Ney's district sprawls across much of the eastern interior of the state, including all or part of 16 different counties. The area had long been Democratic but has become solidly Republican in recent decades, with President Bush winning the district's vote in 2000 and 2004. In 2002, state lawmakers redistricted Ney's seat, making it even more conservative. The region is heavily working class, and Ney has frequently bucked his party to support organized labor.
Ohio's 15th District, located near the center of the state, comprises three counties and includes all but the eastern edge of Columbus, the state capital. On Election Day, voters in the more liberal parts of the district, including Columbus and the campus of Ohio State University, have typically been outmatched by voters in more conservative suburban and rural areas. However, Democrat registration and turnout drives in the city in 2004 led two of the three counties in Pryce's district to vote Democrat, while Bush won only a 50.3 percent majority in the district. The 60 percent of the vote Pryce received that year can be counted as a decisive victory, but it was the lowest percentage she has received since her first election in 1992.
The district stretches along the Buckeye State's southeastern boarder from Pennsylvania to Kentucky and includes the cities of Athens and Steubenville. It's a solidly Democratic district, and the current representative, Ted Strickland, is vacating the seat to run for the governorship. Yet while the district may have a history of going Democratic, the GOP thinks it might be able to pick up a seat in a state that President Bush narrowly won in 2004.
In many ways, Ohio is a microcosm of the nation. Its many midsize cities, including Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland, make for large urban and suburban populations, while the state is also home to some of the country's fastest-growing exurban counties. The political topography varies widely, from historically conservative Cincinnati, across the river from Kentucky, to a culturally conservative but impoverished swath of Appalachia in the southwest, to white-collar Columbus to blue-collar Cleveland. A switch of 60,000 Ohio votes would have handed the White House to Sen. John Kerry, so both parties will watch this race with an eye toward 2008.