“Certainly his candidacy is historic, and I think it’s a sign of the changes within the Democratic Party where it’s unlikely to see any white male tickets in national or state races,” said Lee Hannah. , associate professor of political science at Wright State University. “I think Whaley will have an eye on urban and suburban voters as a high priority, but Democrats also need to start getting stronger in rural counties as well; and I’m sure their team is trying to think about how they craft an economic message for those areas. »
If she wins, however, Whaley won’t be the first woman to hold the position. Nancy Hollister, a Republican, served as governor for 11 days in early 1999.
Hollister, who replaced DeWine as lieutenant governor in 1994 when he was elected to the U.S. Senate, also became governor after George Voinovich was elected to the Senate. She filled the final days of Voinovich’s term until newly elected Governor Bob Taft took office.
Whaley won the Democratic primary by a wide margin, but she did not come close to DeWine’s vote total. Just over a million Republicans voted in the primary against half a million Democrats.
DeWine got nearly half the vote in a four-way race, noted Mark Caleb Smith, director of the Center for Policy Studies at Cedarville University.
“Whaley needed DeWine to lose, or she needs the national and state climate to turn to the Democratic Party,” he said. “She’ll have a hard time knocking down someone with DeWine’s deep roots in the state.”
Turnout in the primaries doesn’t necessarily reflect how the November general election went, Hannah said. An influx of cash and visits from high-profile national figures have sparked Republican interest in the U.S. Senate race, boosting voter mobilization that likely spilled over into the gubernatorial primary, he said. Even so, it will be an uphill battle for Whaley.
“Right now, the Republican Party seems to have a pretty big advantage in Ohio. Even in 2018, when all the indicators were pointing to a ‘blue wave’, Ohio went against the grain,” Hannah said. “Now, in a midterm election with a Democrat in the White House, Republicans should be ready to stay in control come fall.”
But a lot could change that before November, he said.
A big factor in the fall election could be the potential overthrow of Roe v. Wade. A leaked draft opinion from the US Supreme Court says the 1973 ruling legalizing abortion could soon be overturned.
On election night, Whaley predicted that if Roe was overruled, DeWine would oversee the criminalization of abortion in Ohio.
“It will be interesting to see how well she incorporates a potential Roe upset into her campaign,” Smith said. “Since abortion can really become a statewide political issue, she has the opportunity to profit from a combustible issue.”
In 2019, DeWine signed a “Heartbeat Bill,” which would ban nearly all abortions after six weeks — before many women know they are pregnant — as Texas passed and other states ruled by the Republicans are considering. Its implementation has been blocked in court, but DeWine has expressed an interest in reviving it if Roe falls.
“It could become a major fault line in the fall,” Hannah said. “The pro-life movement has been galvanized because abortion is legal – if reversed, we could see a similar galvanizing effect on the pro-choice movement.”
It’s an issue that could reinforce the urban-rural divide among Ohio voters, he said. A Pew Research poll found that 61% of urban voters and 59% of suburban voters support abortion rights, compared to 46% of rural voters, Hannah said.