Sunday, September 24, 2006

Who-Dey!

How big was the Cincinnati Bengals victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers today? Consider this: If Baltimore kicker Matt Stover missed his 52-yard field gold with 20 seconds left to play, Pittsburgh would have gone into their bye week a quarter into the season sitting last in the AFC North (although Cleveland and Pittsburgh's overall records would have been tied, the divisional record would have given Cleveland the number 3 spot.)

After the 9-0 loss last Monday to Jacksonville, the Super Bowl champs find themselves 1-2 and two games behind two caliber teams in their division. It's starting to appear that those who predicted that the losses Pittsburgh incurred since last season was going to have a more noticeable impact in the super-competitive AFC and AFC North division were right.

I'm concerned at the lack of protection Carson had this game. The line must protect the blitz and pass rush better than they did today. I did not see what I was encouraged to see against Kansas City. However, that's probably because I was seeing a Pittsburgh defense instead of the Chiefs defense, which is still retooling under their new head coach this season.

Can Cincinnati beat New England? Psychologically they need to win against both New England and the Colts this season. But with a revitialized Ravens franchise that is have a franchise record start and an improving Cleveland team, the AFC North race is so tight that every division game is going to be so tight with such profound consequences.

I predict that we're going to read a lot of "loss of luster" about the Steelers and questions about whether this team has the maturity and depth to become a dynasty and not a one-hit wonder.

Why 2010 may be a more important election for Ohio than 2008

Some have said that this election is so important because whomever wins the Gubernatorial race will be a necessary asset for their party to win Ohio as a swing state for the 2008 Presidential race. Notice I said "some" as I am not one of those people who actually believe it. I can't think of a single swing state in 2004 that was decided based on who was Governor (with perhaps the exception of Florida, but that had more to do with a family connection to the candidate than which party was in control.)

Instead, if the predictions are correct, the present election could make the 2010 elections far more political important. First, the news update: Five polls were released in the past week, and all showed Ted Strickland with monster leads over Ken Blackwell (Rasmussen, Survey USA, The Ohio Poll, Quinnipiac University Poll, and the Columbus Dispatch):

SurveyUSA 9/21
Strickland 56% Blackwell 35%

Rasmussen Reports 9/20
Strickland 54% Blackwell 35%

Ohio Poll 9/20
Strickland 50% Blackwell 38%

Quinnipiac University Poll 9/19
Strickland 55% Blackwell 34%

Columbus Dispatch 9/24
Strickland 52% Blackwell 33%

These poll all show Strickland with large advantage in almost all demographic groups, and a significant advantage among women voters. Some polls shows that Strickland is now competitive within Blackwell's home base of southwestern Ohio.

The Columbus Dispatch polling shows that not only is a Strickland victory likely, but that Democrats are favored in capturing the office of State Treasurer, Auditor, and Secretary of State, leaving only Betty Montgomery's campaign to retake her former office as Attorney General as the only favored statewide race for Republicans now. If these numbers bear out on Election Day, some six weeks hence, then not only will the Republicans 12-year monopoly be broken, but it would be a partisan turnover of the Executive Branch we have not seen since, 1994.

However, if Betty Montgomery wins her election, she becomes the prohibitive favorite to challenge Ted Strickland's re-election in 2010. As a challenger, Montgomery doesn't come to race with the extremist baggage that Blackwell voluntarily brought into the race. As a moderate, Montgomery could pose a problem for Strickland. As the first female gubernatorial candidate, Montgomery's challenge for female voters could prove more problematic than Blackwell's ineffective play for the African-American group, a much smaller voting group of the electorate.

The 2010 race is important because as Ohio law stands now, which party wins those statewide offices will dictate the partisan composition of the bodies which draw the new state legislative and congressional districts for Ohio after the 2010 Census. Under current Ohio law, the Ohio State House and Senate districts are redrawn by a body comprised of one legislative member from both parties, the Governor, the Secretary of State, and the State Auditor. Therefore, if Strickland, Sykes, and Brunner all win in 2006 and are re-elected in 2010 (or Democrats win those races in 2010), then Democrats will have the ability to redraw the legislative districts of the General Assembly, making it possible that the Democrats could compete in enough districts to take over the state legislature as well.

