Remember when the Democrats salivated at the opportunity to take aim at Republican Governor John Kasich in Ohio? Good times, good times. The Democratic nominee, Cuyahoga County exec Ed Fitzgerald, has so completely melted down with just eleven weeks to go that the campaign has now shifted to an effort to keep his collapse from impacting down-ticket Democrats:

Ed FitzGerald’s campaign for governor confirmed Friday what was speculated for days: That the beleaguered Democrat is altering his strategy in an attempt to ensure his troubles don’t doom his party’s entire statewide ticket. …

FitzGerald’s campaign is reshuffling after weeks of character questions that dogged the gubernatorial nominee and raised doubts about his viability against Kasich. On Monday, an exodus of staff advisers and outside consultants signaledDemocrats’ eagerness to salvage something out of the November elections.

The Northeast Ohio Media Group and others reported Aug. 1 that while responding to a 4:30 a.m. call about a suspicious vehicle in 2012, police in suburban Westlake found the county executive parked outside an industrial complex with a woman who was not his wife. Reporters subsequently learned that FitzGerald was driving on a learner’s permit at the time and had lacked a regular driver’s license for a decade.

FitzGerald had trailed Kasich in fundraising and polling even before the revelations.

If readers missed the meltdown, the Toledo Blade had a concise video analysis of Fitzgerald’s collapse:

“An extreme case of procrastination” doesn’t exactly commend one for high public office. How does an FBI agent miss a driver’s license renewal? The issue about being caught in conversation with a woman not his wife in a parking lot in the middle of the night could arguably be irrelevant to how Fitzgerald would do his job (and arguably highly relevant, too), but driving around at that time without a license makes Fitzgerald look incompetent, at the very least — especially since most Ohio adults manage to get their licenses renewed with a decade after their expirations.

Aaron Blake reports at the Washington Post that down-ticket Democrats have hit the panic button over the collapse at the top of their ticket:

Secretary of State candidate and state Sen. Nina Turner (D) put it this way: “The great Winston Churchill comes to mind: ‘When you’re going through hell, you keep on going.’ That’s pretty much what we are doing.” Ouch.

Democrats are running against GOP incumbents for all five statewide constitutional offices this year. They also hold less than one-third of the state Senate, less than 40 percent of the state House, and just 25 percent of the state’s congressional seats. (Against, this is a swing state.)

In other words, Democrats have lots of ground to make up. What they don’t have is a gubernatorial candidate who is going to motivate their faithful to turn out to vote from the top of the ticket. That’s a huge loss.

Blake also argues that this has ramifications in 2016 about Democrats’ ability to deliver Ohio, but that’s a bit of a stretch. The problem for Ohio Democrats is the candidate himself, not the state organization, although that may have its own issues, and not the Fitzgerald campaign, either. A wipeout in 2014 will weaken the state party, but it will have a couple of years to recover. It’s the same state party that carried Ohio for Barack Obama twice, and elected Sherrod Brown to a second Senate term in 2012. Republicans should celebrate the easy win for Kasich but take care not to get too cocky about 2016.

Interestingly, while it seems that Fitzgerald is throwing in the towel, the polls don’t necessarily reflect a total collapse — at least not yet. The RCP average shows Kasich up 8 points and below the 50% threshold in every poll, not exactly a comfort zone for an incumbent, although the polling for that average took place before the embarrassing revelations about Fitzgerald. Kasich had better watch his step to make sure he doesn’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, whatever Fitzgerald’s posture may be at the moment.