Republican Kasich Knocks Off Dem Strickland In OH-GOV

Breaking: a strong conservative has defeated a Democratic incumbent in a swing state with high unemployment. According to the AP, John Kasich has become the latest Republican to play out the storyline of 2010 by defeating Gov. Ted Strickland in the Ohio gubernatorial race.

With 9.593 of 9,910 precincts reporting, Kasich leads 50.3%-47.3% and the AP and Fox News have called the race.[TPM SLIDESHOW: Stranger Than Fiction? TPM Casts The 2010 Midterm Elections]

For Democrats, this loss hurts perhaps more than it should. Despite an environment tilted toward Kasich all along — Ohio is struggling in this economy even worse than nearly everywhere else in the country, and that’s all you need to know — polls showed Strickland closing the gap as Election Day approached and Democrats all the way up to President Obama, who just visited recently, seemed to think Strickland could hold on.

But Kasich’s win buoys the Republicans probably less than it should. On a night full of flashy wins at the federal level for the GOP, it’s likely a Republican’s defeat of yet another incumbent Democrat tonight that will probably get lower billing than Kasich’s race deserves. Kasich will now help oversee redistricting in the all-important Ohio, and he’ll presumably be there to help the Republicans try to turn the state red in 2012.

This really is a big deal, especially when coupled with Republican Rob Portman’s absolute cakewalk victory in the Ohio Senate race tonight. Ohio was a huge win for Obama in 2008, the state that most sitting at home on election night two years ago watched to see when the race was well and truly over.

Now it’s a Republican state, kind of. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) is about as not Republican as you can get, but now he’s all alone with Portman and Kasich rounding out the state’s highest offices.

Pay attention to Kasich, even if the Republicans don’t (at first.)