Sound too far-fetched? Well, just remember that it was the victories of George Voinovich for Governor and Bob Taft for Secretary of State in 1990 that gave the Republicans a 3-2 majority of the Apportionment Board. That Board redrew lines that lead to the Republican majorities in the General Assembly in subsequent elections which, in turned, changed the national perception of Ohio as a Democratic leaning state to a solid Republican state.

With the potentional of Democratic majorities in both the Executive and Legislative branches by 2012, the Ohio Republicand Party (which will likely see a change in leadership before the 2008 elections) may find itself with as thin of a bench for the 2012 statewide elections that the Democratic Party found itself in in the disasterous 1994 election (and every election until 2006.)

That's why the 2010 election is more important to the Democratic Party than 2008. Whomever the Democratic Presidential candidate is, he or she will need to win Ohio on their own. A Gov. Strickland doesn't give that candidate any home field advantage.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Blackwell's support is soft (and other things the Right doesn't want to see in a poll with only 7 weeks left)

Cross-posted at: BSB.

The conventional wisdom on the gubernatorial race both on the left and right is that with Blackwell's higher name identification, Strickland's support is soft as he is an unknown and with an effective Blackwell offensive "branding" Strickland's identity in voters' minds, Blackwell still has room to close the gap. After spending what must have been millions this month attacking Strickland (who, apparently, has decided to sit on his money for now,) a recent poll has shown that the hopes of RAB of Strickland's support being soft and easily peeled away is pure bunk.

A Quinnpiac poll released today (showing Strickland with a 21-point lead of 55-34. See a pattern?) shows that it is Blackwell's support that is soft:
Among Strickland supporters, 84 percent say their mind is made up, with 78 percent of Blackwell supporters saying they are locked in.

Also, the poll shows that Blackwell's ads aren't doing much to scare Republican voters back home under his banner. This poll is also the first poll, I believe, to show that Blackwell has a gender gap problem. (Yep, that Ted is smooth with the ladies...)

Rep. Strickland leads 88 - 6 percent among Democratic likely voters, and 54 - 31 percent among independent voters, while Blackwell leads 71 - 18 percent among Republicans, the independent Quinnipiac University poll finds. Men favor the Democrat 51 - 40 percent, while women back Strickland 60 - 28 percent.

So Strickland enjoys a solid lead among indpendents, has his base strongly behind him, and has three times the partisan cross-over vote than Blackwell. I've been saying all summer that for Blackwell to win, he'd need to fundamentally alter these demographics by uniting his party and blunting Strickland's advantages with independents and reducing Strickland's cross-over appeal.
This is the first poll to show that corruption is a significant issue for Ohio voters, and in that Strickland has a huge advantage:

By a 48 - 29 percent margin, Ohio voters think Strickland would do a better job ending corruption in state government. A total of 83 percent say the issue of
political corruption is "extremely important" or "very important" in deciding their vote. Among Democrats, 85 percent say the corruption is "extremely important" or "very important," with 79 percent among Republicans.

This probably explains Strickland's appeal to Republican voters. Voters just don't believe that Blackwell is going to stand up to the culture of corruption in Columbus after being there for twelve years. Also, for all of you who questioned the wisdom of Strickland advertising on Christian radio stations a few months ago:

The Republican leads Strickland, a minister, 53 - 40 percent among self-described white evangelical Christians, normally an overwhelmingly Republican voting bloc. In 2004, for example, President Bush received 76 percent of the white evangelical vote in Ohio, according to the exit polls.
Reformation Project? Dead.

Also, have I mentioned enough that Blackwell's biggest problem in improving his numbers is that people just don't like him and love Strickland?

Blackwell has a negative 27 - 32 percent favorability rating, with 24 percent mixed and 15 percent who haven't heard enough to form an opinion.

