Sunday, November 05, 2006

New York Times Profiles OH-01, calls it a toss-up

Ohio Roundup: Will Cincinnati Give GOP a Chilly Reception?

• Ohio’s 1st District: Voters in the 1st District, which takes in most of Cincinnati as well as areas to the west and north, have re-elected Republican Steve Chabot five times since he joined Congress in the historic GOP Class of 1994. But he faced a tough challenge in 2000 from Democrat John Cranley, who then was very young and inexperienced — but is back again this year to challenge Chabot with six years on the Cincinnati city council under his belt.

The greater seasoning that Cranley brings to the rematch, set against a national backdrop of voter fatigue with the Republican Party, has prompted CQPolitics.com to change its rating on the race to No Clear Favorite from Leans Republican.

The 1st District’s southern border is the Ohio River, not the Rio Grande, yet immigration is a top-tier issue here as it is this year in many districts scattered across the nation.

Chabot began the fight with an ad accusing Cranley casting a city council vote that amounted to supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants. Cranley responded by trying to turn the issue back on Chabot by arguing that Republicans haven’t solved the immigration issue and don’t have a plan to keep jobs in the state, where the heavily industrial-based economy has not kept up with the economic growth numbers exhibited by the nation as a whole.

Two late October polls showed Chabot trailing Cranley slightly and holding percentage support in the low- to mid-40s, below the 50 percent comfort level experts say incumbents need in order to be confident of victory.

Gene Beaupre, director of government relations and a political scientist at Xavier University in Cincinnati, says southern Ohio voters have a long history of supporting Chabot, who served on the Cincinnati city council from 1985 to 1990 — losing an initial 1988 bid for the House — and on the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners from 1990 until he entered Congress in 1995.

“It’ll be very hard for people not to vote for him, because they’ve been doing it for so long,” Beaupre said.

Still, the 1st is hardly a GOP stronghold, even in much better years for the party than this one. President Bush took 50 percent of the district’s vote and edged Democrat John Kerry by just 1 percentage point in 2004.

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