After a review of the CNN exit poll which sampled over 3,300 Ohioans, that's exactly what happened.
By 53-37, Independent voters supported John Kasich. And while Democrats turned out at the same level as Republicans, they far underperformed where they needed to be.
Very simply, Independents were turned off by Strickland's failures and the President's presence. And Democrats weren't inspired by a Governor that failed to live up to his promises.
Survey USA, PPP, and Fox News all came within a point or two of the final margin among Independents.
One interesting demographic point came in the difference between African-American males and females. While African-American women favored Strickland by 90 points, African-American men strongly supported Strickland, but not by nearly as much - 73 points.
The educated preferred Kasich over Strickland. College graduates preferred the Republican 56-41 while non-graduates preferred the Governor 50-45.
Surprisingly, despite his obsessive support for big labor, Strickland's support among union households dropped a massive 14 points from his win in 2006.
A lot of hay was made near the end of the campaign about the Kasich's vulnerability among Republicans on the gun issue. It turns out the effect was minimal, if there at all. Each one their fair share of partisans with Strickland winning 89% of the Democratic vote and Kasich pulling in 88% of the GOP vote.
What about the big attack? Wall Street.
According to exit polls, a third of Ohio voters primarily blamed Wall Street for their state’s economic problems, but those voters went for Kasich 49 percent to 47 percent.Indeed.
“Sometimes people have all the information on the candidates and still vote for the other guy,” said Nathan Daschle, executive director of the Democratic Governors Association, about the Ohio race.
Ultimately, I believe Strickland's strategy was faulty from the beginning when his campaign ran a blistering negative attack on Kasich.
Back in May before the first ad came out I said:
As we've been saying for awhile, every poll out there, even the ones showing Strickland ahead, also show the Governor with some very high negatives. They also show Kasich with a name ID problem.And they didn't. Ted's negatives never substantively improved. That killed him among Independents.
This poses Strickland with a problem. He needs to fix his own image while negatively defining his opponent. Unfortunately for Ted, voters tend not to believe such opposite messages coming from the same source at once.
Sure, unemployment was in the dumps and he didn't have a record of success to latch onto. But he needed to at least use the power of television and the bully pulpit to push a more positive image to voters. While the DGA's presence faded in the final months, they and union allies were there at the beginning and could have handled the tar and feathering of Kasich. Strickland should have stayed positive and let others do the dirty work.
Instead, Strickland's strategy abandoned Independent voters. Maybe he hoped they would stay home. They didn't. They actually came out as a larger proportion of the electorate than in 2006.
While the race was tight, considering his poor strategy it was also the best result Strickland could have hoped for. Independents voted as expected and by failing to push a positive enough image to boost turnout by Dems and supportive Indies, Strickland did as good as could be expected.
It just wasn't good enough.