"Rep. Strickland's lead is solid and uniform. He is ahead among men and women and the critical independent voters. And his supporters are more likely to say they won't change their mind than are Secretary of State Blackwell's," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

"Given that the vast majority of voters say they have made up their minds, Blackwell has a steep hill to climb. More Ohioans view him unfavorably than favorably and changing a voters' mind is a difficult task for candidates once the voter has formed an opinion."

"It is hard to win an election when more voters don't like you than do," said Brown.

By comparison, Strickland gets a 41 - 13 percent favorability, with 22 percent mixed and 22 percent who haven't heard enough to form an opinion.

Couldn't have said it better myself! SEVEN MORE WEEKS!!!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Thank goodness the Ohio Democratic Party didn't think like this in 1994...

Recently, Congressman Ted Strickland's gubernatorial campaign launched "Republicans for Strickland." At the kick-off of the new group last week, Congressman Strickland was joined by former Republican AG candidate Charles "Rocky" Saxbe, former Mason Mayor Betty Davis, and Columbus Developer Daniel Slane.

With polls already showing that Blackwell has less than average support within his own party (nearly a quarter of identified Republican voters in polls are supporting Ted Strickland), the Blackwell's campaign and Ohio GOP response was toxic. Within minutes they had a Bullwinkle cartoon with Bullwinkle Ted pulling Rocky Saxbe out of the "Ohio Corruption Tax" hat. (Nevermind that Rocky has represented Secretary Blackwell and other statewide candidates and Republican causes for decades. Now that he's supporting Strickland, he's a corrupt attorney!)

Now, this was an endorsement by just three Republicans. That's it. Instead of finding three Democrats to publicly endorse Blackwell or to downplay the significance of the endorsements, the Blackwell campaign decides to give the story even more legs and media play.

Bowling Green State University political scientist Tom Wiseman suggests that such negative attacks against these Republicans by Blackwell and the ORP has a significant chance to backfire:
"It's self-preservation from the party's point of view, preservation of the organization," he said. "They needed to take a strong stand on this, but sometimes less is accomplished with a negative approach than one might hope."

On top of that, Blackwell's attack of the group just highlights his biggest fundamental weakness in the election right now, not even his political base is united behind him:

Wiseman said the moderate Republicans Saxbe represents seem to be trending toward Strickland, which is bad news for Blackwell.

"It's not so uncommon to see individuals from the other side supporting the other candidate from time to time, but this appears to be a movement with direction," Wiseman said.

And to make matters worse for Blackwell, he's spokeman responds with the most vitrolic response of them all: Any Republican not supporting Blackwell is no longer a Republican.

"As far as we're concerned, he's no longer a member of this party. He decided that yesterday," LoParo said the day after Saxbe's event.

Saxbe sees it differently.

"I think they're making the case against themselves with these attacks," he said. "I think it's unfortunate that the message the party is sending out to Republicans is if you don't agree with these fairly radical beliefs of Ken Blackwell then you're scum."

Not the message you want to be sending in the last seven weeks of the campaign. I'm surprised the Blackwell campaign allowed itself to get so distracted and off message and consciously decided to do something that actually highlighted their candidate's biggest political problem during this campaign.

In other news, the latest Rasmussen Report poll for September shows Congressman Strickland
with a strong nineteen-point lead going into the final seven weeks of the campaign. While the Blackwell campaign can claim they've swung the race six points since the August 27 poll, they can't be too ecstatic about this swing.

First, because the change is well within the margin of error, it's statistically possible there's been absolutely no change whatsoever. Second, the Blackwell campaign has been spending considerable amount of money running ads attacking Ted Strickland while it appears the Strickland campaign has been sitting on their cash-on-hand advantage this month. For Strickland to still be solidly in the mid-50s and Blackwell still stuck in the mid-30s with only seven weeks left, Blackwell would need to continue to get the same swing he's gotten over the past month every two weeks for the rest of the election in order to close the gap. In other words, Blackwell needs to not only continue to get a swing in the polls, but needs to get double the swing he got this past month for the next two.

