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Analysis: Chabot-Schroder Race Getting Closer All The Time

John Minchillo, Gary Landers

With seven weeks minus one day to go, Democratic first-time candidate Kate Schroder seems poised to climb to the summit of one of the steepest hills in Southwest Ohio politics – taking down long-time GOP congressman Steve Chabot.

There are no guarantees and seven weeks is a long time in politics, but the contest seems to be breaking her way, as both campaigns dump large amounts of money into TV ads attacking each other's character.

A recent poll paid for by the House Majority PAC, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's campaign organization, shows a race that was a dead heat in earlier polls opening up just a tiny bit in the Clifton Democrat's favor – Schroder 50%, Chabot 46%.

If you are an incumbent – particularly an incumbent with 24 years representing Ohio's 1st District in the U.S. House – the last place where you want to be in any poll with seven weeks to go is under 50% support. That does not bode well for Chabot.

That same poll shows that the presidential race in Ohio-1 is a statistical dead heat – Joe Biden at 48% support, Donald Trump at 47%.

This is really very significant in that it says that the district is changing dramatically. Four years ago, Trump won Ohio-1 by about 7%. The fact that it is a very competitive race this year is due to one of two things: the Hamilton County portion of the district is becoming more and more blue all the time; or Warren County, a traditional GOP stronghold, is getting purple around the edges.

Or maybe both are true.

Last week, Sabato's Crystal Ball, the weekly politics newsletter published by Larry J. Sabato of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, became the latest political handicapper to move the Ohio-1 race from Leans RepublicantoToss Up.

Kyle Kondik, an Ohio native who is managing editor of Sabato's Crystal Ball, says there was no specific news peg for changing the race's status. It was just a general feeling that Schroder was doing better as a candidate, he said.

Two years ago, Chabot's opponent was an up-and-comer in Democratic politics – Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval. Democrats had high hopes for Pureval, but his campaign was full of rookie mistakes and he gave the Chabot campaign too many openings for attack ads, particularly for playing fast and loose with campaign spending.

"Kate Schroder seems to be doing better,'' Kondik said. "Chabot really benefitted from Aftab's problems, the campaign mistakes. She doesn't seem to have any major ones that the other side can point to.

"She fits the mold of the kind of Democratic candidate who has been successful this year,'' Kondik said. "A competent professional who doesn't have a real record to go out and defend."

It is a race that will probably stay tight all the way through, Kondik said.

"A lot of people all over the country are watching this one closely."

Credit Jim Nolan / WVXU

Read more "Politically Speaking" here.

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Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU News Team after 30 years of covering local and state politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio governor’s race since 1974 as well as 12 presidential nominating conventions. His streak continued by covering both the 2012 Republican and Democratic conventions for 91.7 WVXU. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots; the Lucasville Prison riot in 1993; the Air Canada plane crash at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983; and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. The Cincinnati Reds are his passion. "I've been listening to WVXU and public radio for many years, and I couldn't be more pleased at the opportunity to be part of it,” he says.