Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tom Ganley in Akron

Tom Ganley spoke before the Akron Press Club in early October and, yes, I'm just getting to it now. It's been a trying semester. Sue me.

Anyway, with Ganley running the first ad in what looks like a media-heavy campaign and the ODP increasingly working to pump up the NY23-ness of the Republican primary, it's worth revisiting that appearance. In a separate post I'll offer my views on what threat, if any, he is in the race.

The first thing we learned about Tom Ganley is that he's sufficiently interested in the race to spend money recklessly. He hired a crew to assemble a stage for his presentation -- raised platform, blue drapery background, teleprompters, all for an audience of maybe forty.

The second thing we learned was that Ganley fancies himself a populist. A thin line exists between conservative populism and ugly xenophobic nativism, but it doesn't matter how thin because Ganley vaults himself well into nativist territory.

For much of his 15 minutes or so of prepared remarks Ganley hit on traditional economic conservative themes -- lower spending, lower taxes, smaller government. But he hit on some odd themes as well, particularly decrying the loss of manufacturing jobs in Ohio. Since most of those jobs have gone overseas and pro-business conservatives don't necessarily see that as a bad thing.

Ganley's one specific policy proposal is a job creation tax credit, given for recalling laid off workers, creating new jobs or repatriating jobs that have gone overseas. Hmm. There it is again.

The other strong theme in his brief stump speech is that Tom Ganley is a businessman. That he is a successful businessman cannot be denied. He started with a Rambler dealership when he was twenty something and has built that into the highest volume dealership group in the state. Recalling the Rambler my parents had when I was wee, parlaying that dealership into anything better than Chapter 11 is a significant accomplishment.

But Ganley oversells the business angle. Why does everyone who runs for Congress as a successful business person think he/she is the first to do so? In Ganley's mind, no one in Washington understands business and everyone who understands business can understand government. He says that when he is elected he will bring eight or so Senators together and teach them all there is to know about running a business. Then charge those eight Senators with teaching their colleagues. And that will fix things in Washington.

No really, he said all this. Like a freshman Senator will be in a position to "teach" senior Senators anything. It's so darn cute you just want to hug him. It might be worth sending him to Washington just to see the inevitable hazing.

If you haven't been to a Press Club event, the usual drill is a half hour or so speeh, followed by Q&A from the audience. Among other things we're trying to fill the one hour slot we have for cable rebroadcasts. Ganley's people knew this, but nonetheless he gave his fifteen minute stump and looked increasingly uncomfortable as the questioned dragged on. He derides "professional politicians," but the sooner he learns there is an actual skill set to appearing before and adapting to a crowd, the fewer days like this he will have.

It was in the Q&A that we really get that populist, er, nativist streak in Ganley's thought. When pressed to differentiate himself with Portman specifically on trade, he made overtly protectionist noises. He said as a threshold matter that he would not have voted for a trade deal with China, and that he does not believe in negotiating trade deals generally. He also had favorable things to say about recent measures to protect the domestic tire industry.

But of all his positions, none got him more animated that illegal immigration. To his credit, he would "come down hard" on the executives on companies that hire illegals. But he also made ugly noises about the "millions who don't belong here." He's clearly not in favor of any reform that would involve a path to citizenship. And when asked a tricky question -- what should we do upon finding an undocumented family with a child sick with H1N1 -- he said indignantly that if they are illegal, deport 'em.

So while populism generally aims at channeling grassroots energy at challenging the power of establishment institutions, Ganley seems more interested in channeling it at alien others. Depending on where he goes with it, this could devolve into a nasty, shower-necessitating campaign. And that bit about deporting a sick kid for one will make a nice sound bite against him.

Grumpy Abe has been attending and writing up the Senate events as well. You can read his take on Ganley here.


Anonymous said...

I was present when Tom Ganley announced his bid for the United States Senate. The room it was held in seats 200 to 250. There were people overflowing out into the hallway. You could not have been there and report such foolish numbers as 40.

Anonymous said...

Call Mayor Hruby of Brecksville and ask him how many people were there that day. He had Police directing traffic. Not for 40 people he didn't.

Scott Piepho said...

RTFA, dude. I wasn't talking about his announcement, I was talking about his appearance before the Akron Press Club this Fall. I'm on the Board of the Club; we keep a head count. It was around 40.

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