That's a tall order against an opponent who already had more cash-on-hand, has been consistently outfundraising Blackwell, and has not yet begun their paid media campaign, especially when you consider that Blackwell has appeared to have a 39% ceiling in most of these polls. If Blackwell continues to attack in his divisive manner in which only those that agree with him can call themselves Republicans, he's bound to lose even more Republican support, let alone begin to chip into Strickland's overwhelming advantage with independent voters.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

How's Blackwell going to create jobs? (Taxes)

A screen shot from his own campaign blog:

That just about wraps up this race. Over the weekend, several state newspapers noted that Blackwell's promised increase spending for education could not possibly paid by "savings" in Medicaid, even if such savings included such luxury items such as coverage for nursing homes, prescription medication, hospitials and coverage for children.

Gee, I wonder where Blackwell would come up with the rest of the money?

Monday, September 11, 2006

On a national day of reflection, unity, and mourning, Bush tries to peddle his political wares

I remember 9/11.

I remember that morning all too well.

It was a beautiful morning as I drove into work at one of Congressman Strickland's district offices. It had been a quiet morning. Until Ted's district scheduler had called and told all the district offices that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. We got on the Internet and tried to find out what was happening. I had just left my apartment from watching the "Today" show. New York looked beautiful, so weather couldn't have been a factor. At the time, I thought it was a single engine Cessna, not a powerful, lumbering passenger jet liner.

We turned on the T.V., and like so many of us in the country, collectively wondered how could a plane accidentally hit such an imposing building. And then, my stomach sank, as I saw a plane. God, it looked like it was crawling. At first, I thought it was just some flight passing through the airspace, but then I realized, I've never seen the WTC flying in to NYC or Newark. It was at that precise moment, we all realized. We were under attack. Our phones never stopped ringing the rest of the day as it seemed like everyone in the district collectively had our office number on speed dial. The D.C. office calls and people reported hearing the explosion at the Pentagon. Then, later, someone in the office announces that the D.C. office called again and was told to evaculate the office building, but they hung up before they told us where they were evacuating to. We learned later even they didn't know at the time, but we quickly learned that no phone tree of D.C. staff cell phones was going to get us the answer anytime soon. But even if we had gotten a hold of someone, nobody knew where they were supposed to go.

The phone rings. I pick it up. It's Frances, she's worried and can't get a hold of Ted. I tell her that the D.C. office just called and said they had to evacuate.

"To where?"
"I don't know."
"I can't get a hold of Ted on his cell, either. Where was he?"
"I don't know." And I feel a knot in my stomach and a lump in my throat. All I can think to do is to transfer Frances to our district director in the hopes he knows more than I.

Every Strickland relative I've ever met calls. We know nothing, and we're the only people anyone can reach. The constituent calls are frantic. "Is it Saddam?" "We've heard that there was a car bomb that exploded near the Capitol." "Is the uranium enrichment plant safe from attack?" These are just the conversations I can reprint. I remember anger, fear, and hatred like I've never heard.

Before I know it, the phone calls start to taper off. It's late evening, well after hours. I drive home and it's like I'm the only person left in town. I've never noticed the air traffic above before, but I feel its emptiness and silence now. Everyone is inside their homes glued to their radios and TVs. I come home and watch lines of people pouring out of Manhattan. And I see people forming lines to give blood. At a time when we all felt we needed to do something, it was all that anybody could suggest was needed. The response was amazing. In a day I had seen the worst and best humanity can offer. I remember how odd it was that the President of the United States was AWOL and the comfort we took from Mayor Giuliani. He was our comforter-in-chief.

Five years later, the chief architect of that vicious attack is still alive, still plotting, still operational. And the President of the United States, in remembrance of this day of mourning and unity, uses a primetime speech to the nation to give a partisan, political address that despite the fact that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction and had no relationship with the planning or execution of the 9/11 attacks (something his Vice-President seemed to continue to maintain on "Meet the Press" just yesterday,) Saddam was still a significant enough threat to justify pulling our soldiers from Afghanistan prematurely. While it's nice for the President, some three years later, to admit that Iraq was not cooperating with the terrorists who attacked us and did not have WMD to supply to them, that is not the message the President told us to get Americans to support his decision to go into Iraq.

