Ohio union fight could boost Dems' 2012 chances

By ANN SANNER and SAM HANANEL | October 21, 2011 | 11:27 PM EDT

Former Cincinnati councilman Jeff Berding, left, and former Ohio congressman Dennis Eckart, debate on State Issue Two at The City Club of Cleveland Monday, Oct. 17, 2011, in Cleveland. The two Democrats debated Ohio’s overhaul of collective bargaining rights, with one saying it scapegoats public employee unions and the other saying it evens the playing field with private sector workers. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A ballot battle over whether to keep Ohio's tough new restrictions on public employee unions could give labor supporters and Democrats a lift going into the presidential election year.

But some Democrats fear losing the Nov. 8 referendum could be a dispiriting setback, sapping enthusiasm from the party's progressive base.

Labor leaders expect to get a better sense of voters' mindsets when Ohioans decide whether to toss out a law that limits the collective bargaining rights of more than 350,000 public workers.

Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland told The Associated Press that a victory would benefit not just Democrats running for the Ohio Legislature, but also President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown.

Republicans, however, contend this year's election issue won't have a carry-over effect on the presidential race.