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Following SB5 vote, GOP and Dems begin decoding Ohio voters ahead of 2012

After the rejection of Ohio’s union-busting law, Senate Bill 5, on Tuesday, Democrats and media alike are crowing the results as good news for 2012, while Republicans have wasted no time rolling out their next attack on unions in the state.

“By resoundingly rejecting the Republican-backed push to rewrite labor rules for public employees, Buckeye State voters helped set the table for the 2012 presidential election,” wrote Henry Gomez, politics writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “Without question the results will be viewed as a momentum-builder for Democrats nationwide and should encourage President Barack Obama.”

In the same column, he quoted John Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron. “Unions and their allies have done a lot of things transferable to next year,” said Green. “In some respects, the campaign was a trial run for the presidential.”

Both parties are making dangerous long guesses on Ohio’s political will, however.

After Ohio’s independent voters, reacting to high unemployment and limited recovery from the recession, helped Republican candidates sweep most Democrats from the statewide positions in 2010, freshly elected Governor John Kasich introduced some sweeping changes for the state, from so-called reforms in the biennial budget, to the establishment of an opaque non-profit — JobsOhio — to take the helm for the state’s economic development and keep behind the scenes machinations away from pesky media scrutiny. Finally, Kasich and the state GOP attempted to end public unions’ rights to bargain, eliminating third-party arbitration and public employees’ right to strike.

But the Governor was elected in 2010, when Democrats were purged nationwide, the result of a massive effort by the Republican Party to place blame on the Obama administration and cast every Democrat as guilty by association. Even so, Kasich was only elected by a 2-percent margin, or roughly 77,000 votes, over incumbent Ted Strickland, who was elected by nearly 50 percent more votes than his Republican challenger J. Kenneth Blackwell in 2006.

Kasich, however, seemed to think he was bestowed with a popular mandate to fulfill a conservative agenda, and sought extremely aggressive reforms that proved to be far from what Ohioans actually wanted. The referendum on SB5, Issue 2, was one of three laws of which the public took umbrage. The other two are on the ballot for 2012: Republicans’ redistricting plan for Congress, passed in an emergency appropriations bill to insulate it against a referendum effort. Ohio’s Supreme Court disagreed, ruling the reapportionment part of the bill was indeed subject to citizen’s veto referendum.

The other law, H.B. 194, is an election-reform law that liberal opponents freely refer to as the “Voter Suppression Bill,” a law the would make permanent Secretary of State Jon Husted’s decision this year to prohibit county boards of elections from mailing out unsolicited absentee ballot applications to voters. Ohio residents will decide its fate next November, as well.

Even the union-sympathetic message sent by voters last Tuesday hasn’t stalled Ohio conservatives from announcing a petition to amend the state’s constitution to prohibit unions from forcing employees to join against their will. If passed, Ohio would join 22 other “Right to Work” states, cutting in on labor’s ability to raise funds. SB5 was voted down by 792,676 votes -– more than ten times the number of votes by which Kasich beat Strickland.

Does this mean Ohioans will now embrace Democratic initiatives? Not necessarily. While SB5 was widely perceived as unfair and over-broad, many elements within the bill were consistently embraced by voters.

And on Tuesday, Ohio voters easily approved Issue 3, a tea party-led effort to “block” the individual mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act.

In fact, it passed at almost the exact same margin as Issue 2 failed, according to unofficial election results. While Issue 3 was campaigned much less aggressively, both for and against, the tea party’s referendum on “Obamacare” and, in effect, President Obama himself, shows that Ohioans don’t completely align with him or his party.

In fact, they don’t seem to have any allegiances to anyone.

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