Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Wednesday Morning Quarterback, Pt. 1: Winners and Losers.

No, not a tally of results here. For that the SoS site is your best bet, with YellowDogSammy a close second.

Instead, I've been thinking more abstractly about the election. What groups, ideas and trends did particularly well or badly? What about people whose fortunes changed as a result of elections not their own? Here are my top and bottom five.

Winners

5. Smart People. Ted Strickland. Jennifer Brunner. Marc Dann. Sherrod Brown. Richard Freaking Cordray. Almost frighteningly intelligent people with advanced degrees and gaudy academic credentials. The only bigger story than a statewide slate coming together with this much intellectual firepower was the lot of them making cases for themselves in ways regular folks could understand.

We heard a great deal throughout the cycle that corruption was a high-priority issue. An unspoken correlary issue this year is competence. For that matter, Mary Taylor the only Republican to win a statewide partisan race, ran on the competence platform. After years of mismanagement at the state and federal levels, people may be weary of voting for the guy who sounds like he'd be the most fun to fish with.

4. Fifty States and Eighty-eight Counties. Doubts and mumblings about Howard Dean's 50 State Strategy and Ohio Dem Chair Chris Redfern's 88-County Ohio version were legion early on. No more. Dems won as big as they did in large part because they fielded more candidates in more places than ever before. Last week the media told of Republicans scrambling to shore up support in the Idaho First District -- one of the reddest places in the country. Win or lose, that race diverted resources the Republicans would have used to make runs at Dem incumbents.

Ohio's version was the millions poured into the First and Second Congressional Districts. I'm sure that under the original plan, a good chunk of those millions were destined to make Craig Foltin competitive.

3. District Lines. Ohio fell short in legislative elections. We did not take either chamber of the General Assembly and, as of this writing, only flipped on Congressional seat. This despite broad unrest yielding lopsided results on the top of the ticket. Fact is, the lines are drawn to favor Republicans. Fundamental Truths has a long post up on the issue.

2. Ted Strickland. Pho, WTF? I thought this was supposed to be about meta themes, not specific races. Calm down, dude. Make no mistake, Ted won far more than his own race. The last month of the campaign was partly keeping support high, but mostly campaigning for the rest of the ticket. It's beyond serious dispute that he coattailed everyone, including Sherrod. In two years, Ted has gone from a mid-pack member of the minority Congressional delegation to the center of power in the state.

In addition, his success was so overwhelming and comprehensive that he has a legitimate claim to a mandate. He campaigned for victorious House members, he made the Constitutional officers his own and he nearly won it all. Going into the election the righty pundits were grousing that the coming Dem victories would be a Vote Against and therefore confer no political capital. Ted's victory could be argued to be a Vote Against Blackwell, but the victories of all those Ted Campaigned for give lie to the claim.

1. Barak Obama. Just like the beginning of the Christmas season long ago broke through the Thanksgiving barrier and is now encroaching on Halloween, the 2008 election cycle began before this one ended. In particular, Ohio's first event of the '08 Presidential Election was Barak Obama's appearance in Cleveland the weekend before the election. Nine months ago, people talked about Obama as a guy who could run for President "someday."

As luck would have it, Hillary was somewhat tethered to her own re-election campaign, which would only have become a race if she ignored the state to barnstorm the rest of the country. As a result, Obama has gained several lengths on Hillary, to the point that the two are now share space in the first sentence of most conversations about '08.

Losers

5. The Gaming Industry. Assemble an appealing ballot issue like a Snickers Bar housing a razor blade, spend $20 million on a brilliantly deceptive campaign and lose huge. Think they will give up? Doubtful. Two predictions for 2007: 1) The same coalition will offer a ballot issue next year called “Hey Everyone! We’re all Gonna Get Laid!!” and 2) the Delaware County Board of Elections will print that on the ballot.

4. The Kinder, Kompassionate Konservatism. Remember the "We want to help poor people, too" rhetoric? Or the much-ballyhooed Republican minority outreach? Or laughable claims of big-tentism? All that went a-glimmer in this campaign. From the ugly whisper campaign against Ted to race-baiting ads downstate to the determination that illegal aliens were the new gay, Republicans lost themselves to their worst impulses. Based on radio reports, it shows in the exit polls, with Republicans losing the ground Bush had gained in 2004 with Black and Hispanic voters.