Now, we are lectured as if we are the cowards hiding from the terrorists and that we cannot dare change course. Unfortunately, President Bush is right, but for the wrong reasons. You cannot change the course of a ship once the captain has already run it aground. "Stay the course" is not a mantra of leadership, a sign of unwavering principle as much it is a concession of the obvious. "I broke it, so America bought it," President Bush is essentially saying, quoting the ignored sage warning of his then Secretary of State Colin Powell who, unlike most people in this Administration, knew a little something about winning a military campaign in the region.

President Bush took this austere and sober occasion and tried to capitalize on it for political gain. And, yet again, he tried to justify his failed Iraq policies with a plethora of false choices. In the fight against terrorists, the President lectures us, we must either fight them overseas or on our homefront, as if the War on Terror can be won or lost on the President's pretended power to choose the war's venue. As if terrorists cannot fight their side of the war on multiple fronts. Our choice to fight the terrorists wasn't, as the President has so often suggested, a choice between fighting them in Iraq or here in the United States. It was a choice between Iraq, where they weren't, and Afghanistan, where they were, where they trained, where they plotted, where they had safe haven. And the President chose Iraq.

It's like if Marvin Lewis told the Bengals that his strategy to beat the Browns this weekend is not to play them at home, nor in Cleveland, but in Toronto, and keep playing until they decide to show up. Despite no WMD, evidence that there was no relationship between Iraq and 9/11, tonight the President tells us that Saddam was a clear threat that posed "a risk the world could not afford to take." I ask why, Mr. President? How, with no connection to 9/11, no capability or apparently willingness to arm those who actually did attack us, was Iraq a risk we could not afford to take, and yet, apparently, Iran, Lebanon, and North Korea are?

The President says we are in a fight for freedom, but which side is he on really in this fight? After his comments tonight, of his Vice-President yesterday, and his Secretary of Defense last week, I get no sense that they have any real sense of what a free society truly means. For in their minds, and in their very public words, they apparently define "free society" as where one has the freedom to agree and unite behind their country's leadership and unfalteringly support their leaders as infallible beings. It has not been the terrorists who have suggested that America is weak because citizens question the wisdom and need for American sacrifices in Iraq. It is your Administration, Mr. President, that has done that. The terrorists have not called American dissent as a sign of weakness or appeasement, but your own Administration.

Liberty has no meaning if the powerless have no right to demand accountability and responsibility from the powerful, especially when the powerful ask the powerless to make all the sacrifices in this fight. To your Administration, public dissent is our greatest weakness. To me, it's our most sacred right from God.

How dare you, Mr. President, use the loss of life of 9/11 as a political prop to shield you from criticism and to question the moral courage and resolve of those who want to finish the fight with Osama Bin Laden. We don't just want our troops to come from Iraq; we want them to finish the job in Afghanistan and bring OBL to justice. And because of your choices, you have allowed the trail of OBL to grow "stone cold." You demand our loyalty and our unity, and yet we read:

Terrorism has been a potent political issue for Republicans, and they hope to capitalize on it in the elections. GOP lawmakers are anxious about holding control of both houses of Congress.
For yet another election, your party has decided that your only hope of holding onto power is to use our fears from 9/11 to divide us and seeks ways use our fear of our enemies to consolidate your party's power at the expense of unity. Only half of the 41 recommendations of the 9/11 Commission to improve homeland security have been implemented. And yet, your party claims only it can make America safer.

In a free society, unity and loyalty from the people to their democratically elected leaders is earned, Mr. President, it cannot be imposed, not even with the memory of over 3,000 dead Americans. If you do not learn that lesson, Mr. President, then, sadly, the terrorist will have already won.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Prof. Larry Sabato's Crystall Ball foresees Governor Strickland

Cross-posted at Buckeye State Blog:

In the latest edition of University of Virginia Professor Larry Sabato's "Crystal Ball" Report, Professor Sabato changes the Ohio Governor's race from Leaning Democratic to Likely Democratic, making Congressman Ted Strickland as likely to take the governorship as New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer will take the NY Governorship.

