I received a commentary on OH-2 from Charlie Cook via an email subscription today. I would describe Cook as a right-leaning (and inclined to view things from a traditional perspective), but scrupulously non-partisan political analyst. Here is the key quote:
There is no one reason why this special election was so close. There was the fact that Schmidt was a less-than-stellar candidate who survived an 11-way primary where the two front-runners killed off one another. Her campaign was equally unimpressive and reluctant to go on the attack against Democratic lawyer and Iraq War veteran Paul Hackett -- who in turn was a far better candidate than Democrats usually land in such overwhelmingly Republican districts. Hackett's ability to make this race a referendum on Gov. Bob Taft -- whose administration is now engulfed in a major state government scandal -- was also important. Hackett's message was reinforced by an ad run by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee linking Schmidt and the politically besieged governor.
But while all of these factors contributed greatly to the surprisingly close outcome, it is clear that there is deeper significance to this race than some Republicans admit. There are those close to the White House who remain dismissive of the election's overall significance, but to ignore the warning signals this race has given off is to tempt the gods. Just as odd-year gubernatorial races often (though not always) foreshadow subsequent national results, special elections can be a harbinger for what the upcoming national election will hold.
Let's hope so.