Foley: It has to be said. Has there ever been a major party candidate in Ohio who has built his campaign strategy relying on turning out the evangelical conservative vote more than Blackwell (perhaps Bush/Cheney '04). Having Bob Woodward's book suggest that the President called Blackwell a "nut," and have the Foley scandal erupt leading many to believe that the evangelical vote will stay home aren't the kind of things the Blackwell campaign wanted to see.
Money race: The September fundraising figures came out earlier this week, and it showed yet another month where Strickland's fundraising has continued to be solid while Blackwell's ability to raise money has continued to drop off. Blackwell raised nearly half a million dollars less in September than he did in August. Strickland, on the other hand, raised $2.5 Million, thus raising over twice what Blackwell did. As I've said, this is the second consecutive month showing Blackwell's fundraising has been dropping. It should also be noted that if it weren't for in-kind and monetary donations from the Ohio Republican Party. Blackwell's fundraising would look actually much worst.
Strickland goes into the last few weeks of the campaign with a multi-million dollar cash advantage, so he can counter Blackwell's message. Also, Blackwell's drop in fundraising suggests that national leaders and other outside conservative groups probably won't be coming into the district to help Blackwell out. The people who write the checks for Republican candidates have increasingly decided that their money would be better spent in other races, such as Ohio's closer Senate race.
Ad buys: During this phase of the campaign, retail politics takes a back seat to paid media. This is the time period where the air campaign is at its climax. According to the Columbus Dispatch, the Blackwell campaign is "lagging in the polls, money raised and crucial television advertising time purchased," and therefore, is "losing momentum."
Blackwell, it appears, is currently been running a small TV buy in his political base of SW Ohio (which, if true, demonstrates that Blackwell's campaign is more concerned about protecting his strong showing in SWO than becoming more competitive elsewhere in the state. This is the actions of a defensive campaign looking to avoid embarassment on election night, not a campaign on the march to victory.) Strickland is buying up ad time like he's the one who gets the commission. He's buying roughly $40,000 per T.V. station in Columbus for the final month.
Blackwell's campaign has bought no ad time for much of October in Columbus, which is normally a battleground. He's spending 80% of his entire general election paid media budget in the final week of the campaign in Columbus. Blackwell will run 272 commercials during that week in Columbus compared to Strickland's 186.
Strickland also bought TV time throughout the end of September and October, and nearly doubled the amount spent by Blackwell for TV ads for the entire fall campaign. While it's true that the Republican Governors Association is running ads in northern Ohio, those ads are on gay marriage, and have been largely panned as ineffective to reshape the race to make it more competitive.
Debates: The debate on the economy earlier this week in Cincinnati may be the final debate, unless a sponsor for the already scheduled Columbus debate can be agreed upon in time. Although the third debate, this was the only one which occurred after business hours, and therefore, was probably the most watched debate.
The debates were supposed to be where Blackwell would turn the race around. He hasn't, and his campaign knows that it didn't. Sure, they did the usual press release praising the race. But when your campaign blog's only comment on the debate is a self-congratulations on how well the Ohio College Republicans was able to stage a "rally" of College Republicans from across Ohio, you know that they don't believe what actually occurred at the debate helped their cause.
Polls: Rasmussen latest poll shows that Blackwell has closed the gap, but it still shows Strickland with a double-digit lead over 50%. It also shows that over a third of voters have a highly unfavorable opinion of Blackwell. While 48% have an unfavorable opinion. That creates a strong amount of resistance for Blackwell to break into victory while Strickland's popularity is very strong. In the end, the poll may suggest that the results in August were too optimistic, and this is a correction as they tend to follow the numbers throughout the campaign since the primary.
The more significant poll comes from the Ohio Poll of the University of Cincinnati which shows that likely voters give Democrats double digit leads on which party can be trusted to improve Ohio's economy, create jobs, and improve public education. In fact, Democrats have advantages with voters on tax and controlling government spending issues as well, traditionally Republican issues.
Endorsements: A month ago, Strickland got the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police, a traditionally expected endorsement for Republicans. Strickland also got endorsed by the Ohio Associated of General Contractors, another traditional Republican endorsement. Blackwell hasn't gotten any endorsements that Republicans aren't expected to always get (unless you're radioactive like Mark Foley.)
Today, Strickland was endorsed by the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Columbus Dispatch. Remember the last time the Dispatch endorsed a Democrat for Governor? Me neither, and that's the bigger point.
Here are the highlights.
From the Columbus Dispatch:
"[Ohio]requires a governor who can work with red and blue Ohioans, who can cool the fever of partisanship with moderation and common sense. Between Strickland, who currently represents Ohio's 6th Congressional District, and Republican candidate and Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, Strickland is the one who has exhibited these qualities to a much greater degree. Blackwell has proclaimed that he is the candidate of bold ideas. That's true. But his ideas alarm a significant portion of the electorate, including many in his own party. Boldness is not the test of leadership; sound judgment is.
"His proposed constitutional amendment to limit government taxing and spending spoke to Ohioans' frustrations with the state's outdated tax structure. But as people began to examine the measure closely, they could see it meant devastating cuts to police, fire, education and other local services.
