My, Oh My, Ohio

Ken AshfordCongress, Election 2006Leave a Comment

The special election for Ohio’s Second District House seat was a real nail-biter.  A highly conservative area, it should have been a shoe-in for Republican nominee Jean Schmidt.  But her Democratic opponent was a Bush-bashing Iraqi War veteran named Paul Hackett.  He lost . . . barely, and there are lessons to learned.  From The Left Coaster:

Major Paul Hackett (D-Fighting Democrat) reduced the winning margin of his Republican opponent (Jean Schmidt, R-Corruption) to 4%, in an extraordinarily strong, gerrymandered Republican district where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats 3-1, and where the last Democrat who ran for Congress against a Republican (in 2004), lost by a whopping 44% margin.

As Jerome Armstrong (MyDD) pointed out, even if you consider Bush’s 2000 and 2004 purported electoral margins in this district (averaging 26% – 63 to 37), Hackett’s showing was incredible (despite his very sharp, direct, repeated attacks on Bush) – enough to almost beat a candidate who presented herself largely as a Bush clone in her "safe" district. To think that a virtual nobody could pull this off in one of the reddest states in the country shows what can be achieved if you have good candidates with conviction and passion, who don’t hesitate to fight back and attack the culture of corruption, immorality and fraud that has become the hallmark of the BushDelay neocons.

I imagine even Charlie Cook, who produced a laughably pro-GOP pre-analysis of this race – which Tim Tagaris appropriately responded to at Swing State Project (SSP) – will have to acknowledge the implications of Hackett’s performance. As Cook claimed, trying hard to set the bar as low as possible for Schmidt (emphasis mine):

A Schmidt win of less than five points should be a very serious warning sign for Ohio Republicans that something is very, very wrong…

As the Cincinnati Enquirer said (emphasis mine):

The win by Republican Jean Schmidt in Tuesday’s 2nd Congressional District election was in no way shocking, but the fact that Democrat Paul Hackett made it a very close election is nothing short of astounding.

Seven weeks ago, when Schmidt won an 11-candidate primary, few on either side believed that – in a district where President Bush won 64 percent of the vote and no Democrat had come close to winning in decades – this would be much of a contest.

This happened despite Jean Schmidt trying hard to paint Hackett as "a liberal Democrat who is out of step with the district." Sound familiar?

The essence of this race, as Bob Brigham (who did an amazing job at Swing State Project and for the Hackett campaign), has pointed out on multiple occasions, is to take the fight to the corrupt opposition in every state, every district and every locality – something DNC Chairman Howard Dean has long advocated. In a nutshell:

  • Start with a good candidate
  • Campaign passionately and with unstinting conviction in order to build credibility
  • Aggressively take on the opposition particularly on their perceived (i.e., fake) strength(s) and define the terms of the fight in your terms, not theirs
  • Build grassroots power to get the votes out for the candidate and
  • Motivate large numbers of people (especially locals) to donate small amounts to make a good candidate almost invincible

2006 elections are fast approaching.  We can win.