Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Ohio: the heart of the Republican scandals.

What’s been near and dear to my heart is what’s been going down in Ohio these days. Several corrupt Republicans have bitten the dust, and Governor Taft is mired in scandal. Thanks in part to term limits, he’s a lame duck that everyone hates. Even during last year’s election, Bush steered clear of him.

I was in Ohio yesterday, listening to the Ron Verb and Casey Malone Show, which is a moderate radio call-in show based in Youngstown, and the callers were furious. These are angry Democrats calling in, damning the Bush administration, the Taft administration, Mayor McKelvey of Youngstown (a Democrat who endorsed Bush last year, which has rendered him political dead meat,) and had plenty of venom for anyone who’s ever said anything even remotely nice about Bush or their state’s scandal-ridden politicians. Granted, this is northeastern Ohio, which is a heavily Democratic part of the world, but it’s also noteworthy that these aren’t the simpering, limp-wristed liberals that Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter tell you are in total control of the party these days. These are people who believe in the social mission of taxes and spending, who believe that government has a duty and a role. They ain’t Coastals; they’re strictly bread-and-butter voters who will turn out to the polls in fair numbers if they think someone’s going to take away their hunting rifles, but will turn out in droves if they can’t find work or if their government services are failing. And the latter is happening.

These beer-drinking, football-watching, meat-eating children of factory workers are furious. Tom Noe’s Coingate scandal is tarnishing the several Republican gubernatorial candidates who are running right now to snag the nomination in May’s primary. The major Republican candidates are Bush administration sop Ken Blackwell and right-wing drone Jim Petro, both from the Cleveland area. Blackwell and Petro are already sniping at each other, and hopefully they’ll knock each other down but good. Currently, Petro is down in the polls, but still, Blackwell’s campaign web site is going negative on Petro. The Democrats seem to be coalescing around U.S. Representative Ted Strickland, a minister whose religious background will likely neutralize that exclusive contract that Republicans like to claim to have on God, and the fact that he’s 64 years old but could pass for forty doesn’t hurt, either. Strickland’s from socially conservative and fiscally liberal south central Ohio, and an energized northeastern Ohio would be glad to vote for the guy—even though he’s probably a Bengals fan.

Republican Senator Mike DeWine is also in trouble, threatened by a couple of Democrats who are gunning for his seat. Some say that the favorite is Paul Hackett, an Iraq War veteran from the (heavily Republican) Cincinnati area who almost won a special House election recently. If he can do that well in Cincinnati, goes the logic, he’ll all but electrify Youngstown and Cleveland. After that, Democratic Toledo, mixed Columbus and conservative Xenia (and environs) are all academic. If any of that works out, we’ll see, but with DeWine as the incumbent, who will have support from the very bipartisanly popular Senator George Voinovich, the election might not be the cinch that some predict it will be. U.S. Representative Sherrod Brown is also challenging Hackett, so if that campaign gets ugly, it could help out DeWine. However, Brown and Hackett are currently running a race that’s so polite it would be nauseating to watch, if I were a Republican. Brown is running on his own ideas and record (and an endorsement from Ted Strickland) while Hackett is running on his own ideas and military record (and an endorsement from U.S. Representative Tim Ryan of Niles, Ohio, who is one of the true rock stars of politics these days. Ryan isn’t old enough to be president yet, but will be in a couple of years, and if he ever runs, he can count on my support. In the meantime, it’s nice just knowing that Ryan is there in Congress. Hopefully Hackett will be there soon, too.

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