So here's how a pair of national political analysts illustrate the change they see in Ohio politics.
Gov. John Kasich could win the general election for a third term if he were eligible.
But he would never get the chance; he couldn't survive a 2018 Ohio Republican primary, say noted GOP pollster Neil Newhouse and the University of Virginia's Kyle Kondik, an Ohio University graduate. The twosome talked Wednesday at the Columbus Metropolitan Club about political megatrends beyond next week’s election.
Ohio Republicans are now the Party of Trump, as witnessed by GOP candidates rushing to embrace the controversial president and adopting the president's aggressive campaign tactics, the duo said.
Ohio Democrats, meanwhile, are still roiled by their Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton factions, former Senate colleagues who competed the for 2016 White House nomination.
“There’s a lot of tension on both sides and it’s not going to play out just next Tuesday, but in November as well,” Newhouse said.
“I think what you’re going to see in the general election is the Republican Party candidate wanting to push that Democratic candidate far left, and the Democratic candidate trying to push the Republican candidate far right.”
Here's what that means for Ohio voters, per Newhouse: “For those of you who like the negative primary ads, you’re in for a real treat.”
While he and Kondik agree with pundits forecasting a probable strong year for Democrats, Kondik said whether that proves true in the Buckeye State will depend where eastern Ohio Trump supporters wind up in 2018.
“If (U.S. Sen.) Sherrod Brown, Dennis Kucinich or Rich Cordray (leading Democratic governor candidates) can’t bring them back, then Ohio is just gone for Democrats,” said Kondik, who worked for Cordray about a decade ago in the attorney general’s office.
Newhouse said he’s keeping an eye on turnout. He pointed to the Virginia governor’s race last year in which the Republican won a record number of votes — but lost by 8 percentage points because of a huge Democratic turnout.
“It is that kind of disparity we are seeing across the country,” Newhouse said. “You’re seeing Democratic enthusiasm go through the roof,” especially in suburbs with more highly educated voters — like those in central Ohio.
“This is like ground zero where we’re going to see that kind of increase in Democratic vote,” he said.
Kondik said “hell-raiser, anti-establishment candidates” have cropped up with both parties, although Democrats have seemed more reluctant to travel the Trump-like path.
But Kondik added, “If Dennis Kucinich wins, it would indicate that maybe Democrats are going for these hell-raiser type of candidates.”
Across America, Kondik said, many political opinions are driven simply by hatred of the other side.
“I think that is a major, major factor in both parties right now,” he said. “Anger is the best motivator there is, and Democrats are mad.”
Asked about Kasich's prospects in the 2020 presidential race, Newhouse replied, “I think he could be a terrific commentator on CNN.”
Kondik said Kasich could be a spoiler in the New Hampshire primary but probably can't mount a national campaign against Trump.
“He’s kind of a man without a party,” Kondik said of Kasich.