By Jim Ellis
Jan. 15, 2018 — Since the turn of the century, the state of Ohio has become crucial in deciding national elections, and its status for 2018 is no exception. This week, several key moves were made that began to define the general election ballot even before candidate filing closes and the May 8 primary is conducted.
The Senate race was shaken last week when state treasurer Josh Mandel (R), the 2012 Senate nominee who had the inside track to again win the Republican primary in order to force a re-match with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), unexpectedly announced he was dropping out of the race due to a newly diagnosed health condition for his wife. Though investment banker Michael Gibbons was still in the race, a Republican void existed in a campaign that has all the underpinnings of becoming highly competitive. Even with President Obama leading the Democratic ticket and carrying Ohio six years ago, Mandel managed to hold Sen. Brown to only a 51-45 percent re-election victory.
Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth), who had been competing in the governor’s race, announced late last week that he would switch to the Senate campaign. The Republican gubernatorial primary underwent significant change in November, and both Renacci and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor found themselves on the outside looking in. Because attorney general and former US senator, Mike DeWine, and Secretary of State Jon Husted, the candidates who were running 1-2 in early polling, decided to join forces and form a ticket, the odds of either Taylor or Renacci upsetting the race leader, DeWine, grew to long-shot proportions.
While Taylor remains in the governor’s race, Renacci has now bolted for the Senate campaign to hopefully compete against Sen. Brown. The incumbent is clearly taking his re-election campaign very seriously, as the coming financial disclosure report will show his cash-on-hand figure to be already approaching $10 million. With Renacci’s ability to self-fund a statewide campaign and Republicans looking fondly on President Trump’s eight-point victory in Ohio, the eventual GOP nominee – whether it’s Rep. Renacci, Gibbons, or another late-entry candidate – will command the resources necessary to match whatever Brown and his Democratic allies spend.
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