Sunday, October 09, 2005

Camp Hackett in utter disarray

I was at the Warren County Democratic Party's Dinner with the Candidates last night, and besides the standing room only and larger than expected crowds, the bigger story of the night was the unfolding drama around the Hackett camp. The only thing that seems clear is that Hackett's footsoldiers still want him to run for Senate, Congressman Sherrod Brown notwithstanding, but they're faced with a relunctant candidate who may have a more realistic picture of the political landscape. Here's what we do know.

Hackett isn't going to run for Ohio Attorney General. He publicly endorsed Subdoh Chandra for Attorney General after Mr. Chandra gave a very enthusastic and well-received speech. I was somewhat bothered by Mr. Chandra's comments about unannounced candidates who may be considering the race as I thought this was kind of a pre-emptive slam against Hackett. The fact that Hackett later talked about people urging him to run for that race and his decision not to just seemed to solidify that impression.

Hackett's core supporters aren't unified as to what they want him to do. I talked to some very key supporters of Hackett's special election run, and there doesn't seem to be any consensus of what they expect Paul to decide to do. Some didn't even mention the Senate race and talked about the possibility of running for another Statewide office. Others, furious of Brown's announced enterance in the race before Hackett's, want Hackett to run against Brown in what looks to be a bloody, divisive primary battle. (The ol' blogsphere has been burning with accusations and counter-accusations by both camps. Neither have seem to be presenting themselves, or their candidates, in a respectable light.)

Hackett's supporters view him as Dean outsider, and he's presenting himself like that. Hackett's speech was very Dean-esque, minus the Iowa scream. His theme was an indictment against the D.C. party leadership, specifically, Hillary Clinton, who Hackett referred to leaderless leadership that merely walks around D.C. with their fingers in the wind and does nothing more than show up and vote.

At first, I thought maybe Hackett was trying to make a case against Brown, but on all the issues he mentioned, health care, education, Iraq, Brown was against the party leadership's position and has taken active steps to move the country in a different direction. Factually, I don't think Hackett's indictment of the D.C. leadership rings true when made against Congressman Sherrod Brown.

Hackett really isn't much of an outsider, and neither are his supporters. Of course, this is going to start a snark and flame war, but Hackett isn't an outsider at all. In fact, his speech last night acknowledged that it was the early involvement of Congressman Strickland who got the local party establishment behind Hackett that helped him do so well in the eastern part of the district (where he actually won.)

And actually, I don't know what "they in the Democratic Party" Hackett's camp is talking about given that they are the Democratic Party in this area. It's unusual to see an establishment campaign against itself.

Hackett realizes that 2006 isn't the same as a special election; some of his supporters act like they don't.
Hackett realizes he's got alot of street cred, but also knows he doesn't want to spend it foolishly cause it's hard to get back. Hackett and some of even his most diehard supporters realize that the results of the 2nd Congressional special election has limited applicability in 2006.

Taking the current 2006 Senate race for example. Unlike in the special election, Hackett isn't facing a primary of political novices in a low-key, discount retail politics campaign that will be only a few months long. Sherrod Brown has won statewide and has represented a Congressional district that is a significant chunk of the primary voting bloc. Hackett also realizes that his name-recognition is going to be a bigger challenge than it was even in the special election.

A year-long state-wide campaign requires exponentially more volunteers, resources and coordination than an eight-county campaign did that only had to go for two months.

The anger towards Brown seems rather inconsistent.
Some of the hard-core Hackett supporters are more angry at Brown than DeWine. Brown's sin used to be that he wouldn't give up his safe House seat for the good of the party. Now, his greatest sin is that he did give up his seat by changing his mind right when it looked like Hackett was going to become the anointed candidate. Hackett's coronation aside, the Hackett camp seems to forget that Hackett's nomination was becoming more the result of a process of elimination, than anything Hackett himself was doing. In fact, it's hard to criticize Brown for changing his mind when it publicly appears that Hackett himself has yet to make up his own.

Even more confusing is how the Hackett camp can blast Brown from changing his mind about running, but then give two standing ovations to Congressman Ted Strickland and enthuastically and offically endorse him last night. If Mike Coleman had been asked, I think he'd wonder what he did to get such different treatment.

This is why we have primaries Campaigns shouldn't be determined by which side flames the other the best, or who has the most support from those of us who blog. We have primaries so we don't have kingmakers. But if there is going to be a Hackett-Brown primary (which we have yet to hear from Hackett himself that is going to be the case), then both camps should start to conduct themselves in a manner that will unite us after the primary, not leaving us divided and some of us disengaged because we leave the primary unable to put our differences aside and come together behind whomever the nominee is and see that they are elected.

It's a naive hope that either camp will conduct themselves this way, but it's less naive than those who think flame wars and snarks on blogs will settle this primary battle.


Editor said...

Chandra was talking about several people but not Paul Hackett. Hackett knew this because I listened to them talk about it before the event. Rather than assuming stuff why not ask him?

