Clinton’s victory will not change Ohio’s congressional delegation

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A Public Opinion Strategies poll of the 18-county 6th Congressional District has U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican, up 61 percent to 28 percent over Democrat Ted Strickland, who represented that eastern and southeastern portion of the state while in Congress.

It’s the latest piece of bad news for Strickland’s ailing Senate campaign. If Strickland, the former governor, is to have any chance of winning the seat – and polls along with trends and spending strongly indicate he doesn’t have a chance – he needs to be competitive in his old “coal country” district. This poll shows he’s nowhere near competitive there.

Also, the poll has Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump leading Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 6th 52 percent to 27 percent.

The poll of 600 people was conducted Oct. 13 to Sunday with a 4 percent margin of error.

The poll was done on behalf of the campaign of U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson campaign, a Republican from Marietta, running for re-election to his fourth two-year term in the 6th.

Even if Hillary Clinton were to win the presidential election by a large margin – and I seriously doubt that will happen – it’s not going to mean Democrats will gain control of the U.S. House.

And we can be certain that no matter the outcome on Nov. 8, there won’t be a single change in the 16 congressional races in Ohio, considered a toss-up state in the presidential election.

I’ve argued in this column before that except for the presidential election Ohio really isn’t a purple state.

Democrats won nearly every statewide seat in the 2006 election. Democrats quickly lost them all in 2010 and had an even worse showing in the 2014 election.

Since the 1974 election, Ohioans have elected Democrats as governor three times: Dick Celeste in 1982 and 1986, and Ted Strickland in 2006. That’s only three out of the last 11 gubernatorial elections.

However, there are pockets of this state that are solidly Democratic – the Mahoning Valley, Akron, Toledo, Cleveland and Columbus with Cincinnati turning blue in recent years.

These large population centers have largely been drawn by Republicans to make it nearly impossible for Democrats to hold more than the four seats they currently occupy.

When I first saw the 6th Congressional District in 2002 that snakes the Ohio River for about 350 miles from Lucasville in Scioto County before coming to rest in the Youngstown suburbs, I was stunned. But at least the district was drawn to be somewhat competitive and was held by Democrats until the 2010 election.

Compare it to what we see today in the 9th District that runs along Lake Erie in five counties, going from Toledo to Cleveland, and the old 6th may be longer in length, but is less ridiculous in how it’s gerrymandered.

The three other Democratic congressional districts are most of Columbus, most of Cleveland, and most of the Valley going to Akron. Other Democratic areas are carved up into smaller pieces of Republican districts.

I understand that Republicans won the 2010 statewide elections that gave them the power to redraw congressional lines to keep the 12-4 control until the next census, but voters want a change.

That was evident when a bipartisan plan to alter how Ohio draws its state legislative districts was overwhelmingly approved by voters last year.

There’s been plenty of talk about the congressional districts, but nothing has been done nor do I expect anything to be done for at the very least the next few years. It’s a big perplexing because it’s not like the Republicans in the U.S. House in Ohio hold any sort of strong influence over the Republicans who make the decisions on drawing the congressional lines.

But what’s been left is noncompetitive congressional elections.

Democrats spent time making sure the Republican members of Congress faced general-election opponents this year, but the quality of the candidates isn’t terribly strong. The same can be said for the Republicans who are running against the four incumbent Democrats.

For example in the 6th District, Belpre Mayor Mike Lorentz is the sacrificial Democrat running against three-term Republican incumbent Bill Johnson of Marietta.

As of Sept. 30, Johnson had raised $1,594,675 to $11,888 for Lorentz, whose campaign – despite the small amount of money – seems to have no idea how to fill out a Federal Election Commission campaign finance form.

Lorentz had quite the understatement when he said, “I’m not good with asking people for money. I don’t feel comfortable asking for money.”

Lorentz is also upset with the Ohio Democratic Party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for recruiting him to run and then abandoning him.

“The DCCC talked to me in February and I haven’t spoken to them since,” he said. “And I’ve received no financial help from them or the Ohio Democratic Party.”

While Johnson is spending way more money than he has to on this campaign, he’s also focusing his time on other issues. The most notable is helping to get fellow Republican Donald Trump elected president.

That led to an interesting discussion with Johnson a few days ago when he came to The Vindicator for an editorial board meeting seeking the newspaper’s endorsement. I have no say in the endorsement process, but I sit in on plenty of the interviews to ask questions.

I asked Johnson about his thoughts on the recently-surfaced video of Trump in 2005 making lewd and sexist comments, and asked the congressman if there was anything that would make him withdraw his endorsement of the Republican presidential nominee. U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a fellow Republican who supported Trump but not with much enthusiasm, joined other national Republicans in pulling his support for Trump after the video was revealed.

Johnson said, “I’ve got two daughters, I’ve got four granddaughters and I’ve got a wife. I was offended as any father would be by the comments that Mr. Trump made. I’m glad he apologized. I think his apology was sincere. But when I look beyond the character. When I look at the issues, there’s nothing that Donald Trump said in that video that changes Hillary Clinton’s qualifications to be president and in my view is she’s not qualified.”

Johnson said Clinton lied to the families of the four Americans killed in the Sept. 11, 2012, Benghazi attack, lied to the American people about how she handled national security secrets by having confidential emails on her private email server, and that she sold access as secretary of state to those who donated to the Clinton Foundation for personal gain.