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After Midterm Election Struggles In Ohio, A Call For A New Party Brand For Democrats

Unsuccessful Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Richard Cordray, and running mate Betty Sutton. [Jo Ingles / Statehouse News Bureau]
Betty Sutton and Richard Cordray on stage together after their failed gubernatorial bid

The Democrats had high hopes for yesterday's mid-term election, and the party succeeded in retaking the House of Representatives. 

But in Ohio, the GOP again swept the major statewide offices, led by gubernatorial candidate Mike DeWine.

Ohio Congressman and Democrat Tim Ryan won re-election in Ohio's 13th district, and he's challenged his party leadership before. 

Even before ballots were counted speculation surfaced as to whether Ryan would try for Speaker of the House.

“I don’t have any intention of doing it right now,” Ryan told WCPN on election night. “I do think, along with a lot of others in our Democratic Caucus in Washington, that we need leaders that are going to help us move forward, that are the best people to have in place for us moving forward to protect the new members that come in, and get elected in some of these districts that are redder districts.”

“We need to become the party of the workers again,” Ryan continued. “We need to get back to the bread-and-butter issues, you know the issues of pensions, and wages, and healthcare, and rebuilding the country, and really getting us prepared for the new economy. That used to be the backbone of the Democratic Party, and we’ve kind of lost our way a little bit.”

Ryan said he’s not closing the door on a role in the leadership for leading a change of the “brand” of the party, but it’s an on-going discussion.

Aside from national gains for Democrats, in Ohio it seems the Republicans have firm control of statewide offices. 

And that control may be the reality in the state now, independent of the Ohio Democratic Party.

“I don’t think it’s an organization question so much as a question of losing a grip on the state of Ohio,” said David Niven, a political science professor at the University of Cincinnati and a former speechwriter for former governor Ted Strickland.

Niven considers the 2018 midterm election as a continuing erosion of the Democrats’ place in Ohio politics, in light of the 2016 election.

He does think recent elections may also show Ohio is no longer a “purple” state (a swing state), but is now firmly a “leans Republican” state.

Niven says Ohio is not a representative state demographically of the nation, and the fact it is a “little whiter, and a little older than the nation,” speaks well for Republican chances here.

“It was a good night for Democrats elsewhere, but it simply didn’t land in Ohio, and it really will send Democrats back to the drawing board,” Niven said. “If they can’t win an election with a national mood that we have now, when can they win one?”

Tony Ganzer has reported from Phoenix to Cairo, and was the host of 90.3's "All Things Considered." He was previously a correspondent with the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, covering issues like Swiss banks, Parliament, and refugees. He earned an M.A. in International Relations (University of Leicester); and a B.Sc. in Journalism (University of Idaho.) He speaks German, and a bit of French.