I wrote a column titled "Sherrod Bets It All On Nan" last month.

On Tuesday May 3, Sherrod won his big bet. What follows is my take on the election outcome and what it means for the future.

1. Sherrod Brown is the both the king and king/queen-maker of the Ohio Democratic Party. The U.S. Senator made a brilliantly executed television commercial for Nan Whaley that saturated the airwaves, gave her instant name recognition around the state, and, more than any other factor, is responsible for her one-sided victory over John Cranley in the Democratic primary for governor.

2. Now the challenge for Sen. Brown is to get Whaley elected governor. She has about 1 chance out of 10 of knocking off incumbent Gov. Mike DeWine. Brown will have to orchestrate several effective TV ads, some of them negative against DeWine, in order for Whaley to have a chance. He will have to help her raise $50 million because DeWine has access to $100 million, if he needs it, to hold onto his job.

3. If Brown guides Whaley to victory on Nov. 8, he will become a political deity in Ohio and easily win his fourth term in 2024. If she loses, Brown becomes vulnerable to DeWine leading the charge against him on behalf of either creepy Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted or super creepy secretary of state Frank LaRose. Either Husted or LaRose is the likely GOP nominee for Senate in 2024.

4. Brown's other challenges are to guide U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan to a win over the millionaire hillbilly "pet" of billionaire Peter Thiel, one J.D. Vance, in the 2022 U.S. Senate race; to help the Democrats' down ballot candidates to win, of which only two are credible, attorney general nominee State Rep. Jeff Crossman and treasurer nominee Marion Mayor Steve Schertzer; and to help the Democrats running for Congress, the Ohio Legislature and county offices win. If Democrats run the table in 2022, Brown will become a legend of Ohio politics.

Will Sherrod Brown Again Run For President In 2024?

5. It could become so wonderful for Brown that he decides to forego a re-election bid to run for U.S. President in 2024 in the likely event that President Joe Biden declines to run for a second term. Who would run for  Brown's seat? The leading Democratic contenders would be Whaley, if she makes governor and even if she doesn't, and John Cranley, whom Whaley thumped in the primary.

6. Aside from Brown's influence, Dayton ex-mayor Whaley won because she has been networking party leaders and party functionaries in the 88 counties for six years, because other party bosses backed her, even though the Ohio Democratic Party remained neutral, because she is a woman who knows how to exploit women's issues, and because the leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft of an expected ruling to reverse Roe. vs. Wade and restrict women's control over their own bodies came the day before the primary, sending thousands of women to the polls to protest vote for Whaley and persuaded others who were planning to vote but still undecided to similarly protest vote for Whaley. Sixty percent of the voters in the Democratic primary were women. Whaley got a hold of them early as a champion of women in politics and never let go. Some pundits say that Whaley "broke the glass ceiling" (that purportedly limits women's political advancement) by winning the primary. I say no. Whaley will break the glass ceiling when and if she is elected governor.

7. Although ex-Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley ran a solid campaign, he was unable to overcome Whaley's head start and unable to gain enough traction on his two major issues: Cincinnati was revived under his leadership and Ohio needed that kind of "comeback," and his actions as a young attorney on the Innocence Project, freeing wrongly convicted Blacks. Why did the first fail? Because Ohioans are so parochial that they do not want to admit that the state is failing behind. How about the second issue? I think it did attract some Black voters to Cranley, but not enough to overcome Whaley's head start with the Black community in vote-rich Cuyahoga and Franklin counties.

8. Cranley made a masterstroke in picking Toledo State Senator Teresa Fedor as his running mate. She delivered Lucas, Wood, Fulton and Erie counties in northwest Ohio for him. Otherwise, he carried four counties immediately to the west of Cincinnati/Hamilton County, but lost narrowly in his home county, Hamilton (though absentee and service members' votes could push Cranley ahead in the final total). Cranley was too conservative for many Hamilton County Democrats' tastes. By contrast, Whaley ran the table of her home county of Montgomery. Whaley won 65%-35% and took 80 counties to Cranley's 8.

9. Cranley proved to be as good a sport as he was a fierce competitor, conceding by 9 p.m. election night and pledging to campaign and raise money for Whaley and with Brown in the general election. If he follows through, Cranley will lay the groundwork for a future, successful statewide run. Ohio is a second time around state.