3. Alex Arshinkoff. Alison McCarty, Christine Croce, Michael Callahan, Deborah Owens Fink – all card-carrying members of Ashinkoff's camp and all went down big. Tom Cousineau, recruited by the party to take down a vulnerable seat, goes down bigger. Winning a majority in Common Pleas, General Division (and control over the jobs there) is nearly out of his grasp with Dems netting a judgeship. The party has to pull out the stops to protect John Widowfield, for gawd sake.

And the one guy who routinely pokes Alex in the eye – Kevin Coughlin – ekes out a win without him. The power of A-Squared continues to ebb.

2. Amateurs. Some years you hear a lot about "Candidate Jehosiphat, who has never held office" winning. This year we had Lew Katz, Judy Hanna, Tom Cousineau, all newcomers not only to government but to electoral politics, all of whom lost big. Around here, Steve Dyer is the exception that proves the rule. Yes he Has Never Sought Elective Office before, but by his account he grew up in a political family and was a political beat reporter before going to law school.

Which is not to slam the people named, but to point out that politics is a business with a real skill set. It's not rocket science, but there is something to be understood about how to present oneself to an electorate. All these candidates caught on to that eventually, but all too late.

1. Wingnuttery. I'm bracing myself for the media hand-wringing about moderates like Mike DeWine and Lincoln Chaffee going down. And I'm waiting for right-wing media, bloggers and pundits to kvetch that the only reason they lost is that they forgot "true" conservatism.

Bollocks.

First off, Ohio is Exhibit A against that argument. The election was a repudiation of conservatism for conservatism's sake. Not only Blackwell but Sandra "I'll oppose abortion from the Treasurer's Office" O'Brien crashed and burned.

Moreover, people rejected moderates like Chaffee and, well, Chaffee (DeWine, I maintain, is a MINO), because he represented a vote necessary to maintain a regime in Congress that operated on division, dominance and lockstep fealty to the administration. A conservative administrative. Theirs is warped, mutated conservatism to be sure, but nonetheless Bush and Cheny are conservative regardless of how many conservatives want to disown them.

In the November 6 world, ideology trumped workability, power was a good in itself, and bipartisanship was merely a club used to beat on Democrats who failed to fall in line. That's what people rejected yesterday. Conservatives fail to heed that lesson at their peril.

For that matter, so do liberals.

6 comments:

redhorse said...

Nice.

Jill said...

Awesome post, Scott. Particularly LOVED falling out of my chair reading your #5 Loser: "Assemble an appealing ballot issue like a Snickers Bar housing a razor blade, spend $20 million on a brilliantly deceptive campaign and lose huge. Think they will give up? Doubtful. Two predictions for 2007: 1) The same coalition will offer a ballot issue next year called “Hey Everyone! We’re all Gonna Get Laid!!” and 2) the Delaware County Board of Elections will print that on the ballot."

So I'm thinking someone should call us and us to tell them how to do it next time? ;)

Anonymous said...

Obama is now caught up in a financial scandal. He lined his pockets with the help of an indicted lobbyist.

Sherrod Brown smart? He is an economic nitwit, and as Colin Powell told him in 2004, "Congressman, you don't know what you're talking about".

Pho said...

Oh, come on Anon. You may disagree with Sherrod, but to deny that his is a powerful intellect is, well, stupid.

I disagree with neoconservative foreign policy, but I don't deny that many of its architects -- Chaney, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz et al. -- are quite staggeringly brilliant. Just because you are smart doesn't mean you can't make mistakes. In fact, as Dumbldore points out, it tends to make your mistakes huger than those of others.

mencken said...

I'm trying to figure out why you made significant note of your working for Sawyer, even going as far as suspending your blog to do so. Sawyer wins and there is no mention of his victory or the issue at hand.

What gives?

Pho said...

Fair question H.L. It's mentioned in a couple posts in the works. As is usual for me, I've gotten overly ambitious about how to present things. I assume people come here out of a masochistic desire to read me hold forth at great length and go elsewhere for "X happened! Woo-hoo!"

But yea, I'm really happy that Tom won. I look forward to working with him on school funding reform and am thrilled that the pro-science slate won statewide.

Like I said, I should have more detail up sometime after the blurriness clears up.