Professor Sabato writes:
"At this point, it appears to be less a matter of whether Democrat Ted Strickland will win, than by what kind of margin he will triumph. Will he win by enough to also carry in liberal Democrat Sherrod Brown for the U.S. Senate? Will he be able to generate coattails for some of the Democratic House candidates in an exceptionally rough year for the GOP in Ohio? Republican nominee Ken Blackwell simply has too many burdens that are too heavy to prevail in this year, absent a miracle."
Well said, Professor. (Sherrod Brown's race is still considered a toss-up as both it and the House races don't appear to have been updated as recently as the Governor's race.)

Tort reformer Blackwell caught in his own frivolous complaint, then laughs off suit to force him to enforce Ohio's campaign finance laws

Ken Blackwell hypocracy knows no limits. He accuses his opponent of "political schizophernia," yet he's the one to abandoned his own platform from the primary, reverse his position on prevailing wage and "Right to Work" laws. Ken Blackwell's platform for economic development calls for tort reform to "reduce the amount of frivolous claims that are clogging our courts and hurting our economy." And, yet, what has Ken Blackwell done recently?

A week ago, Blackwell filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission alleging that Congressman Ted Strickland's ad criticizing Blackwell's mandatory health insurance proposal will be too costly to Ohio's families was false and misleading. The second Blackwell announced he was going to file this complaint, the Ohio conservative blogsphere jumped on the Blackwell bandwagon and opened their choiral hymnals to condemn Strickland's honesty and integrity in feined indigination.

Here are some of the posts regarding Blackwell's complaints in the past week:

And what did the Ohio Elections Commission rule on Blackwell's claims that Strickland's ad contained false and misleading information? In an unanimous, bipartisan vote, the Ohio Elections Commission ruled that there was not even probable cause for the Commission to investigate Blackwell's complaint, and so, they dismissed it. The short-hand word for that: Blackwell's claims were frivolous. Perhaps before enacting yet another round of tort reforms, Secretary Blackwell should institute reform to prevent candidates from filing frivolous complaints that their opponents are lying when, in reality, they're telling the truth.

But Blackwell's hypocracy goes even further. After pledging for years that "transparency" and "disclosures" are mandatory components of a healthy election, Blackwell now is utterly silent on the issue now that a group called "Common Sense Ohio" has used a campaign finance loophole to hide its contributors (and therefore, their compliance with Ohio's campaign contribution laws) from public scrutiny.

[If you're already familiar with the "Common Sense Ohio" fundraising scheme, skip to the next paragraph.] Here's how Common Sense Ohio's fundraising scheme (one could say it's the political equivalent of campaign finance money laundering) works. A group of Ken Blackwell supporters decides that they want to financially help elect Ken Blackwell as Governor, but they don't want to be limited to the $10,000-a-person contribution limit, or worse, control entities like corporations that they can't use to legally make a direct donation, or they just don't want people to publicly know that they are financially supporting an attack group's identity. So they create two organizations: one is a 501(c)(4) IRS non-profit entity designed to "promote social welfare" (think labor unions, Planned Parenthood, or Chamber of Commerce entities.) These groups don't have any donation limits, public reporting requirements, or prohibition from receiving corporate donors. Then they create a separate organization that will do all of the "electioneering" activities (they actually pay for the attack ads against Congressman Strickland while praising Ken Blackwell). The "electioneering" group is subject to campaign finance disclosures, but it can accept money from the first group and does. So, when the "electioneering" group reports it's donors, all it has to report is that it's received donations from the first group, and nobody has to report where the first group received its funds to donate to the electioneering group. The second group "discloses" the first group as it's sole donor while nobody really knows who is donating to the donor group and whether its all a scam to circumvent the contribution limits in Ohio's campaign finance system. Got that?

So, here's what Secretary of State Blackwell has said in the past about the need for full disclosure and transparency in campaign finance: "Without knowing who is behind these ads, voters are forced to make decisions without being fully informed,” Blackwell told lawmakers considering campaign reforms in November 2002. “The secrecy surrounding the funding of these advertisements contributes to the erosion of voter confidence in the political process."

