and Republican JD Vance. The average of all polls has Vance up a point or two at most.
This doesn’t sit well with Amy Walter with the Cook Political Report and Nathan L. Gonzales with Inside Elections, nonpartisan analysis from places that rate the Republican race as lean.
The belief that a generic Republican should be favored in an Ohio Senate race makes sense when you look at the political landscape. Former President Donald Trump won Ohio by 8 points in 2020. And the national landscape appears to be 5 points or more Republican this year than it was two years ago.
There are also good reasons to believe that the polls are too good to be true for Democrats without knowing anything about the national environment. Between the last polls for the governor (in midterm years) and the president (in presidential years), the Democratic candidate has been outscored by at least 6 points in every Ohio election since 2014. Ohio’s polling problem is part of a multi-year pattern of overestimating state Democrats. With a large non-college white population.
Of course, it wouldn’t be the craziest thing in the world if the Ohio Senate polls were right this year. Ryan, who has a huge fundraising lead, has spent far more money on ads than Vance, who emerged bruised from an ugly GOP primary. Ryan has a higher favorable rating than Vance in the polls. And Ryan being competitive with Vance in the polls is now true throughout the campaign, even as major Republican super PACs diverted funds from other states to support the GOP candidate.
And it’s not like the history of Democratic candidates for the Senate in midwestern states has crossed the baseline for governor or president.
In 2016, Democrat Jason Kander lost by a mere 3 points to Republican Senator Roy Blunt in the Missouri Senate race. Kander led Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton by 15 points.
In 2018, Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown won re-election by 7 points, although Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray lost to Republican Mike DeWine by 4 points.
This year, polls have DeWine up by about 20 points in his re-election bid, so it’s as if the polls suggest Democrats will do well statewide.
The bottom line is that we shouldn’t take the Ohio Senate race for granted. Voting mistakes are often not repeated. Surveys are always looking to improve their methods.
If the Ohio Senate race turns out to be close, we can’t say we weren’t warned.