Meanwhile, on the west side...
The Kentucky Enquirer's own Patrick Crowley did this preview for National Journal, a respected Washington magazine:
West Side Story: Chabot, Driehaus Talk Up Local Roots
CINCINNATI -- Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, doesn't get passes.
Since winning southern Ohio's 1st Congressional District seat in 1994, Chabot, a former city and county official, has been targeted time after time and beaten back every challenge.
Some of the wins were big, such as a 65-35 victory over Democrat Greg Harris in 2002, but often they are squeakers, such as his 53-47 percent victory over Cincinnati Mayor Roxanne Qualls in 1998 or his 52-48 percent win over Cincinnati City Council member John Cranley in 2006.
But this year, with state Rep. Steve Driehaus as their candidate, Democrats believe they have their best chance to take Chabot out.
"We've thrown some good people at Chabot over the years," said Tim Burke, Democratic Party chairman in Hamilton County, which the district takes in along with parts of neighboring Butler County. "And he's managed to survive every one of them.
"Steve is the strongest candidate we've ever thrown out there," Burke said.
Democrats are optimistic that their popular governor, Ted Strickland; a strong presidential candidate in either Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., or Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.; help from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and a viable contender will provide the tailwind to finally topple Chabot.
The district includes urban sections of Cincinnati, heavily Roman Catholic neighborhoods on the city's west side, older suburbs and booming communities that typify sprawl.
President Bush carried it 51-49 percent over Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., in 2004 and 51-46 percent over former Vice President Al Gore in 2000.
Julie Shutley, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Democrats had their chance in the district in 2006.
"If a Democrat wouldn't win [in 2006], a Democrat can't win this time," Shutley said.
Median household and per capita incomes for the district are slightly lower than the national average. It has one of the largest percentages of blacks -- 27 percent -- of any district in the country represented by a Republican, Burke said.
Driehaus is in his fourth term in the Ohio House. He says he provides something new against Chabot in that he can appeal to the old-line Democrats who have lived in the district for years along with the more conservative voters who have favored Chabot and Republicans in the past.
"My strength is that I cross over," Driehaus said. "In my statehouse races, I've won the city and the west side suburban voters. Combine that with the high Democratic turnout we'll have in the presidential election and it will be the time for a Democrat to win this district."
Chabot said voters know him and where he stands from his years of representing the community in Congress, a member of the Cincinnati City Council and the Hamilton County Commission.
"People know I've always put the families of this district first," said Chabot. "I've consistently voted to lower taxes. I'm one of the most fiscally prudent members of Congress.
"And I know the people of this district from having grown up here, from playing high school football here, from having my law office here and from being this community's representative in city, county and the federal government," he said.
Chabot's comment about his connections to the district is one of the major themes in the campaign. Both candidates tout their roots and often refer to the district as "the west side."
Chabot is known for campaigning at the district's many church festivals by handing out plastic drinking cups bearing his name. When asked if he knows Driehaus well, Chabot said, "I know who he is; I've seen him at festivals."
The Driehaus name is well known on the west side and in local politics.
"I have a large, extended family," Driehaus said. "We go back generations. We've always given back to the community and people know us for that."
Chabot's campaign points out that Driehaus' district makes up just 15 percent of the population of the 1st District.
The candidates are also quick to say where they went to high school. Chabot graduated from LaSalle in the district's suburbs; Driehaus went to Elder, a sports powerhouse with legions of fans and alumni throughout the district.
While that might not matter in some places, it does in the Cincinnati area, Burke said.
"There's a big difference between going to LaSalle and going to Elder, and that's definitely part of this race," Burke said.
Driehaus was recruited to run by the DCCC in 2006, but begged off. Chabot is vulnerable this year, he believes, because voters are generally unhappy with the direction of the country, the economy and the perceived mishandling and mismanagement of the war in Iraq by the Bush administration.
The mortgage crisis has become an issue in the race.
Driehaus, the statehouse minority whip, is serving on a state foreclosure prevention task force. Foreclosures in Hamilton County increased 18 percent last year. He chides the federal government for waiting too long to recognize and react to the problem.
"Too little, too late," he says.
Chabot responds by talking about a bill he co-sponsored with Judiciary Chairman Conyers to give bankruptcy judges more discretion in dealing with foreclosures. He says he is one of the few Republicans supporting the bill.
Chabot is enjoying the incumbent advantage in raising money. According to the most recent federal campaign finance reports, Chabot raised $1.2 million and had just over $1 million in the bank compared to Driehaus, who raised $517,000 and had $430,000 in the bank.
By Patrick Crowley