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Betty Sutton, Bart Stupak (AP)

GOP Landslide Possible If Ohio District Is Guide

Sep 20, 2010

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How bad could the mid-term elections be for Democrats this year? Very bad, indeed, downright ugly if the situation in Ohio's 13th Congressional District is any indication.

All Things Considered co-host Robert Siegel recently traveled to Ohio to get a sense for how much the political terrain has shifted there.

What he found should be enough to make Democratic Party officials miserable.

An excerpt from his report:

ROBERT: Betty Sutton is locked in a close race here with Republican Tom Ganley, a political newcomer.  And she shouldn't be.

Sutton has brought home the bacon and been remarkably noticeable for a two-term congresswoman: she proposed Cash for Clunkers in the House.  And her district. the 13th Congressional District is supposed to be easy for a Democrat.

POLITICAL SCIENTIST DAVE COHEN: "This is a seat that should not be in play. This is a seat that should be on nobody's radar."

ROBERT: That's University of Akron Political Scientist Dave Cohen.

The reason - Cohen says - is that a few years ago, a very popular Democratic Congressman here was making noises about running for Governor, against then-Republican Governor Bob Taft.  The Republicans were in the process of re-districting.

COHEN: "And so, the Republicans decided to make this district more safe for him as an encouragement for him to stay right there in the U.S. Congress and not challenge Taft for the gov

ROBERT: So Republicans designed this district for a Dem to win it.

COHEN: Yes, they did."

Hence, a District that looks like a T-Rex facing west, hind legs rising along the west side of Akron and his head 30 miles to the north, touching the shore of Lake Erie on the west side of Cleveland.

Two years ago Betty Sutton won this district with 65 percent of the vote.  Barack Obama carried it by 15 points. The one published poll this year, taken by a Republican firm, showed her just two points ahead.

Betty Sutton's Republican challenger, Tom Ganley, gives very few interviews and wouldn't talk to us. But his name is well known throughout Northeast Ohio...

... Ganley is a hugely successful car dealer, who branched out into insurance and banking. He made big news many years ago when he helped the FBI bust a Cleveland crime mob that was trying to shake him down.

Tom Ganley has put up almost $7 million of his own money for the campaign, which enjoys the support of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement.

In his campaign ads, he says in Washington he'll "stop reckless spending, balance the budget, improve the economy..."

... If Republicans and Democrats agree on one thing about this campaign, it's that - with unemployment in Ohio at ten point three per cent, it's about jobs...

... If Betty Sutton really has a close race on her hands, that's a measure of how big a year this could be for Republicans.

Other Ohio Democrats in Congress are clearly in marginal seats.  But, if they're close in the 13th, the Republicans could be close to a landslide.

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