On May 17, I wrote a column titled “How Whaley Beats DeWine.” It contained my advice to Nan Whaley, the Democratic nominee for governor, on how to pull the upset of incumbent, entrenched Republican Gov. Mike DeWine. ColumbusMediaInsiderPoliticalOutsider: How Whaley Beats DeWine |

At the time, 75 days ago, I gave Whaley 1 chance in 10 of pulling the upset. After the Roe decision threatening women’s right to choose brought many motivated women into the political marketplace, I revised my forecast to 3 chances in 10. I think the decision boosted Whaley’s standing by 3 percent, but it still leaves her 12 points behind (she was 15 points behind in the only post-primary poll) with 100 days to go. I give Whaley only 2 chances out of 10 of winning at this writing.

I am going to review each category I cited in my original analysis (first take) and tell you where I think Whaley stands (second take).


First take: Election after election show that Ohio voters are evolutionary not revolutionary.

Second take: Whaley has been more revolutionary than mainstream. Only if Ohio voters truly want to throw the Republican rascals out can she win.


First take: She needs a clever television ad that shows DeWine literally and figuratively driving a bus labeled Ohio into the ditch of illegality and unethical behavior. And she needs millions of dollars to bombard the airwaves with this message on broadcast television and on cable networks. She needs Sherrod Brown to do TV ads for her.

Second take: Whaley has not raised enough money to go on TV. She is relying on personal appearances, news coverage and social media. It is not enough.


First take: (Whaley) is under a gigantic microscope. Allies of DeWine and the Ohio Republican Party have been digging into Whaley's past since she announced her candidacy for governor a year ago. (They already have produced) TV ads designed to vilify her and render her as damaged goods to the public.

Second take: The good news is that DeWine and company have not gone negative in any big way yet. The bad news is that they are ready to pounce the moment Whaley creeps to within 9 points of him. More bad news is that Whaley does not have money to go on TV and introduce herself to the public, let alone defend herself.

Third take: Because of the overall weakness of the statewide Republican ticket and the propensity of the top of the ticket (governor, senator) to carry the lesser offices (supreme court, auditor) to victory, I now believe DeWine will go super negative on Whaley sooner rather than later in order to keep her down and knock her even lower so that even the weak sister Republican candidates (attorney general Yost as in worst and DeWine’s supreme court son as in schmuck) will be swept back into office.


First take: Kissing babies, eating cotton candy on the midway of county fairs, marching in a Labor Day Parade, handing out your spouse's cookbook at county fairs and having folks to the farm for an ice cream social. are what Mike and Fran DeWine have been doing for four decades.

Second take: Whaley is decent at retail campaigning, but far from folksy.


First take: J.D. Vance's sugar daddy Peter Thiel put $15 million into a campaign committee that helped Vance win the Senatorial primary. Multimillionaire DeWine decided to loan his campaign $3 million to make sure it had enough money for TV advertising down the home stretch in 2018.

Second take: No sugar mommy or daddy has arrived with saddle bags full of cash to aid Whaley. She is not independently wealthy. The Ohio Democratic Party is poorly funded. She’s too far behind for the Democratic Governors Association to step in. Only her patron U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown can raise the kind of money she needs, and he is busy making appearances to shore up his re-election campaign in 2024.


First take: Crazy things happen in political campaigns, and these are especially crazy times. … (Whaley) has got to assemble a "war room" that operates 24 hours a day, monitoring news coverage and social networks for developments that might affect her candidacy, then coming up with responses that strengthen her candidacy and attacks that weaken DeWine's. Further, she needs a TV ad making apparatus that can quickly get commercials on the air defending her, stating her positions and taking out DeWine.

Second take: President Joe Biden’s popularity seems to have bottomed out thanks to the House Committee pillaging Trump over his coup attempt and the economic and environmental deal reached with Sen. Joe Manchin. Democrats’ prospects of holding the U.S. Senate and maybe even the House are improving. All this helps Whaley. More GOP-weakening bombshells may be in the offing.


First take: (Whaley) and what is left of the Ohio Democratic Party have got to counterprogram Trump’s rallies in the future. The party must set up a rally across the street, bring in big name Democrats and draw a big crowd.

Second take: The ODP has not had a rally with a big-name speaker that raises big money since the pandemic began. Hard to imagine it can mount a counterrally to Trump.


