"Based on the likely state of the economy in 2012, President Obama faces a steep uphill task to secure reelection," said a recent analysis by economists at the forecasting firm IHS Global Insight, based in Lexington, Mass. "A Republican opponent lacking broad appeal could tilt the balance back in favor of the president. But it does appear that this is an election that is the Republicans' to lose."
In fact, even as Ohio voters handed Democrats a win on union bargaining power, those same voters passed a ballot initiative to prohibit people from being required to buy health insurance as part of the national health-care overhaul. The vote was mostly symbolic, but Republicans hope to use it in a legal challenge to Obama's health-care reform law.
The Republican Party also picked up at least one seat in the Virginia state Senate, a litmus test of voters' mood in another vital swing state that Mr. Obama won in 2008. A second Virginia Senate seat hung in the vote-counting balance early Wednesday, which could potentially give Republicans effective control of the legislature, as well as the governorship.
Recent nationwide opinion polls reveal a frustrated electorate, with a large majority seeing the nation going down the "wrong track." Yet that frustration is fueled partly by a desire among independent voters for more moderation in policies – such as compromises by both parties on core issues such as taxes and spending.
The votes on Tuesday reflected a certain caution about radical change. Many Ohioans sympathized with core elements of the Republican law restricting public employee unions, yet overturned it because of concerns that it went too far.
The Ohio law called on public employees to pay more for their health care, and to have their pay and job security tied more to performance rather than seniority. But it also would have stripped unions' rights to strike and the ability of unions to collect dues from public employees who benefit financially from collective bargaining but do not join the union.