Dispatch reporter Joe Hallet talked to Gov. Ted Strickland today after the latter cast an early ballot, and Ohio's leading Clinton supporter didn't mince words:
Ohio is critical. Ohio and Texas, I think, will be the firewall that makes it possible for Sen. Clinton to win the primary election and eventually to become the president ... I think it would be very difficult for her to proceed to eventual victory without winning Ohio. I'm not saying that's not possible, but I think it would make it much more difficult.
Sen. Obama is a person with great strengths and very significant talent, [but] Ohioans are Clinton kind of voters. Thus far, working people, blue-collar people are the people who have supported her strongly."
This is essentially the same point that Redhorse has been making for a while, i.e., Ohio is Clinton's make-or-break state ("[I]f Obama wins Ohio, he'll win the nomination; if he loses, it's a toss-up").
Political Director Erin Hill of ActBlue.com, the netroots fundraising site, sent out an email today that makes an important point:
The Republicans have their nominee. Time and time again, this is where Democrats are most vulnerable: we take months to select a nominee, and we fight divided against a unified Republican voice.
We can't afford to stand idly by during the final phase of our nomination process while the GOP regroups and seizes the initiative. We need to start fighting back now.
That's why ActBlue.com has set up a special contribution account to start building a war chest, to help our nominee even before he or she is chosen.
The GOP did a good job of this in the 5th Congressional District special election last year. State Rep. Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green) and State Sen. Steve Buehrer (R-Delta) wore each down in the Republican primary, but there was a substantial sum of money in a special political fund waiting to give the winner a boost.
Let's support this effort. Give what you can to make sure our nominee hits the ground running.
Just in from the campaign, Obama is on the air statewide beginning tomorrow with a health care ad called "Mother":
It's a good ad, but it isn't freshly minted for Ohio. This ad was posted to YouTube four months ago, and ran in Missouri in January.
Here's an excerpt from the email message announcing the ad buy:
Health care costs have risen sharply for Ohio families -- since 2000, the average premium has increased by 34.6% to over four thousand dollars per year. Over 1.2 million Ohioans lack health insurance, including 206,000 children. Obama’s plan mandates coverage for children while lowering costs an average of $2,500 for a typical family, making health care coverage affordable for every American to obtain.
“The health care crisis in Ohio has reached an epidemic level, but it won’t just take a plan to reform our health care system, it will take leadership that can unite Americans to take on the special interests and prevail,” said State Representative Ted Celeste. “Barack Obama worked with Democrats, independents, and Republicans to expand health care coverage to an additional 150,000 Illinois residents, and he is the candidate who will pass universal coverage as president. Obama’s plan does more to cut health care costs than any other plan – making coverage affordable for all Americans by reducing costs an average of $2,500 for families. To lower costs and put the American dream back in reach for Ohio families, Barack Obama is the candidate who will bring change we can believe in.”
It's interesting that Obama is leading off with health care as an issue in Ohio, not the foreclosure crisis or the sagging economy in general. (It's also interesting that Ted Celeste is featured in the email.) In their recent endorsement interviews with the editors of the Plain Dealer, Clinton proposed a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures to allow homeowners and banks to negotiate workouts, and also emphasized her call for a five-year freeze on interest rates. Obama objected to the five-year freeze idea on the ground that it would result in a significant increase in interest rates. Obama's comments on urban policy weren't as focused on foreclosures:
Obama proposes creating a housing trust fund that would finance affordable housing in mixed-income neighborhoods.
He would also designate 20 "promise neighborhoods" in areas with the highest levels of poverty and crime. These would be modeled after the Harlem Children's Zone, which provides a range of community services, like early-childhood education and youth violence prevention programs.
He has also proposed adding a White House urban policy director to track how federal money is spent in urban areas such as Cleveland.
Having the two candidates zero in on Ohio over the next three weeks is our opportunity to force them to address key issues in our state, including the Great Lakes Water Compact as well as the foreclosure crisis, jobs, the economy, and developing alternative energy as a growth industry here. We should all be paying close attention to what they say or don't say on these topics and demand more detail if we aren't getting it.
