Tuesday, November 8th saw two monumental votes come and go in Ohio. By the end of the night both conservatives and liberals had things to cheer about. SB-5 (on ballot known as Issue 2) was soundly defeated as unions and Democrats fought tooth and nail against it. Repeal of the law ow means that collective bargaining rights and public employee contributions to their healthcare and pension remain unchanged. But while unions and liberals celebrate on this issue they were handed a resounding defeat on Issue 3 when voters overwhelmingly supported a Constitutional Amendment banning the Individual Mandate in Obama’s Healthcare Reform.
Leaving aside for the time being the other key outcomes of the night (and the union victory on Issue 2) I want to focus on what the big win on Issue 3 means for conservatives nationally and the Republican presidential race. Afterall, it is very clear that Moveon.org and other liberal groups spent big on getting voters to not just oppose Issue 2 but also oppose Issue 3. Unfortunately for the left it did not work out that way.
There are a few ways to look at the vote on Issue 3. The first would be it was a huge GOP victory against Obamacare. The second would be that the left and Democrats largely focused on Issue 2 and did not go all in to oppose Issue 3. The last would be that Ohio voters simply are not comfortable with the idea of being forced to buy a product, regardless of the other parts of the Healthcare Law. The third way to look at the vote seems to appeal to most on the left and right. Afterall, Republicans can claim it is a rejection of Obamacare, and it certainly is true for a key part of it. The left can claim however that the public just may not like the IM, but is undecided on the rest of the law. However the vote is looked at though, it should tell conservative and the GOP nationally a few things.
The first is that conservatives should continue to hit on the Individual Mandate. Ohio if nothing else showed that voters in a swing state are uncomfortable with the idea. Perhaps even better for conservatives, unions massively turned out their members to vote against Issue 2, yet Issue 3 passed with a massive majority. That means there had to be quite a few Democrats and union members who opposed the Individual Mandate and voted for Issue 3. For prospective conservative candidates running across the nation that means they might be able to win a few cross-over votes on the issue. In thi hyper-partisan environment that would be quite a feat.
Another thing the vote tells conservatives is how unhappy the president’s base really is with him. If they were really gung-ho for the president and his policies they would have swallowed their misgivings and voted against Issue 3, supporting the IM. But instead they did not and Issue 3 passed. Purely symbolic the vote may be, but it should send a clear signal to the White House about how their party faithful views their legislative achievements. This of course is good news for conservatives and Republicans nationwide.
The vote in Ohio should also send a clear signal to conservatives and Republicans in regards to the presidential nomination. And that message can best be summed up as “Not Romney.” How this message becomes clear is manifested in the fact that if voters rejected the IM overwhelmingly how would it look if the GOP picked a nominee who implemented an IM in his home state? Romney would not be able to hit the president on this issue at all, considering he would just be labelled a hypocrite. His attacks would fall by the wayside and nationally Republican candidates would have to explain why their party’s standardbearer supported the same thing they are railing against.
The “Not Romney” message this vote also sends is through turnout and suburbanite preferences. The overriding belief among Republicans and conservatives is Romney can drag the base out by attacking Obama and winning suburbanites on his moderate record. But if the Issue 3 vote is any indication that is not a sure thing. Conservatives came out in force to vote for Issue 3. Suburbanites votes heavily for Issue 3. So how would Romney reconcile with these two key groups his passage of Romneycare with an IM in MA? Would Romney really be able to win suburbanite and get out conservatives when he has passed the same thing the president has? And as Romney has backed away from his initial support for the IM in his home-state he has been labelled a hypocrit by the left and right. That is unlikely to change if he wins the primary.
The Issue 3 vote sends clear signals to conservatives. To run against the Individual Mandate, especially in swing seats. You might get a few cross-over votes and combined with the president’s and Democrats demoralized base might put you over the top in a close election. The vote also sends a clear message for conservatives and the GOP to not nominate Romney. He is easily attackable on his passage of Romneycare’s IM in MA. Futhermore, he is far from assured of winning suburbanite votes and getting conservatives out to vote. For the GOP and conservatives the Issue 3 vote holds key messages. They should heed that message.