One of the most interesting states in the lead up to the 2022 Primary is Ohio, where the retirement of Rob Portman has opened up a Senate seat in what used to be the prototypical swing state. 2022 Ohio Senate odds at PredictIt suggest a Republican stronghold, but is it?
Having trended right in recent years, the conventional wisdom is that the seat will probably be uncompetitive in the general election, but there is an open GOP primary in the state which could change that calculation (while Tim Ryan will easily win the Democratic nomination).
So, let’s dig into the Buckeye State’s Senate seat, and where we can make money on it on PredictIt.
2022 Ohio Senate Odds: Republican Primary
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(All other candidates priced at $0.01/+9900 odds)
Republican Primary Analysis
The race for the GOP nomination is a three-way battle between former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, former Chair of the Ohio GOP Jane Timken, and J.D. Vance, the guy who wrote Hillbilly Elegy.
Timken was originally supposed to be the candidate of the Ohio GOP establishment, having been a supporter of John Kasich’s 2016 Presidential candidacy, and it is the case that she has a lot of endorsement of state politicians behind her. That said, in recent months she has pivoted to a more Trumpian style, accusing Joe Biden of “dictatorial” policies around mandated vaccinations, and appearing at a Back The Blue rally, in an attempt to boost her right wing credentials.
Vance is trying to run as a DC outsider, and use his credibility from his book to make him an appealing candidate to the masses of ex-Democrats in rural Ohio who have moved to the GOP in recent years, and who were attracted to the GOP in large part because of Donald Trump. Vance is trying to emulate the Tommy Tuberville campaign, where his lack of political experience was an asset to the prospects of winning the votes of people who hate politicians.
Josh Mandel is the favorite, the only one of these three to be elected statewide in Ohio before, and a favorite of Ohio Republicans. Mandel was the Senate nominee in 2012 and lost to Sherrod Brown, but that was on the same day Barack Obama won the state by 3%. So his loss is not going to be held against him. The first statewide Republican in Ohio to endorse Trump, Mandel has right-wing credentials and high name recognition, a daunting combination.
The polling so far has Mandel as the overwhelming favorite over Timken, with Vance a distant third; although, the polls have been of an inconsistent quality. Mandel is benefitting in some way from higher name recognition.
The markets are much higher on Vance than his polling dictates in large part because the kinds of people who bet on PredictIt have an information bias. They know who everyone is and pay much more attention than the average person, which makes them overrate a candidate whose fanbase seems to be much more amongst those who read the book (or saw the movie) than amongst the actual voters of Ohio.
Timken is probably undervalued, if you’re looking for a Mandel alternative, but she is still having to move right to try and win votes that Mandel already should be in position to win.
As the state realigns, the voters who used to be there for establishment candidates – white suburbanites in Cincinnati and Columbus – are now increasingly voting in Democratic Primaries, so it’s unlikely her establishment ties will save her.
Mandel is the clear favorite because of his history of right wing views and his loyal support for Donald Trump, and the fact he’s only 40 cents to win is ludicrously good value.
- Read More Political Bets and Analysis from Evan Scrimshaw
2022 Ohio Senate Odds: General Election
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Which party will win the U.S. Senate election in Ohio in 2022?
The case for how Democrats win starts where the case for why Josh Mandel will win the primary ends. Mandel is a staunch conservative with ties to Donald Trump that will, so the theory goes, cost him the general election. The GOP have thrown away Senate seats before by nominating staunch conservatives in light-red states, including Ohio in a sense in 2018.
The fact that Sherrod Brown won the state’s other Senate seat in 2018 looms large in any conversation of how winnable or not Ohio is in 2022. The case for optimistic Democrats is that Brown won, and did a lot better in rural Ohio than either Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden ever did.
So the path still exists for the right Democrat – and Tim Ryan can be that Democrat. The problem is, it’s not really true.
Sherrod had the benefit of running as an incumbent, and more importantly had a $20 million spending advantage, because the GOP left town. Because of how wide a map the Senate GOP had that year, they gave up on Ohio. Would Brown have won even with the GOP trying? Maybe, but it would have been much closer.
The way Democrats win the state again is by getting the three major cities, and their suburbs, to vote for Tim Ryan by increasingly large margins. That could happen if the global realignment that the US has been a part of continues – while turning back the clock in rural areas, especially the conservative heartlands south of the I-71.
Maybe Mandel is such a bad candidate that the GOP lose it, or maybe Tim Ryan manages to catch fire in a serious way that I’m not seeing as likely. Maybe 2022 is just such a good year for Democrats that the national environment drags Ryan over the line in Ohio, but it’s very unlikely.
It’s a sub-10% chance at this point, even with Mandel, who I consider to be the worst general election nominee the GOP could nominate.
The lesson of 2020 was that Senate races increasingly vote like their Presidential partisanship, and Ohio voted for Donald Trump by 8% while he lost nationally by 4.5%. Ohio used to be a bellwether, but now it’s not.
Ohio is a red state.
Ryan’s a good candidate, and he’ll lose by a respectable small margin – but he is overwhelmingly likely to lose, and the GOP at 79 cents is still value in 2022 Ohio Senate odds, even though it is the price of a heavy favorite.