Sunday, October 01, 2006

Shouldn't let Blackwell be Blackwell

When the first polls in the gubernatorial race came out, they showed Secretary of State Ken Blackwell winning the nomination, but doing poorer against Congressman Ted Strickland in the general election. But you can't count on polls seven months out, said the Republicans. And once people get to know Strickland and his record.

When the first polls came out after the May primary, they showed Congressman Ted Strickland with a healthy six-point lead over Ken Blackwell. But you can't count on polls six months out, and once people get to know Strickland and his record . . .

Over the summer, as Strickland began making himself known to Ohioans and launching his Turnaround Ohio plan, his lead in the polls doubled. But you can't count on polls three months out before the campaign starts in earnest after Labor Day, and once people people get to know Strickland and his record . . .

Now, it's post-Labor Day, and the Blackwell campaign and its allies have spent millions advertising on their version of Ted Strickland's record. In the past week, we've seen six different polls which all show Strickland with an average 18-point lead. For awhile, the right-wing blogsphere discounted any poll that wasn't the Ohio Poll (until it became "unreliable" upon showing a double-digit lead.) Show us Mason-Dixon polling, so we can show the non-believers the true nature of the race . . .

And not only does the Mason-Dixon poll show Strickland with a crushing seventeen point lead and confirms the basic finding of just about every other poll, but it confirms last week's Columbus Dispatch poll showing Blackwell dragging the entire ticket down. But you can't on polls . . .

Six weeks out, and it's difficult to imagine a scenerio in which Blackwell can win. He still has an unfavorability rating nearing 50% and substantially higher than his favorability rating. He's losing nearly a quarter of the Republican vote while Strickland has his base and the independent vote solidly behind him. Blackwell's effort to threaten Strickland's hold on his base by getting the African-American vote never materialized.

Now the why. Blackwell was able to win statewide elections handily for the past twelve years. What's the difference? Well, this is the first time we've truly seen Blackwell the open social conservative run. While some think the Blackwell is having trouble with his parties base because he's an extremist, I believe a bigger problem is he's an opportunist. Blackwell likes to talk about himself in Reaganesque terms, but nobody has violated Reagan's 11th Commandment of not speaking ill of another Republican than Blackwell. Whenever it was politically expedient for Blackwell to do so, he was more than happy to push another Republican under the bus, whether it was Governor Bob Taft or primary opponent Attorney General Jim Petro.

You can't push that many people from your party under the bus and not get some payback. And, also, his positions are outside the mainstream of a significant segment of his own party. Together, that makes it very unlikely that there was anything Blackwell could do to get his base back. If there was, he would have done it by now.

And second, and this can't be said enough, Blackwell was more myth than an actually strong candidate. Before his statewide tenure, Blackwell wass mreore successful getting political appointments than winning elections. At best, he was able to win open seat races for Cincinnati City Council, but he lost more races than he won.

I have no idea where Blackwell the Closer ever came from. If there's evidence that Blackwell is able to be a strong closer and come from behind in a race, I'm not aware of such a campaign. And, second, Blackwell the Communicator has turned out to be an overstated characterization of Blackwell's political strengths. So long as the gubernatorial races remain a draw, Blackwell loses, and it doesn't appear that Blackwell is the Debate Heavyweight his supporters made him out to seem. His campaign has been uninspiring and has not had an effective communication strategy since winning the primary (an achievement that Blackwell has been plotting for the past twelve years.)

Blackwell must have assumed that the Democratic Party would be in no position to mount a strong campaign this cycle. He must have assumed that the winner of the Republican gubernatorial primary would coast to an easy win in the general. After all, the 1990, 1994, 1998, and 2002 gubernatorial elections would all bear it out. Unfortunately, this election cycle is a break from that 16-year trend. Ted Strickland is no Robert Birch or Tim Hagan. And 2004 is nothing like 1998. How else do you explain Blackwell's "go for broke, win the primary at all costs" strategy?

Blackwell clearly thought winning the primary and throwing Taft under the bus would be enough to guarantee him an election. It wasn't as people can't ignore Blackwell's history with Tom Noe and the Ohio Republican Party, and not even Republicans can ignore what lengths Blackwell would go to win. In the end, it's not which candidate has the "right" position for the moment, or even which has the best plans for Ohio. In the end, it's a matter of character. And in five weeks, the people of Ohio will end this campaign with a verdict. It should be a short night.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The entire ticket is being drug down except for Betty. We dems cant even stand Marc Dann so when I vote tomorrow I will leave that one blank. I can't bring myself to vote for a Republican but I sure as hell won't vote for Dann!!