Brown was begged by the DSCC to run for Senate. He said no. Hackett was begged by the DSCC to run for Senate. He said yes. Now Brown changes his mind and says he wants to run and Schumer is hinting that wants Hackett to stand down. The fact that you can't understand why he's be upset with that is amazing.

The fact that you characterize people who like him torn by the back and forth from the DSCC leadership and Brown as a "Camp in utter disarray" is just silly.

Modern Esquire said...

Like I said, this is why we have primaries.

Chandra should be clearer especially when so many people are talking about the need to get Hackett in the statewide races to help the party.

I can understand why Hackett is upset. But, Hackett realizes, and you confirm that Brown was the DSCC's first choice. I don't hear alot of sympathy for Coleman when Strickland changed his mind, and Coleman at least had officially announced and began campaigning.

I'm not talking about the back and forth from the DSCC and Brown. I'm talking about the back and forth I saw in one evening among the Hackett people themselves.

What I see is some of the same people who critized Sherrod Brown for not giving up his seat and running for the Senate are now critizing him for doing just that.

In fact, the only reason Paul and his supporters considered the race was because the nomination was open. How many times did we hear talk about deferring to Tim Ryan and others?

You can call it just silly, but after talking to several Hackett people last night, I see a group that is disorganized and unsure how to respond to Brown's entrance into the race.

I understand why he's upset, but he's yet to make clear his intentions. What I heard from some of his supporters last night is they are simply looking for direction and aren't getting it.

I honestly think this is the sort of thing that should be dealt with in primaries, but not in a manner that causing bitter divisions within our party that prevents us from unifying behind our nominee.

Chagrin Rick said...

The post and comments miss the most important point about all this...Brown's flip-flip gives Dewine the only campaign point he'll need: Brown is a flip-flopper who doesn't know if he really wants the job or not. Brown's "won't run-will run" approach is emblematic of everything that's wrong with the Dems in clear direction, no passion, no clear statements as to just what the heck we stand for. Whatever else is true, Brown has given himself a 15 yard penalty before the kickoff.

ObsessiveLawStudent said...

I don't know if I agree with chagrin rick. It's not uncommon this early in a race for someone to flip flop about whether they want to run. As long as when they make the decision, they hit the ground running, with actual plans and real excitement, I don't think there's a long term effect on their run. It's not Brown was flip-flopping on major issues to Ohio, like the economy, or the war, or taxes, or *the economy*, he was flip-flopping on an intensely personal decision regarding a change that will affect his family. I think people understand the difference and recognize that the difference is so substantial that an inability to make a decision on the latter is not indicative of an inability to make a decision on the former.

Also, DeWine could have a worse slam against Hackett - that he's a one-issue candidate - if Hackett doesn't start developing more depth in more issues and get out and talk abou those issues. Ohioans care about the war, and they want to bring out boys home, but what they really want to know is when are we going to have some jobs to infuse our economy? They know that one Senator is not going to make a huge difference in the Bush Administration's Iraq policy, but one Senator can do some real good when it comes to ensuring we get some much-needed support for our economy and our schools.

DeWine is weak on enough issues that if the Ohio Dems can get our act together, and get a plan, get some real name recognition and get some positive publicity in the next few months, through a primary, by the time Brown or Hackett go up against him, we could actually be ahead. Especially since DeWine won't have the advantage of a primary where the focus is intensely on him.

E Goods said...

Im angry with Brown's untimely entrance.

He goes and tells Hackett he's not running and then a few weeks later he decides to enter the race.

Some people call this changing your mind. To me it seems that what Sherrod did was closer to lying than to changing his mind.

obsessivelawstudent said...

I don't think Sherrod Brown lied. I think he honestly changed his mind. And you can't really blame him. Ohio Democrats are in disarray across the board. It's not just Hackett's camp, but there's a pathetic sense of all these Ohio Democrats running around like chickens with their heads cut off. We all realize how important the 2006 elections are, and it feels like everyone can visualize a victory given the current sense of the state, but no one knows how to get there. There's no collective vision about how to retake the state and no real leader has emerged as the one to follow or to "assign" roles for other potential leaders, as happens in some states and with some parties.

We have nothing. No collective leadership and no collective vision, and when you have that atmosphere permeating every level of the Ohio Democratic party, then you get results like a Brown-Hackett primary. I don't think that's a bad thing, actually. A Brown-Hackett primary could actually be exactly what the Ohio Democratic Party needs. We could have leaders emerge and we gain a collective vision for what we want. We can move forward as a party because as a party we choose who our leader is, rather than having one thrust upon us because he's the only one who will run. That's not how leaders are made - being thrust upon an uncertain public - leaders are made by the choice of the followers. Letting Ohio Democrats choose who our leader will be in the 2006 Senate race is good for Ohio. It's good for Democratic party. And in the end, it will be good for both Hackett and Brown, whether it is immediatley good (in that they get the nod) or good for their futures (in that they gain statewide name recognition and respect while solidifying policies and plans on key statewide issues).