'The weaknesses were so obvious that fellow Republicans in the General Assembly rushed through legislation to remove the embarrassment from the ballot and replace it with a face-saving but toothless statutory replica.
"Because this plan was not a careful, thoughtful piece of work, it calls into question the thoughtfulness and care of its creator. Blackwell's suport for the so-called 65 percent solution, which proposes to fix problems in the state's schools by ordering every district to devote 65 percent of its budget to classroom instruction, is a similar big idea that simply brushes aside the details, such as the myriad differences in need among more than 600 Ohio school districts.
"Strickland acknowledges that his ideas lack the flash of Blackwell’s. But they are more carefully conceived. Strickland proposes to continue and to expand some of the best policies to come out of the governor’s office and the legislature in recent years. He has endorsed Gov. Bob Taft’s Third Frontier proposal, which uses state money to nurture 21st-century technologies and proposes to expand such efforts. He also wants to allow the tax reform passed last year to play out until its effects can be judged. He pledges that all of his initiatives, including changes in health care, contain the means to pay for them and do not require tax increases.
"On K-12 education, Strickland proposes to lead an effort to reach a consensus solution on how to retool funding. Yes, this could become just another go-nowhere, blue-ribbon commission, but given the emphasis each candidate has put on this issue, Strickland would be held accountable if he fails to follow through as governor.
"Of course, anything the next governor proposes will require the cooperation of the General Assembly, and on that score, too, Strickland has the edge. Blackwell is a polarizing figure, even within his own party, and his bull-in-the-china-shop approach to politics is as likely to alienate the legislature as win it over. Strickland's moderation and consensus-building style are more likely to be effective regardless of the legislature's political makeup.
"Strickland also has the superior running mate. Lee Fisher, who served well as Ohio attorney general, state senator and 1998 Democratic nominee for governor, is experienced and knowledgeable. Tom Raga, Blackwell's running mate, is a third-term state representative who is bright and promising but untested at this level.
"Ohio's future will be built one brick at a time and will require all hands. Strickland is best equipped to lead the state forward."
Cleveland Plain Dealer:
"Blackwell reeks of recklessness. His long record in public office suggests that he would freely engage in the exploration of potentially destructive ideas, even as he uses the governorship to make political mischief and sow social division on a grander scale than ever.
"The deep contrasts in their temperaments and level of political maturity should make Strickland's election a fairly easy call. Besides, the ideas Strickland has been willing to advance so far are solid, and we are relatively confident he will continue to surround himself with smart people who can help him implement and expand upon them.
"The same cannot be said of Blackwell.
"We believe Strickland has a better chance to accomplish good things for Ohio because he and his running mate, Lee Fisher, understand the state's needs better than their Republican opponents. Fisher is an urban Democrat from Greater Cleveland who has long championed the needs of cities and knows the challenges of job creation. Strickland, a product of Appalachia, has lived the struggles of rural Ohio and grasps the troubles of the poor.
"Together, these men have a chance to take the helm of a state that has become known for too many of the wrong economic indicators. Doing so will require active political imagination, keen economic vision - and a certain amount of care.
"The question before Ohioans is, which candidate for governor is best equipped to carry the state forward without dropping it. The only answer, then, is Ted Strickland."
[UPDATED:] I apparently missed the Toledo Blade's endorsement of Strickland today as well. The editorial basically writes off Blackwell's attempts to claim that he is a Republican outsider from a Republican Party that has lead this state for the past twelve years with Blackwell on the ticket.
He truly would be a governor from the “Other Ohio,” and it’s about time. Moreover, his running mate, Lee Fisher, is extraordinarily qualified to serve as governor if ever needed.
We certainly understand how difficult it is for many Ohioans, and many good Republicans, to accept what has become of their party. They put their faith in Republicans for 16 years, and that faith was badly abused.
Here in Ohio, the Party of Lincoln has become the Party of Noe. For the Republicans, the Three C’s have become “Complacency, Corruption, and Coingate.” Ohio is enduring a true crisis of ethics, and it can only be fixed by change.
Forget about party labels. Democrats, Republicans, and independents should understand that they have a greater calling than partisanship this time. They need to join together to give their state a fresh start.
They can do that by electing Ted Strickland as Ohio’s 68th governor on Nov. 7.
Although the Akron Beacon Journal hasn't made it's endorsement in this race. Today's editorial regarding Ken Blackwell tax platform is as much of an indictment against his candidacy as the endorsements were. The ABJ calls Blackwell's part of his "easy answers" which proposes to do something that states which also lag behind the rest of the nation in economic growth do.
Blackwell's plan would lead to eventual tax increases on the middle class and require nearly a billion of dollars in cuts in state spending (which Blackwell has yet to explain where he would make those, nor the spending cuts he would need to make for the promised increase of the percentage of general revenue funds dedicated to public education.)
With only four weeks left, Blackwell can't afford a week when his campaign is described as floundering, his ability to govern questioned, and his platform highly criticized as a stealth tax increase on the middle class.