First take:  When Republicans in Ohio are threatened, they haul out TV ads and color postcards demonizing Democratic candidates by putting their pictures next to Pelosi and AOC. Why? Because the latter are too radical for the typical Ohio voter, including moderate Democrats.

Second take: Whaley is not center-left, but solid-left in most of her views. She remains vulnerable to GOP attacks that she is too far left for moderate-loving Ohioans.


First take: The mere fact that Republicans have had a stranglehold on Ohio politics for three decades tends to cause the journalists who cover politics to develop a slight bias in favor of the GOP because who wants to investigate DeWine and company too aggressively and then find them in power for another four years (and get denied access).

Second take: Most political reporters for and are trying to hold DeWine and his corrupt Republican buddies accountable. To their discredit, they sometimes get distracted by covering dumb things like butter cow sculptures at the state fair and they try too hard to be clever on social networks. The worst thing is that the audiences for newspapers, news sites and TV news are shrinking rapidly, so even good reporting and analysis gets ignored.


First take: Most voters are not interested in politics and only vote because they see it as their public duty. Again, I must repeat, a TV ad barrage is how you reach the uninterested.

Second take: Whaley must find the angels with big checkbooks who would like to help her become Ohio's first female elected governor. Or remain in private life on Nov. 9.


First take: Even the best laid DeWine campaign plans can be overwhelmed by a (massive controversy) or a series of related issues (that catch the electorate’s fancy).

Second take: I think an issue below the surface is DeWine Fatigue. 40 years in public office in Ohio may leave increasing numbers of Ohioans tired of the diminutive one and ready to send him to retirement if they find Whaley an acceptable alternative.


First take: The gubernatorial debates did not amount to squat in 2018. I attended the one in Marietta. DeWine was better prepared. He moved forward when he spoke and looked at the camera. His appearance was designed to look good on TV. He might have added a little southern Ohio accent in a tip to the locals. Democrat Richard Cordray was lackluster in his appearance and presentation.

Second take: Whaley is demanding debates in all major Ohio media markets. DeWine is playing hard to get and probably will agree to two or three lightweight forums where Whaley is prohibited from asking him questions. The debates will not move the needle much. Only a $50 million TV ad barrage that shows DeWine driving the Ohio bus into the Corruption Ditch can turn the tide Whaley’s way.


-What’s the worst tag Democrats can put on Republicans in Ohio? What would stick in voters’ minds and drive them away from the GOP? Right now, I like “Extremist.” Send your nominations to email below.

-First Lady Fran DeWine is her governor hubby’s secret weapon. She has a keen intelligence and a pleasant, articulate speaking voice. The Republican Dolan-owned Cleveland Guardians had her on the radio pre-game show last week talking about a program she backs that sends books monthly to pre-school children to promote reading. It was political gold. In contrast, Whaley’s husband is not to be seen or heard on the campaign trail.

-Former House Speaker Larry Householder, aka Mr. Corruption, does not go on trial for bribery until January. Republicans can think the Court Gods for that one.

-A sugar daddy of sorts has emerged for Ohio Democrats. Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, has been giving hunks of money to Ohio Democrats. Whaley needs to put him on speed dial and sing, “I need a hunk a, hunk a burning cash.”

-U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown has returned to the campaign trail for his 2024 re-election bid and, maybe, for another run at the White House as the political raters put Brown in the top 10 if Biden steps aside. The problem is that Whaley needs Brown desperately. He saved her bacon by doing TV ads in the primary. Brown is the only Democrat that DeWine and company fear.

-Jeff Crossman for attorney general, Chelsea Clark for secretary of state, and Scott Schertzer for treasurer are credible Democratic candidates for state office. Auditor candidate Taylor Sappington is too inexperienced. He needs to be replaced by a better known, more experienced Democrat like, say, John Cranley, but only a few days remain for Sappington to step aside.

-I have a slogan for Clark to use against the shifty Republican secretary of state, Frank LaRose. It fits in so many ways. “LaRose Stinks.”

-Point to ponder: How did we ever let our state gets in the hands of these people?

-Despite leading in most post-primary polls in the Senate race, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan faces a rating of “Leans GOP” by Whaley’s is “Likely GOP.”

-It was seven years ago that the editors of the Columbus Free Press gave me this treasured opportunity be a columnist. I will always be grateful.

(Please send your comments and suggestions for future columns to John K. Hartman,  

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