Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Unforced Errors

As we gear up for another crucial election year in 2006, Ohio Democrats have the best circumstances and best slate of candidates in years. Preliminary polling shows the Democratic candidate for Governor, U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland (D-6th) with a 12 point lead over the Republican frontrunner, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, and a 7 point lead over his challenger in the primary, Attorney General Jim Petro. Strickland can sit back as these two duke out a nasty primary fight that has already featured the FBI and some extremely negative campaign ads, all the while running positive message ads and solidifying his lead (note: this is how John Kerry won the 2004 Democratic nomination for president).

While it is good that the stars are aligning for a win at the top of the ticket this year, I fear that Democrats are committing some unforced errors further down the line. The first comes from the exit of the very loud Paul Hackett from the primary for the U.S. Senate. Hackett, who came very close to winning a special election in Ohio's very conservative 2nd Congressional District in 2005, chose not to take the suggestions of the DCCC and the DSCC and try to run in the 2nd again this year, instead of taking on the challenge of a statewide campaign in a very critical election year. Instead, Hackett announced his retirement from politics and fired salvos at his would-have-been primary opponent, U.S. Rep Sherrod Brown (D-13th), claiming that Brown's campaign spread disinformation about his service record in Iraq. This has subsequently hurt Brown's polling numbers at a time when the GOP is circling the wagons around their incumbent, U.S. Sen Mike DeWine. I understand Hackett is upset, but I wish he had not taken a public shot at Rep. Brown's campaign. Picking up this Senate seat is key to the Dem's chances of taking control of the Senate this year.

Another unforced error came when State Sen. Charlie Wilson (D-30th) failed to file the required 50 signatures to get on the primary ballot for the 6th Congressional District race. This seat is being vacated by Rep. Strickland to run for Governor. It is a very competitive district that actually voted for President Bush last year, albeit by a margin of victory of less than 2,000 votes. The district stretches from the suburbs of Youngstown south along the Ohio River all the way to Portsmouth. However, 70% of the population of the district is in the northern end, that is, Mahoning, Columbiana, Jefferson, and Belmont counties. Since State Sen. Wilson already represents 3 of these 4 counties in the State Senate, he had an excellent shot to win. Now, if he is going to be the Democratic nominee, it will have to be as a write-in candidate. This will be a serious challenge, not to mention the fact that Wilson's error has emboldened the candidacy of State Rep. Chuck Bladsel (R-1st) who is the Republican front-runner for the nomination. The GOP drew this district specifically so that if Rep. Strickland should leave for any reason, they could pick up the seat. A Democratic defense of the seat is critical to the party's chances to capture the state's congressional delegation this year, not to mention taking control of the House in Washington D.C.

Tomorrow I'll scribble about the Dems chances at picking up 5 key seats in the State Senate this year.

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