The Republican field looks set. As expected, former Congressman from Southwest Ohio, OMB Director, and U.S. Trade Representative, Rob Portman, will be the GOP nominee. Portman's experience is deep and his resume is impressive. John Kasich, the former U.S. Representative from Central Ohio, Wall Street executive, and television pundit will likely be the GOP nominee for Governor.
On the Democratic side, Governor Ted Strickland will be the nominee running for a second term. Viewed as unbeatable just a few months ago, a very tough budget fight and controversial plan to fix education in Ohio leaves Strickland vulnerable. In a recent Public Policy Polling survey, Strickland's lead was only within the margin of error in a match up with Kasich, 44-42%.
The race for the Democratic nomination for Senate could be murkier. Though Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher is the choice of the Democratic establishment, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner is a big name and is thought to be have an advantage with powerful women's groups such as EMILY's List (though EMILY has yet to go all-in for Brunner). If Brunner is able to close the fundraising gap with Fisher and hang on until Spring, this could be a tough battle. Based on current polling, either candidate beats Portman in a match up; however, expect that to change and the race to significantly tighten in coming months, regardless of the Democratic nominee.
Historically, the president's party struggles in congressional midterm elections as the president makes tough choices which angers supporters and mobilizes critics. There are of course exceptions to this general principle, 2002 being the latest example as the GOP was able to capitalize on a post-9/11 pro-security environment. Expect both races to be tough, long, expensive slogs.