Tuesday night didn’t start out well for the Democrats. Just after polls closed at 7:30 p.m., Republican Rob Portman was named winner of Ohio’s available Senate seat over opponent Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher.
If any Democratic leaders had arrived early enough at their party’s celebration in downtown Columbus, hopeful faces quickly would have turned sour.
And it only got worse.
Just after 9 p.m., the red tide washed over Washington as Republicans were projected to take control of the House of Representatives, according to CNN. Soon after, Republican Jon Husted defeated incumbent Democrat Maryellen O’Shaughnessy to become Ohio’s secretary of state.
But to some, election results simply realized Democratic fears and Republican hopes to shift power in Congress.
Before voting booths even opened, polls indicated that Portman would win by a landslide. His cruise to victory preserved the Republican seat in the Senate that Sen. George Voinovich is vacating in retirement.
The lopsided victory bodes well for a man who some say has White House aspirations.
“Portman gets talked about as a potential Republican candidate for president,” said Terri Enns, clinical professor of law at Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law.
After Portman’s victory Tuesday, Ohio Republican Party chairman Kevin DeWine said that Portman is “on the short list for vice president in 2012.”
Marianne Collins, an attendee at the Republican election party at the Renaissance Hotel, said she would look forward to a ticket with Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker as president and Portman as his running mate.
Despite bipartisan work on major legislation in the past, Portman remains resolutely conservative on big issues, such as the Obama administration’s health care and stimulus plan legislation.
“Tonight, I can tell you at least one thing coming,” Portman said during his acceptance speech that started at 9:57 p.m., “when it comes time to vote to repeal health care, I vote yes.”
Like many Republicans, he said the original stimulus would have been more effective if it was half as expensive and came with tax cuts.
“We want a fiscally responsible government,” Portman said half-way through the 17-minute speech. “Our state is the first to deliver this message, but there will be more tonight.”
Portman was a rising member in the House of Representatives when he was appointed to George W. Bush’s cabinet in 2006.
Leading up to the election, Portman had a 24-percentage point lead over Fisher.
It appeared Fisher gave up on the election last Wednesday when he gave back his last $100,000 of campaign finances to the Ohio Democratic Party.
“I spoke to Portman about 10 minutes ago and I congratulated him on his victory,” Fisher said when he took the stage at the Democrats’ party around 9:45 p.m.
Steve Stivers also helped Republicans regain control of the U.S. House after his party lost it in 2006.
After Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy’s 1-percentage point victory over Stivers in the 2008 15th District congressional race, Stivers defeated Kilroy on Tuesday.
“The 15th (District) has always been one of the hottest, nastiest races in the country,” said Kevin Freeman, program manager for the Politics, Society and Law Scholars at OSU.
At the Democratic party downtown, Kilroy told the crowd that it’s “time for us to have a gut-check here … about where our country is really going.”
Stivers served as state senator from January 2003 until December 2008.
Before Stivers gave his victory speech, Husted addressed the crowd.
Husted beat O’Shaughnessy despite findings last week that his campaign made false claims about O’Shaughnessy in a political advertisement.
“It’s been a long campaign,” he said, “the longest job interview I’ve ever had.”
Husted will hold a seat on the state board that will redraw legislative districts, meaning he will have the power to redraw districts to benefit his party in future elections.
“I promise you the 2012 election will be run with honor and integrity,” he said.
O’Shaughnessy acknowledged that the voters have spoken and said, “There is a place in our American political discourse for a loyal opposition.”
Husted was serving his first term in the Ohio Senate and served four years as speaker of the Ohio House beginning in 2005.
Molly Gray, Justin Conley and Joe Craven contributed to this story.