Salena Zito

Strickland’s approval rating took an 11-point dive last month, following state budget deliberations. Recent polls show his 2010 Republican challenger, former U.S. Rep. John Kasich, within striking distance and well within the margin of error.

And it gets uglier: A nasty tone has been set in the Democrats’ primary race for an open U.S. Senate seat, between Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner.

Former Bush budget director and Republican Senate hopeful Rob Portman crushed Fisher and Brunner combined in last quarter’s fundraising totals.

Kelly is not sure if Ohio voters are in the mood for a return to Republican control: “While Strickland's opinion numbers have fallen, any improvement in the economic forecast, I think, should turn around (his) recent misfortune.”

Part of the Ohio problem for Democrats is that Obama took a page from FDR rather than from JFK: Strike while the iron is hot – and while a witch’s brew of trouble boils in the national cauldron.

Whether his administration has done the right things, too little, or too much about the nation’s recession is beginning to hit home in this rust-belt state.

Then there is cap-and-trade, a lousy bill for coal-producing Ohio, but Washington’s attitude was that it is better than nothing.

That brings us to health care, or death by a thousand cuts. It's got moving parts all over the place. Everybody agrees we need universal access, reductions in cost, maintenance of quality- and, oh yes, taxes to pay for it.

The problem is that it's a pipe dream; something has to give. We have high-quality medical care for people with access to high-value insurance; we have limited access to the system, and we have a high-cost system. How do we get from here to there?

“It’s too much, too soon and too fast,” said pizza-man Watkins while filling orders at his shop.

Acutely aware of his Buckeye problem, Obama spent the day after his health care press conference last week in the affluent Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights, talking about health care.

We have it all here, says Rep. Charlie Wilson, D-Bridgeport: “Ohio represents a wonderful cross-section of the country that seems to have the ability to walk the line between liberal and conservative.”

Wilson’s district split in 2008, going for him and for Republican presidential candidate John McCain – more proof of a deeply divided state.

Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.