Medina is a great example of a suburban-rural county that has potential to go from red to purple, and eventually to blue, but we won't get there without building up the local Democratic party and getting good Democrats into local office. Here's an important fundraiser for county commissioner candidate Brian Feron (D), attempting to unseat incumbent Patricia Geissman (R).
Details after the break -- h/t MCDAC Blog
Freshman State Rep. Armond Budish (D-Beachwood) caused a stir when he reported raising an extraordinary $536,000 in the second half of 2007, leading to talk of him being "the front-runner to lead Democrats next year." Now it looks like he won't have to spend any of that cash winning the primary, and maybe not the general election either.
It's a bizarre tale of two brothers. As Michael K. McIntyre reports in his Tipoff column in The Plain Dealer today, Isaac Powell filed as a Democrat to face Budish in the primary, and Jerry Powell filed as a Republican to face him in the general election. The problem was that Isaac let Jerry sign Isaac's nominating petition, which is forbidden since Jerry is a registered Republican. The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections booted Isaac off the primary ballot. A similar challenge was filed against Jerry Powell, charging that signing Isaac's petition disqualifies him from running as a Republican. McIntyre says that challenge was dismissed on procedural grounds, leaving me to wonder if it could be renewed. I am trying to pin that down and will update with any new information I get.
UPDATE: I have calls in to Budish and election attorney Don McTigue. Meanwhile, Mike McIntyre tells me that the complaint against Jerry Powell was dismissed on the ground that the complainant was not a Republican.
The one-time front-runner is dismissive of recent setbacks and campaign staff turmoil and claims to be looking ahead to an upcoming major primary for a momentum swing. It sounds like I'm talking about Rudy Giuliani looking ahead to Florida, but instead it's Hillary Clinton counting on OT Tuesday as a firewall against the Obama onslaught.
(I heard someone on cable talking about the March 4th primary as "Junior Tuesday," and clearly we need to stop that nonsense. There's nothing "junior" about the last two heavyweight primaries possibly deciding the contest. I'm calling it OT Tuesday, for Ohio-Texas but also for Overtime. The nomination wasn't decided on Super Tuesday, so now it's sudden death in an extended contest.)
Over the weekend, Obama won all four nominating contests and even won a Grammy ("Best Spoken Album" for his autobiographical "The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream" in the form of a book recording). Hillary Clinton switched campaign managers from one long-time aide to another, and Bill Clinton lost his Grammy bid (audio version of "Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World"). Obama is favored in the Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. nominating contests tomorrow. It's pretty obvious which way the wind is blowing.
I just got back from spending time with family in Wisconsin. One of my brothers is a registered Republican in California, but he says he thought about voting for Barack Obama in the California primary and may actually do so in November. (His high school senior daughter is an enthusiastic Obama fan, as are my other nieces.) It's nothing about Obama's policies that appeals to my brother, it's his message of hope, optimism, and most of all change. My brother is deeply embarrassed that he voted for George W. Bush and he's ready to support a candidate who promises to take the country in a new direction and into a new era.
My family all wanted to know how I thought Ohio would go. My wife and I have heard that question from friends around the country as well. (OT Tuesday is huge on the national radar screen.) I tell everyone that Clinton has a lot of institutional advantages in Ohio (including strong support from a popular governor and the only African-American member of Congress in the state), but I see signs everywhere that the trend is toward Obama (with Sunday's endorsement by the Plain Dealer a significant indicator). There is enough time between now and March 4th for Obama to score the upset.
A few weeks ago I heard from some supporters of returning candidate Bev Campbell (D-Gahanna) who were upset by the process involved in the endorsement of opponent Nancy Garland (D-New Albany) by the Franklin County Democratic Party. They felt that State Rep. Ted Celeste (D-Grandview) had exerted undue influence over the endorsement proceedings, and suspected Celeste of acting more out of a desire to advance an ally (Garland is his wife's cousin) in support of his leadership ambitions than on the merits of the candidates. I wrote a post detailing their concerns, balanced by responses from Celeste and an official with the county party.
