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A Closer Look at Ohio's 4th District

A post yesterday on the election playing field in Ohio next year elicited a number of questions and comments about why Ohio's 4th district, where Rep. Mike Oxley (R) is retiring, was not mentioned as a possible Democratic takeover.

Here's a closer look at the seat and why -- at this point -- Democrats are not likely pick this seat up next November:

The 4th district covers a swath of central Ohio, running from Lima in the west to Mansfield in the east.  The district is 92 percent white with a median household income of approximately $40,000, according to the 2000 Census.  Just less than 50 percent of the district's population holds white-collar jobs.

On the presidential level, the district has voted strongly Republican for the last several decades. President George W. Bush carried it with 65 percent of the vote in 2004, three points better than he did four years earlier. None of the 11 counties in the 4th district has voted for a Democrat for president since 1964.

Oxley won the seat in a 1981 special election to replace the late Rep. Tennyson Guyer (R).  Oxley narrowly emerged from a six-way GOP primary in which he was attacked by his closest rival for supporting George H.W. Bush over Ronald Reagan during the 1980 Republican presidential primary.  In the general election Oxley faced off against state Rep. Dale Locker, who when asked how he might do in a district that had given Reagan 64 percent of the vote a year earlier, retorted: "That's what they asked David before he met Goliath."

Locker nearly proved prescient, losing the general election by a very narrow 50.2 percent to 49.8 percent margin. Following that political near-death experience, Oxley quickly shored up the district, taking 65 percent in 1982 and not falling below 60 percent until 2004 -- when he won with 59 percent.

Those numbers show that a Democratic victory in the 4th is a longshot proposition -- at best. Ben Konop, who ran against Oxley last time around, is considering a rematch and is seen by Democrats as their strongest potential challenger. Konop, a former staffer to Ohio Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D), moved into the district last year to make the race.

State Sen. Jim Jordan has been the most active potential Republican candidate in the early going but is very unlikely to have the primary field to himself.

By Chris Cillizza  |  November 3, 2005; 12:31 PM ET
Categories:  House  
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