What a difference six years make.

Exactly six years ago today — Sept. 27, 2006 — two Washington Post reporters visited the 6th Congressional District of Ohio to meet then-state Sen. Charlie Wilson (D), who was running his first campaign for Congress.

Wilson strolled into Congress and succeeded Ted Strickland, who won his 2006 race for Ohio governor.

Six years later, Strickland is a former governor and Wilson is a former congressman fighting hard to get back to Washington. (Those two Washington Post reporters were Chris “The Fix” Cillizza and Jim VanDeHei — who went on to establish that other political publication that shall remain nameless.)

Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), right, photographed with other members of the House GOP Freshman Class of 2010. (Susan Walsh/AP)

Internal polling released by the Wilson campaign last week suggests that the two candidates are locked in a tight race at 46 percent apiece. The Johnson campaign has no similar polling to share, but agrees that the campaign is close. The race is considered a “tossup” by The Washington Post House race ratings.

The 6th District runs along the southeastern slope of Ohio, from Youngstown, to Steubenville down south to the Kentucky and West Virginia borders. (It also includes Jefferson County, which cast nearly 36,000 ballots for president in 2008. As The Post's Joel Achenbach wrote Sunday in his must-read story about the region, President Obama squeaked past John McCain in the county by just 76 votes.)

Ads in this race — which we will post in 2chambers later today — focus on the familiar national themes of Medicare reform, outsourcing and every politician’s favorite four-letter word: China (yes, it has five letters, but you know what we mean).

Why does Wilson want to return to Congress? I’ll ask him later today. Meanwhile, let’s recap our #5in5 trip so far:

Miles traveled as of Wednesday night: 618 miles. The trip began Sunday night in Pittsburgh and I drove a round trip from Canton, Ohio to Dover, Ohio.

Places visited Wednesday: The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton and Dover, Ohio.

Gas prices: $3.79 for a gallon of regular unleaded at a Marathon gas station in Canton; $3.89 for a gallon of regular unleaded at the Speedway gas station in Bolivar, Ohio.

Number of times I’ve heard Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” while scanning radio stations since starting the trip Sunday night: 10 insufferable times.

In case you missed it Wednesday: Make sure to read my interviews with Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) and his Democratic challenger Joyce Healy-Abrams. Plus a recap of our travels in Pennsylvania.

Where am I going Wednesday?: Jacobsburg and Bridgeport, Ohio, to see Johnson and Wilson, respectively, before driving three hours north to Cleveland.

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