Senate 2010: Voinovich Ripe for a Challenge in Ohio
by Jonathan Singer, Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 07:47:36 PM EDT
I was going through the monthly approval ratings SurveyUSA puts out from a handful of states around the country the other day, and one set of numbers jumped out at me -- the anemic approval rating of Ohio Republican George Voinovich, who has represented the entire state either as Governor or Senator (the position in which he currently serves) for the better part of the last two decades.
According to SUSA's numbers for the month of May, just 46 percent of Ohioans approve of the job Voinovich is doing as Senator while 43 percent disapprove. Believe it or not, this is Voinovich's best net approval score this calendar year and his highest approval rating during this period as well (it marks an improvement from his 42/48 spread in February). Over the last five months, Voinovich's average approval rating is 44.2 percent, his median approval rating 45 percent. For someone with such a long track record of winning elections in Ohio, particularly statewide ones, these numbers just aren't strong.
So with a potential opening for the Democrats, who might step forward in the event that Voinovich tries to undertake the task of running for reelection in 2010 (or even if he doesn't). At least some talk appears to be pointed in the direction of Congressman Tim Ryan, who at age 34 is already in his sixth year representing Ohio in the House of Representatives.
Democratic leaders deputized him to campaign for other candidates around the country in 2006, which helped his party regain a House majority. In 2007, they gave him a plum Appropriations Committee assignment that allowed him to send more than $26 million to his district in 2008 spending bills. He even traveled to Iowa this month to campaign for Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd in the state's Democratic presidential caucuses.
"He's been given all the gifts to go as far as he wants to go here," says Pittsburgh-area Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle, who calls Ryan especially effective at "speaking the language of those of us who grew up in blue-collar areas."
"He's gonna get better and better and be a major player here in the years ahead," foresees Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown.
Concord Township Republican Rep. Steve LaTourette calls Ryan a "backslapper who can tell a good joke" and says he's well liked.
"He is really going to be a force to be reckoned with over the years," LaTourette predicts. "All eyes need to be on him to run for Senate in 2010. I'm sure he's destined for greater things."
Ryan is a strong progressive (he scores an 89.93 mark from progressive punch) who is not at all afraid to speak his mind. Although he only has about $366,000 in the bank, which he would need to do serious work to build on if ramping up for a Senate bid, it seems likely that Ryan's political skills should be able to help him put together a top-notch organization, were he interested in making a run.
To be clear, there are other names being tossed around with regards to this race, including other Democratic members of Congress. But whether it's Ryan or someone else, like state Treasurer Richard Cordray or Congresswoman Betty Sutton, it appears that Ohio Democrats have a real shot at sending another one of their own to join Sherrod Brown in the Senate next cycle.