COLUMBUS, Ohio — 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.