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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

OH-Sen: Harriet Miers, the Blogs, and Mike DeWine's Re-Election Campaign

Posted by Bob Brigham

Following Paul Hackett's astonishing showing in the OH-02 Special Election, there was a great deal of ink used by pundits trying to understand how Hackett's blogosphere support allowed him to outspend Jean Schmidt in a congressional district Democrats had written off for the longest time.

In fact, Campaigns and Elections Magazine currently has a cover story: Blogging Down the Money Trail on the subject. The netroots scored CNN's Political Play of the Week. The press and establishment hacks on both sides of the aisle began paying attention to the potential of online small dollar donations being deployed to crucial districts. You would think more people would have been thinking this way after Howard Dean, but then again, most of the people now paying attention are the ones who said Dean was making a mistake by not accepting matching funds. Yet Dean raised more money with his distributed model, Hackett outspent Schmidt, and now a helluva lot of serious people are wondering how this will play out in 2006.

I think we can get an idea of this dynamic by looking a Senator Mike DeWine's re-election campaign in Ohio.

The Ohio Senate race is destined to be one of the most closely watched in the nation. Ohio is a crucial swing state, and Ohio Republicans are engulfed in major corruption scandals. As Democrats move to embrace the "Culture of Corruption" meme against Republicans, polls in Ohio will give us an early glimpse of how such a message could move voters.

Ohio is also home to very expensive media markets and the winning campaign will be the one most successful at capturing the attention of voters. As a tight swing state, the potential for a close race is very real and the impact of the blogs could be enormous.

Republican Blogs and Mike DeWine

Mike DeWine is in a tricky situation as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Kos says:

One last key point -- DeWine sits on the judicial committee, which will become a flash point as social conservatives gear up to oppose the Miers nomination to the Supreme Court. DeWine can't afford to lose the diehard social conservatives, already made difficult when he joined the Gang of 14 that prevented Frist from executing his "nuclear option" on judicial filibusters.

After the Gang of 14 move by Senator DeWine, conservative bloggers mounted a Not. One. Dime. boycott of the National Republican Senatorial Committee:

Not. One. Dime. The next time Ken Mehlman sends you a request for money, that's the message he needs to get back. We ponied up in 2004, and in 2002, and in 2000. The GOP not only has not delivered, its current leadership won't even try. Frist and Rick Santorum claim they don't have the votes. Balderdash -- they don't have the leadership to get the votes. I'm not going to fund or support people who won't try to win, especially when the issue is so important.

Not. One. Dime. We're not in an election year, so this makes it easy for the Republicans to get this message to party leaders. No balls, no Blue Chips, boys. I don't mean just for the Senate, either. I mean for the entire Republican party. Feeding a fever may be good medicine, but feeding a failure only makes it last longer. Perhaps hunger will work where courage has so obviously failed.

Not. One. Dime. And when a vote does come, those Republicans who wind up supporting the minority's extortion over the majority in defiance of the Constitution will never see another dime from me -- but their opponents will, at every level of contest. Honestly, with Republicans like these in the Senate, we may as well have Democrats.

Now, convervative bloggers a livid over the Harriet Miers nomination to the Supreme Court. The GOP is fracturing and his now on the defense in 2006 and 2008. The Harriet Miers' paper trail is on the verge of making conservative heads explode.

The smart move for DeWine would be to use his position on the Judiciary Committee to blast Miers and then vote against her, saving his conservative credentials and patching up his strained relationship with the right-wing bloggers. But it doesn't look like that is his intention:

DeWine's ability to defend his seat against suddenly competitive Democrats might depend on his position on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which puts him at the center of the latest Supreme Court nomination process.

DeWine and his 17 committee mates will hold confirmation hearings for White House counsel Harriet Miers, announced Monday by President Bush as his nominee to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. [...]

In an interview Monday after the nomination was announced, DeWine gave Miers a strong endorsement.

That is not what the conservative bloggers want to hear. Even worse, it looks like DeWine's situation will both hurt him with his base while not yielding any position with independents:

White isn't so sure that voters will focus on the nomination process because of the investment and ethics scandals involving Ohio's Republican-controlled state government.

"At this time, (the Supreme Court) is not driving the political arena here," White said, adding DeWine could have to deal with fallout from decisions Miers and recently confirmed Chief Justice John Roberts make.

To recap, DeWine is in a situation where the voters are focusing on the "Culture of Corruption" in the Ohio Republican Party and the conservative blogs have zero interest in helping him. This was the same position (now) Congresswoman Jean Schmidt found herself in when the conservative bloggers sat out this year's Special Election.

Democratic Blogs and the Ohio Senate Race

Even with a (slim) prospect of Congressman Sherrod Brown challenging Paul Hackett for the Democratic Party nomination, the Democratic blogs are remarkably focused upon the race.

Sure, there is some internal tension with the Blogfather pushing Sherrod Brown and Paul Hackett enjoying a 70 percentage point advantage in a new straw poll.

