DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — Three weeks from today, Ohioans will decide a number of key races throughout the state, including governor with former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley trying to unseat republican incumbent Mike DeWine.

However, polls across the board have consistently shown that to be an uphill climb.

Dr. Mark Caleb Smith, the Director of Political Studies at Cedarville University, spoke with 2 NEWS about the state of that race.

“Ohio has this great reputation, this long-standing reputation as being a bell-weather state, a purple state if we think of the colors,” Smith said. “That seems to be changing over the last several election cycles.”

He expects that trend to continue in the gubernatorial race. The latest Emerson College / The Hill poll shows Governor Mike DeWine with a 13-point lead over his challenger Nan Whaley, which he says is consistent with polls since the very beginning of this race.

Smith attributes the perceived large gap to DeWine’s name recognition, long track record and deep political network, which stacks up to be a tough bid for anyone to beat.

“He had some bumpy roads around the pandemic, had some complicated relationships with the republican party for a while, but once he sailed through that, I think it was really an uphill climb for Mayor Whaley.”

Smith said that for Whaley to win, her focus on the overturning of Roe v. Wade and other social issues had to carry the day. However, the economy and other issues seemed to overwhelm those arguments in Ohio.

DeWine and Whaley and clear differences on many issues and a stark difference in philosophy. However, you will not hear the candidates debate those differences. Whaley points the finger of blame straight at the governor, telling 2 NEWS in a statement:

“As candidates, we owe it to voters to publicly discuss our vision for the state and defend our record. Debating is a core aspect of democracy and refusing to face the public and defend your record is nothing short of cowardly.”

DeWine’s camp has not agreed to any debates, saying the governor has agreed to several forums in which “includes during the Ohio Association of Regional Councils Forum, the Vote for Ohio Kids Forum, as well as the Editorial Board Endorsement Screening that has long served as a de-facto debate.”

The candidates did not appear together on stage during these forums, however.

Smith understands the strategic decision by the governor’s camp to avoid a debate. Why introduce potential chaos when you feel comfortably ahead? But, he adds, there is a responsibility to the voters.

“But I think there is a civic responsibility. The voters should really see and hear both of those candidates on the same stage together, exchanging ideas back and forth and scrutinize them one last time.”

Minus that, Smith sees this Race trending soundly toward a DeWine second term, but, as he says, “Things can change, events can happen, something radical could take place to make people rethink their positions, but this feels like a pretty locked in race to me.”

2014 was the last time there were no debates between gubernatorial candidates. Republican incumbent John Kasich was believed to have an even larger lead then than Governor DeWine has now. Kasich won that election by 30-points.

Tomorrow the focus shifts to a race the whole nation is focused on: The U.S. Senate Race between Tim Ryan and J.D. Vance.