Here's what Ken Blackwell has said now that he's the beneficiary of over $1.6 M in paid campaign advertisements in his favor by Common Sense Ohio: Nada.

As has been reported at Buckeye State Blog and now, finally, The Cleveland Plain Dealer:

"The legal architect behind Common Sense Ohio and Common Sense 2006 is Columbus attorney Bill Todd, the brilliant master of the campaign-finance loophole. Todd also did the legal work for Citizens for a Strong Ohio, the group that ran the brutal "Lady Justice" attack ads against Supreme Court Justice Alice Robie Resnick, and Informed Citizens of Ohio, the secretive nonprofit that former House Speaker Larry Householder used to drive public policy."
The situation has gotten so bad that today the Ohio Democratic Party filed suit in the Ohio Supreme Court asking the court to issue a writ of mandamus to compel Secretary of State Ken Blackwell to take action in order to get actual disclosure of who is funding Common Sense Ohio. And what has Ken Blackwell's response been to this obvious fraudulent scheme to circumvent Ohio's campaign finance disclosure laws after spending years championing that every dime used in a political campaign be disclosed? He laughed it off.

In one day, Blackwell is revealed to have filed one false claim against his opponent and shrugged off a genuine complaint about an intentional circumventing of Ohio's campaign finance laws because it politically benefits his desire for higher office. This is a testament of Ken Blackwell's true character, and it's not one fit to be our Governor for the next four years. We don't need a politican with no true values other than a self-absorbed sense of political self-perservation and ambition. We deserve better than that from our next Governor.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Random thought of the moment

What's the economic savings for a company of stocking the spork if Popeye's is still going to give me two of them with my meal?

Ken Blackwell: Master Debator?

Dear Secretary Blackwell: I know Ronald Reagan, I've heard Ronald Reagan, and Mr. Secretary, you're no Ronald Reagan.

Well the first gubernatorial debate is over. Didn't you all watch it today at noon on the first day after a three-day holiday on the Youngstown-area only TV media outlet? Of course, you didn't. And even if you did, since the debate rules made initial responses only 60 seconds and rebuttals only 30-second responses, you didn't miss much even if you did bother to watch it. (Incidentally, if you do have an hour to kill, you can still watch the debate on WFMJ's website by clicking on the video link at the immediately left of the story.)

Since the primaries, the right-wing Blackwell base has been almost like a kid waiting for Christmas for these debates. Blackwell was supposed to be the smooth Communicator, next to not-ready-for prime time Strickland (as the Ohio GOP called him just before the debate.)

Am I saying Strickland KO'ed Blackwell? No. But Blackwell didn't KO Strickland, and given the state of the race, he needed a clear-cut victory in this debate. Strickland had to show basic competency (a very low burden); while Blackwell had to show that he wasn't the polarizing, extremist the "liberal media has falsely" portrayed him to be. Or at least, that's what I would have said his campaign needed to do.

Instead, in attempting to rebut Strickland's point that Blackwell is so extreme on abortion that he opposes abortion even in the event that the mother's life is in danger by the pregnancy, Blackwell made a false assertion that current medical technology makes such a situation impossible, and then concluded by asserting that abortionists promote abortion as a means to exterminate the African-American race. Seriously. (If you don't believe me, pull up the video and fast-forward to 55:09.)

And if the Blackwell campaign wanted to paint Ted Strickland as not having a grasp of the issues, Blackwell failed to demonstrate such mastery when asked the obviously predictable question of what he would do as Governor for the Mahoning River Valley. Congressman Strickland was able to talk about what has worked in the valley and how local, state, and federal partnerships have brought important economic development projects and developed entrepreneurialism in small business incubators. Blackwell only talked in broad, vague, terms about tax code and regulatory reforms without specifically demonstrating any grasp of the local challenges of the area.

