August 17, 2005

The Real Lesson of the Ohio Election?

Carroll Andrew Morse

Dean Barnett (another conservative New Englander) has an excellent analysis in the Weekly Standard of the Democratic side of the recent Ohio special Congressional election, where a veteran Republican edged out a Democratic newcomer in a solidly Republican district. However, I think the real lesson for Republicans is contained in this paragraph from Barnett...

The Republicans nominated a veteran state senator, Jean Schmidt, who according to both friend and foe was a lackluster politician who subsequently ran a lackluster campaign. What's more, Schmidt was saddled with the baggage of being a staunch supporter of Ohio's wildly unpopular governor, Robert Taft, whose sole unique political talent seems to be an ability to alienate his state's voters...
Is Jean Schmidt the exception, or the rule? Maybe I'm over-generalizing from a few cases, but this seems to be part of a larger Republican problem. In Rhode Island's last gubernatorial election, had the candidate of the party establishment won the primary, he would have almost certainly lost in the general election. Fortunately, he was so bad (as a candidate), he lost a primary challenge to Don Carcieri, who went on to beat the Democratic challenger.

Combine enough of these cases, and you start to develop a picture of a party that looks at nominations as a way to reward service, not as a way to win elections. It points to a top-down party, interested in building a disciplined machine for winning at the national level, but less concerned with winning locally. Eventually, this organizational philosophy drains the party of the grass-roots support need edfor long-term success.

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The GOP in Ohio is disfunctional. Its gov. is a fruitcake and its senator is also a loose cannon. But the closeness of this election should be a wake up call to post sentries round cementaries lest the Democrats register a legion of additional voters like Seattle.

Great nalysis.

Posted by: Thomas Jackson at August 18, 2005 1:22 AM

To be fair, Taft won by an incredible margin in the 2002 Gubernatorial race and has a family pedigree that runs very deep.

His fall from grace, as it were, should not be used to detract from Schmidt, whom up until recently an affiliation with Taft would have been gold.

I do think your points on a 'top-down party' are on target. In RI, I think the GOP is incredibly weak and out of step with the state. Instead of reaching to voters, I feel some are too busy high-fiving the other Republican in their workplace or bowling team. Anti-establishment and name guys are the type of GOP'ers that can win in RI. Establishment peeps will face a steep road as perception of the party is as I stated, 'out of touch' and perhaps that's not an inaccurate assessment.

Ultimately though, the party needs a major kickstart here in RI....M-A-J-O-R

Posted by: Don Roach at August 18, 2005 4:05 AM