Messages Mixed on Unions, Health Care in Ohio Vote; Signals Unclear for 2012

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Byline: Andrea Billups, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Ohio Democrats and labor unions spent much of Wednesday claiming bragging rights over the rejection by voters of a GOP-backed bill curbing union power, but a second vote repudiating the core of President Obama's health care law showed that things may not be so clear cut heading into 2012.

Midwestern Democrats said they hoped to build on the union vote - and a second special election in Iowa that kept control of the state Senate in party hands - as part of a full-court press next year across the region, while giving Mr. Obama a big boost in one of the nation's foremost swing states.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden hailed the result, saying, Ohio has sent a loud and clear message that will be heard all across the country: The middle class will no longer be trampled on.

And Democrats in Wisconsin said the Ohio result will give momentum to their drive to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who forced through a similar law limiting collective-bargaining rights for public-sector unions in his state.

But the overwhelming rejection of the health care law - by a 2-to-1 margin - demonstrates that Mr. Obama's signature domestic achievement is also not playing well in the state.

Charles Franklin, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin, said the Ohio and Iowa results should not be seen as heralding a new era of power for Midwest Democrats.

There was certainly some pulling back from the strong Republican wins of 2010 last night, Mr. Franklin said of the political landscape. However, I think it was not necessarily an embrace of Democrats either. In Ohio, [the health care question] won a larger majority than the union Issue 2. Issue 3 was widely seen as a rejection of Obama's health care reform, especially the individual mandate to purchase health insurance.

Overall, I would say voters rejected policies that they thought went too far from both parties, said Mr. …