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Big Republican gains in Ohio and Pennsylvania: a danger sign for Democrats

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Tony Dejak/AP

(Read caption) Ohio Gov.-elect John Kasich celebrates a victory during the Ohio Republican Party celebration, Wednesday, in Columbus, Ohio.

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While most of the media attention has focused on Senate and House races tonight, Republicans have also picked up some major gubernatorial seats.

Particularly important, from a national perspective: Ohio and Pennsylvania.

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In Ohio, Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland lost to Republican John Kasich despite intense last-minute campaigning from President Obama, and in Pennsylvania, Democrat Dan Onorato lost to Republican Tom Corbett.

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Republicans also picked up significant numbers of House seats in both states.

Given the importance that Ohio and Pennsylvania wield in presidential elections, the shifting political tides there are a big warning sign to Democrats looking ahead to 2012.

Governor Strickland’s loss was a particular blow. Pre-election polls were close, and Democrats were hoping to hang onto control of such a crucial state.

But even an all-out effort from Democrats – who sent Mr. Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and former President Bill Clinton to the state a combined total of 14 times – couldn’t save him.

Republicans also picked up five Democratic House seats and at least five in Pennsylvania. And both sent Republicans to the Senate, though in Pennsylvania, Pat Toomey beat Democrat Joe Sestak by a smaller margin than expected.

So what’s going on in Pennsylvania and Ohio? A major factor is job loss. Both have been particularly hard hit by the economic downturn, as has Michigan, which also elected a Republican governor Tuesday.

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There’s a clear anti-incumbent, anti-Democrat, and anti-Obama sentiment running through these states. And the governors will also get the chance to lead redistricting efforts in coming years.

"As Ohio goes, that's the way the country goes," Governor-elect Kasich told Fox News Tuesday. "So you keep an eye on Ohio."

His to Democrats looking ahead two years was clear: Be warned.