Much of politics is perception.
Voters ask themselves a multitude of questions as they head to the voting booth.
"Are our leaders doing a good job? Are things going well? Has he or she well represented my interests?"
How voters perceive those answers matter.
So how will voters in Ted Strickland's home base react to the job he's done for southeast Ohio?
Unfortunately for the Governor, there are four issues that many people of southeast Ohio are bound to remember as they go to the polls.
1) The Big One. Unemployment.
In the 12 counties that encompass southeast Ohio, unemployment sits at 12.25%, or 17% higher than the state unemployment rate and 29% higher than the national unemployment rate.
Things are bad in the U.S. They are even worse in Ohio. But they are god-awful in southeast Ohio. Nothing matters more than putting food on the table and a roof over your head. And thanks to the jobs crisis, the people of southeast Ohio are suffering moreso than normal.
2) Who deserves the cash?
A wave of new federal dollars have flowed into Ohio recently via the Hardest-Hit fund. A number of variables determine who gets the most money to help pay their mortgages. Well, it turns out those variables mean a lot of southeast Ohio won't get the same level of assistance as other parts of the state.
This year, the Appalachian Regional Commission designated 6 Ohio counties as distressed. Three of them don't get the same level of assistance as more well-off counties like Butler or even Franklin County. And it's quite likely many in southeast Ohio won't find that very fair. Are some of the reasons for the levels of compensation valid? Perhaps. But that doesn't help the perception much, does it?
3) The 3-C.
Southeast Ohioans are contributing their hard-earned taxpayer dollars to fund the famous $400 million 3-C train. On top of that, millions more of their tax dollars will be spent for years to come to keep it running. All on a train they won't use unless they are willing to drive an hour or more. With times as tough as they are, how happy would you be funding a train you have no use for?
4) Trashing the Hometown Boy
The Shoemaker name is well-known in southern Ohio. Mike Shoemaker served in the Ohio House for 14 years and the Ohio Senate for 6. His Dad served as Lt. Governor. And he was fired by Governor Strickland for questionable reasons. I imagine there are a few people in southern Ohio that weren't very happy with that turn of events.
The problem for the governor comes when all of these perceptions become reflected in reality.
The first instance of which was first seen in the May primary data from SE Ohio.
Despite the Democratic Senate primary being the highest profile race on the ballot, 2,326 voters in the 12 southeastern counties switched from Democrat to Republican in the primary. In return, only 470 Republicans switched to Democrat.
While those aren't a massive amount of voters, the trend is particularly significant. Why? Because those 12 counties voted for Strickland over Blackwell 71.3% to 27.1% in 2006.
You'd imagine such a stronghold for Strickland would stay somewhat loyal. Instead we are seeing a defection. Now if your first reaction is to say the number of new GOP voters is relatively small, fine. But if you are going to do that, you need to also consider the far smaller number of new Dem voters at the same time.
The trend is clear. Much of southeastern Ohio is fed up with Strickland.
Does that mean John Kasich will win each of these 12 counties? Not necessarily. But without question, Strickland is going to perform far weaker is his home base than he did in 2006.
And if he can't keep Duck Run in line, how can he expect the state to stay loyal?