If things go according to expectations, both Democrats and Republicans will have something to cheer about tonight.
In Ohio, voters look ready to hand the labor movement and Democrats a victory by overturning the law pushed by Republican Gov. John Kasich to limit the collective bargaining rights of some 360,000 public employees in the state. Since Ohio will be an important battleground state in next year’s presidential election, any indicator of public sentiment there is important. But from what both Republicans and Democrats are saying, the GOP has a very good chance of taking over the state Senate in Virginia, a key state in President Obama’s reelection strategy.
A split verdict of this sort — Ohio for the Democrats, Virginia for the Republicans — will tell us what we already know: that Obama faces a tough race next year, but that there is still a lot for both sides to fight for. If one party or the other wins both contests, they will have some legitimate bragging rights. Defeating the Ohio referendum and holding on to the Virginia Senate would be a big victory for Democrats and mark a shift in the mood from just a year ago. If Republicans win the Ohio vote and in Virginia, you will hear a lot of crowing — and the GOP will have a right to crow. For now, the split looks more likely.
Also watch the referendum in Mississippi to declare a fertilized egg a person. Mississippi is one of the most conservative states in the nation. If this referendum loses — and the polling is very tight — it will signify an overreach by the pro-life movement. If the referendum does lose, it will happen because voters were convinced that the measure would have gotten in the way of certain birth control techniques and possibly in vitro fertilization. On issues related to abortion and birth control, ours is a middle-of-the-road country. This is a test of that proposition.
There will be much else to discuss about tonight. But before Election Day is over, I want to join others who have declared that Acting Mayor Ed Lee of San Francisco deserves an award for the most delightful and adventurous political ad of the year. At a rather bitter time, it’s great to watch a political ad that makes you smile.