Whaley Must Overcome DeWine's Popularity Among Dems

10.Whaley's chances of winning are slim, about 10 percent. First of all, DeWine is more popular among Democrats and Independents than he is among his own kind. The first opinion poll after the primary will show DeWine up 15-20 percent over Whaley. As long as he maintains a big lead over Whaley, he will not have to spend money on negative advertising. If she closes the gap to single digits, DeWine will drop a $10 million TV ad bomb (probably already produced and ready to be aired) to stymie her momentum, likely cleverly demonizing her role as heading a dark money committee that spent big on behalf of Democrats in 2018 and on some allegedly shady business dealings and money changing hands during her time as Dayton mayor. Democrats will not be able to raise big  money to defend her and thus DeWine will be able to portray her as just as corrupt as he is, negating her advantage. Much like in 2018, DeWine will spend whatever amount of money he needs to win, including some from his personal multimillion dollar saddlebags.

11. Switching back to the Senate race, Tim Ryan has, at best, a 2 in 10 chance of defeating J.D. Vance. A major bet shop gives Vance an 87.5 percent chance of winning. The first post-primary poll will show Vance ahead by 5%, within the margin of error, with 25% undecided (mostly because they know little of either one).

12. Vance is very fast on his feet and not to be underestimated. His biggest weakness is that he is literally the "pet" of tech billionaire Peter Thiel, who backed Vance's book Hillbilly Elegy because the book suggested that the Democratic Party's welfare programs  kept working folks down (as Vance once was) so they might as well vote Republican (for Trump in 2016). Thiel put $15 million into an independent committee that bought TV ads for Vance. It spent more money that Vance's own committee did. Thiel orchestrated the endorsement of Vance by former President Donald Trump even though Vance once vilified Trump. One wonders how Thiel wooed Trump as Trump is known as very transactional. The question that Ohioans must wrestle with is: Do you want an out-of-the-mainstream out-of-stater buying an Ohio Senate seat? Ryan, by virtue of being a high profile Congressperson for two decades and having been briefly a candidate for the Presidential nomination, was better known by Ohioans coming into the primary. Ohioans do have a bias for names they know and who have been around for a while.

13. A lot is being made of the Republican voter turnout being double the Democrats'.

The obvious answer is that the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate spent upwards of $70 million, mostly on TV ads and mostly on Jeopardy! (it seemed) and that at various times four of the five major candidates were either on the lead or second in public opinion surveys. In the Democratic primary, Ryan spent around $5 million for his landslide and was never threatened. GOP candidates and independent committees spent 14 times what Democrats spent. That fueled and explains the one-sided voter turnout. Whaley and Cranley together spent about $3 million on TV ads. DeWine, for his part, spent about $5 million. Those modest outlays did not stir up voters like the GOP Senate race did.

News Media Coverage Not A Big Factor In Outcome

14. News media coverage had little impact on the senate and gubernatorial primaries. Facebook and Twitter did repeat some of the coverage, but it is largely noticed by the 20 percent of the population that pays attention to politics. When you get outside the metropolitan areas, you have millions of folks who can only be reached by TV ads and direct mail, both very expensive. Beautiful Ohio has become Apathetic and Difficult to Reach Ohio. Send a sympathy card to the hard-working, talented journalists in Ohio who dedicatedly cover politics to inform the public. Most of the public is not paying attention. The evidence: Only about 20 percent of Ohio's registered voters turned out or about 14 percent of the Buckeye State's 11.6 million residents.

15. Hence, it is not surprising that out-of-stater Peter Thiel thinks he can buy a senate seat for his "pet" J.D. Vance. (Pundit Steve Schmidt has labeled Vance as Thiel's "pet.") In Ohio politics, money does not just talk, it shouts. Democrats need to find some deep-pocketed sugar daddies and mommies or prepare for another debacle at the polls in 2022.


-- Evidence of the women's vote surge can be seen in central Ohio. In Franklin County Judge Jane Lynch won narrowly over the county Democratic Party's endorsee Mike Boyle. In Delaware County, split between two Congressional districts, Tamie Wilson upset the favorite Jeff Sites by 4 percent in the Democratic primary in the 4th District for the right to face coup-plotter U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan. In a battle of minimal campaigners Amy Rippel-Elton won by 14 points over Michael Fletcher for the right to face U.S. Rep. Troy Balderson in the 12th District.

-- If you want to give the media a hard time, ask editors and TV station managers why they did not fund any polls on either of the Democratic races. Hardly good reporting. Readers left in the dark.

-- Dispatch political editor Darrel Rowland has done a masterful job of reporting how pharmacy benefit managers rip off the public by inflating drug prices. Why can't the U.S. Congress do something?

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

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