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.

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