Yes, Blackwell again and again called Ted Strickland a "tax and spender." He couldn't give an answer without using the term. But to a point, the attack loses its sting with repetition and stops sounding like a critique, and more like childish name-calling. Especially after Strickland promised that his Turnaround Ohio plan does not include tax increases and that he opposes raising Ohio's taxes. Yet, Strickland was able to deliver body blows to Blackwell by pointing out his flip-flops with concrete examples. Blackwell was asked point-blank about his recent reversal on "Right to Work" laws. He fumbled it poorly. Strickland used it to point out how Blackwell has reversed his position on his own campaign platform and how his TEL amendment proposal would have been a disaster for the local government to deal with the economic challenges in the region.

In the end, Blackwell seemed like the divisive extremist he's been portrayed. He repeated ridiculed Strickland as a "goes along, get along" leader, but then claimed he changed his position on Right to Work because the General Assembly would never support his position. His constant refrain reenforced Strickland's portrayal of himself as a consensus leader who will work with Democrats, Independents, and Republicans. Blackwell appeared as a "my way or the highway" leader who can admit no mistakes, misteps, or judgments in error. He acted and sounded more like President George W. Bush than Ronald Reagan while Strickland looked more like the "uniter" W. always promised he'd be, but never was.

How do I know that the Republican base is not satisfied with the result of this debate, though? Well, after any debate of this importance, it's tradition that the Democratic Party and its candidate issues public statements declaring victory while even the Republican Party and its candidates do the same. Even after the disasterous first debate between Bush and Kerry, the Republicans tried to put their best foot forward.

And yet, at the time I write this post, it's been seven and half hours since the debate began. Strickland and the ODP's websites declare victory on the debate. But neither Blackwell nor the ORP's websites even mention that they've occurred. And all those conservative bloggers expecting Christmas? They're silent hoping nobody notices the calendar and that their stockings, instead of overflowing with presents, have nothing but coal in them.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Blackwell's political obituary already written?

Over the weekend, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell's gubernatorial campaign tried to engage itself in the same kind of bus tour that Congressman Ted Strickland successfully had with the rest of the Democratic ticket just a few weeks earlier. Except that Blackwell's bus tour didn't have the rest of the Republican ticket. And it stayed in relatively safe, heavily Republican areas . . . and it didn't do anything really to help his cause as the press coverage was benign or worse.

In the traditionally conservative Cincinnati Enquirer, while Congressman Strickland's tour in traditionally Republican areas got prominent coverage and several sidebar stories regarding traditional Republican voters seriously considering voting for Strickland, Ken Blackwell's lonely hearts tour, got well, less prominent placement. In fact, the story was buried right next to the Sunday paper's obituary notices. And the story noted that the crowd in solidly red Lebanon was rather small.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer noted that Blackwell's attempt to demonstrate that the party was finally uniting behind him fell on deaf ears:

And, in perhaps the most conciliatory gesture of his campaign, Blackwell stood before a large crowd of Cuyahoga County Republicans in Independence on Saturday to make amends.

There, he linked hands with his wife, Rosa, and Cuyahoga County party Chairman Rob Frost, who supported Petro in the primary.

Raising their arms, Blackwell, a maverick within the party and critic of Republican Gov. Bob Taft, said, "There is no way I get there by myself."

Holding the pose, the room still silent, he continued: "What you see represented here is a unified Republican Party, from whose shoulders I will spring to the governor's office." (emphasis added.)

Hardly a "rally around the flag" moment. The only other news Blackwell made reiterated his most damaging political flaw: his need to pander to audiences to gain their support. In Lima, Ohio (Allen County), Ken Blackwell promised to reopen the Lima Correctional Institution, a state prison closed due to budget constraints. Despite not describing in any way how he's going to pay for it, Blackwell is promising that if Allen County votes Blackwell into office, he'll come up with the $90 million to reopen the facility and bring those jobs back.

Now, Blackwell has already promised that an additional 10% of the state's general revenue fund will be shifted into education, and thanks to Blackwell's TEL legislation limiting state spending, one has to wonder where a "Governor" Blackwell is suddenly going to find $90 million dollars in the state budget. He's either going to have to cut other programs' funding further or he's going to have to raise taxes.

Blackwell is the worst type of politician: a self-professed fiscal conservative who buckles upon sight of the first audience he sees who criticizes his opponents for his own sins.