When Pres. Obama renominated Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, political observers -- including this one -- presumed it was safe to remove him from the list of potential challengers to Gov. John Kasich. In fact, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, the current Democratic frontrunner, said Cordray's exit helped "clarify" the race and might help the party avoid a contested primary.
But with Senate Republicans indicating they will derail Cordray's confirmation, Ohio insiders say it's still too early to overlook Cordray as a potential gubernatorial candidate. Columbus's WBNS reported that Cordray confidantes say he'll join the race if he is indeed not confirmed.
"He's completely focused on trying to win the confirmation," said Franklin County Democratic Party Chair Greg Haas in a phone interview. But, he added, "If this avenue were blocked, he's immediately going look for the next one. ... My guess is that he would consider very carefully [running for governor]."
Still, Haas said, jumping to conclusions that Cordray will run would be just as irresponsible as assuming his nomination ruled him out.
Progress Ohio executive director Brian Rothenberg said that reports Cordray is a lock to run for governor might not be completely accurate. "He follows everything by the book," Rothenberg said. "He won't even have conversations with people [about the race] while he's in the position he's in right now."
But if Cordray isn't confirmed, Rothenberg said, it wouldn't be hard to picture him joining the race. The fact that FitzGerald and former Rep. Betty Sutton have been politicking with Democrats around Ohio won't be a setback to Cordray, as he already possesses the statewide recognition they lack. One candidate's decision, Rothenberg said, likely won't affect the others. "If you have the fire in your belly to run, I'm not sure it matters who else is in the race," he said. "[A primary] is a litmus test for how much you want the job."