Yet either way, the Democratic Blogosphere is going to be pumped to support the Democratic nominee against Senator DeWine.

Since Hackett is the only announced candidate, let's see what he brings to the table.

The above is a map of Hackett contributors during the Special Election. Yes, that is a 50 state base that came together in two weeks. With Hackett running, we can expect a campaign of straight talk and bold action that cuts through the clutter and connects with voters of all political leanings.

When I was embedded with the Hackett campaign, I kept hearing, "I don't agree with you, but I appreciate where you're coming from." These were voters who disagreed with, but respected, Major Hackett. They voted for Hackett, because they knew he was something special.

Democratic activists also have a lot of respect for Congressman Sherrod Brown since he is the exact personification of a Representative who will makes the grassroots feel a sense of pride in supporting.


So going into 2006, it appears that Senator Mike DeWine will be lacking the newest force in politics for his re-election campaign. At the same time, the Democratic blogosphere and netroots are united to throw DeWine out of office.

The only out for DeWine is to vote against his President and vote against Harriet Miers nomination for the Supreme Court. But DeWine is too chicken and that is part of the reason the conservative base won't raise a finger for his campaign.

Meanwhile, the Democrats are embracing cutting edge campaign tactics. Paul Hackett ran the most efficient blogosphere campaign ever and Rep. Brown started Grow Ohio. No matter what happens, it is looking like the netroots are going to kick Mike DeWine's ass out of the U.S. Senate.

Posted at 08:18 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Netroots, Ohio, Scandals, Supreme Court | Technorati

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Bob, that sounds about right to me. He is going to have to rely heavily on the traditional corporate funding sources.

Rock On !

Posted by: Pounder [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 4, 2005 11:00 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Let’s not get overwhelmed with Paul Hackett’s celebrity and remember that this is not a specail election. There are alot more candidates passing the hat these days. Above all if any Democrat wants to have a chance to take down DeWine, they must have the financial resources to communicate a message to the nearly ten million registered voters in Ohio. In his bid for the 2nd Congressional seat, I figure Hackett raised somewhere around $150K on the phone when you subtract the $600K that came from us online and the $100K form the Carville fundraiser. Hackett needs to start doing a little of the heavy lifting like every other viable candidate for U.S. Senate. MoveOn has already spoiled both he and his staff with a fundraising email, even before they found the time to open an FEC account! This scares me because it’s a clear signal that Hackett plans to pump the online well dry before he picks up the phone.

Posted by: fightingdemocrat [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 5, 2005 12:17 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Any moment a candidate spends on the phone is a missed opportunity to connect with voters. The only calls Hackett needs to make are thank you calls.

Raising cash to spend on tv is an outdated strategy. Hackett has a message powerful enough to cut out the middlemen and communicate directly.

The EMILY's List style of fundraising is no longer relevant.

Hackett needs to connect as Hackett, not waste time shaking down people who were inspired by other candidates.

Posted by: Bob Brigham [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 5, 2005 12:40 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I find serious fault with this last comment. No matter how strong the netroots was (or is, or should be) concerning fundraising, in current times, it has not yet completely taken the place of an actual, honest to God political campaign.

Most people in Ohio and everywhere else, do not get their political news (or any political news) from the internet. People watch television. They are influenced by political ads whether we like it or not. If Hackett wants to win this race, the last 10 days of his campaign will need to include a massive TV buy. To do this, he will need to raise upwards of $10 million to fund a successful campaign against a big name here in Ohio.

I am not saying the netroots can't help. However, I find great fault with the netroots leaders claiming victory for themselves for what happened in the OH-02 special election. Certainly Paul Hackett deserves some of the credit for his close election.

Its really quite amazing. You fly in for the last week of the campaign and suddenly you are the next Carmine De Sapio? Give me a break. The self aggrandizing talk I have heard these past few months is really growing stale. I don't think you affected the race all that much. If any credit goes to the netroots, it goes to the OH-02 blog that kept going on this race even when people like you said it was unwinnable. Certainly some of the credit goes to the thousands of posters who talked up Paul Hackett and gave him money to help in his campaign. Certainly the lion's share of credit goes to the man himself. Paul Hackett will win the Senate race because he is a fresh, new alternative to the tired Republican politics in the state of Ohio.

So, lets lay of the ego masturbation for now, please?

Posted by: Columbus Donkey [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 5, 2005 09:19 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Lets give credit where credit is due. Bob and Tim are on the frontlines of a massive redistribution of power in politics and to say "they did not affect the race all that much" is a complete disconnect from reality. They have the ability to help channel the disparate democratic energy towards a common goal which is something our party needs right now. So back off with the criticism.

I just dont think its a healthy or sustainable for candidates to get used to the netroots doing all the work for them.

Posted by: fightingdemocrat [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 5, 2005 10:16 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment