CLEVELAND -- In the central Ohio town of London, an independent pharmacy was absorbed by a national chain because, says Rep. Sherrod Brown, the pharmacy could not afford the staff needed to decipher for customers the new prescription drug entitlement that Brown voted against because the Bush administration ``let the drug companies write it." Brown, whose district is in the western portion of the Cleveland-Akron-Canton metropolitan area where nearly one-third of Ohio voters live, voted against authorizing the use of force in Iraq, against the Bush tax cuts, against drilling in ANWR, and against school choice for 2,700 District of Columbia children. If Democrats are to recapture the Senate this year, Brown probably must defeat Sen. Mike DeWine in this state that secured President Bush's re-election when, late on election night, it turned red.
Brown, a political lifer, was elected to the state Legislature a year after graduating from Yale. He ran statewide at age 29, becoming secretary of state, and has been elected to the U.S. House seven times. DeWine, after four terms in the House, won a Senate seat in a Republican's dream year, 1994. But now fate has dealt him a ghastly hand.
Senators seeking a third term have 12 years of Senate votes to justify to voters. DeWine is seeking a third term in an inhospitable environment -- the middle of the second term of an incumbent president of his own party. That is when the electorate often experiences ``the six-year itch," the desire to reshuffle the political deck. A recent national ``generic" poll -- do voters generally prefer to vote for a Democrat or Republican for Congress? -- found a staggering 16-point advantage for the Democrats. The redistricting done for incumbent-protection after the 2000 Census may have made the House almost impervious to the itch -- nationally, at most 35 of 435 House races are currently considered competitive -- so voters might vent their restlessness in Senate elections. And ``restless" hardly describes Ohio's dyspeptic mood regarding its Republicans, who hold all statewide offices. Scandals and tax increases drove Gov. Bob Taft's approval rating in one poll to six. He has bounced all the way back to 16. Richard Nixon's job approval rating was 24 on the eve of his resignation.
Republicans, who revere markets, should fear that the political market is working in some states -- that Democrats are adapting to market signals. In Pennsylvania, the Democrats' likely Senate candidate, Bob Casey, is pro-life, and currently has a 10-point lead over Sen. Rick Santorum, who is seeking a third term.