I became acquainted with Bev Campbell during the 2006 campaign and I admire her. She is a person who has overcome great misfortune in life and she displayed her tenacity in a hard-fought campaign in 2006 that came within a handful of votes of success despite a lack of early support from the party. Nancy Garland was unknown to me when I wrote my prior post.
I appreciated the concerns of Campbell's supporters, but from my perspective the paramount concern is not how the endorsement vote was handled but ensuring that the merits of the two candidates are presented fairly to the primary voters and that the best candidate for the general election is chosen. I have since spoken to both Campbell and Garland and reviewed their background information. I have learned that Nancy Garland is an impressive candidate with much to offer. I decided to write this follow-up post setting out information about the two contenders.
Continued after the break.
A terrific resource for voters has returned. The Judicial Candidates Rating Coalition, made up of The Cleveland Bar Association, The Cuyahoga County Bar Association, The Cuyahoga Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, The Norman S. Minor Bar Association, and The Ohio Women's Bar Association, has posted the latest edition of "Judge4Yourself.com," a concise table that compares all the judges running in Cuyahoga County by compiling ratings from the participating organizations and endorsements by the The Plain Dealer and The Call & Post. As CoolCleveland.com said of this service lst year:
Confused by all the judges you'll be voting for? Here's the criteria for a good judge: impartiality, integrity, temperament, diligence, professional competence. This non-partisan site should help.
Ordinary folks care about having good judges but it's hard to keep track of judicial races because there are so many and because judges generally stay out of the public arena. This is a quick and easy way for voters to get some sense of the candidates on the ballot. It's a great idea that other counties should emulate.
Many people have the understandable belief that all "country music" is about pick-up trucks, drinking beer and right wing politics. (Well, two outta three ain't bad...)
My dear friend Tim O'Brien is one of the greatest bluegrass musicians of our generation. He was a founder of the ground breaking "newgrass" band Hot Rize. Actually, I bet that you HAVE heard his work, because he has appeared on HUNDREDS of recording projects. And his songs have been covered by everybody from Kathy Mattea to the Dixie Chicks. In 2006, he won the Grammy for "Best Trad Folk Recording."
Tim's latest project "Chameleon" (Or "All Tim, All the Time" as I call it...) will be released on March 25.
Tim is also a member of the Music Row Democrats. If you visit their site, you can download Tim's song "Republican Blues."
The "TransAtlantic Sessions" is a TV series on the BBC from Scotland, which brings together some of the finest American roots artists with their counterparts from the UK.
This song features Tim with two of his frequent co-conspirators, Darrell Scott and Jerry Douglas. Here they are joined by a crew of GREAT folk musicians from Scotland and Ireland.
Take a few minutes and experience "Brother Wind." Trust me... it'll get your head straight for the rest of the weekend.
Jeff does a great job at covering Ohio politics. But he's off in that alternative non-blog universe that we call "real life." In the meantime, I'm left to hold down the fort.
(Yes, I know, some of you are saying... "big mistake." Don't worry-- Jeff will be back in Ohio by Monday.)
So as we await the now suddenly critical Ohio Primary, I'm going to post a couple of items that are more cultural or social in nature, but which do have political ramifications.
Candidate Steve Black (D-Indian Hill) is going to suspend his campaign temporary due to the passing of his father this morning:
Early this morning Steve's father, Judge Robert Black, passed away at an area hospital. Steve has suspended his campaign for Congress through and including Tuesday, February 12th. The campaign will be closed and all scheduled events are cancelled.
On behalf of Ohio Daily Blog and its members I extend our sympathies and wish Steve Black and his family well in this difficult time.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will suspend his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, GOP sources tell CNN. ...
Although he outspent his rivals, Romney received just 175 delegates on Super Tuesday, compared with at least 504 for McCain and 141 for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, according to CNN estimates.
In a way this shouldn't be a surprise. Huckabee proved on Tuesday that Romney can't overcome his religion problem with evangelical Christian convervatives. It is still kind of amazing, just given the amount of his personal fortune that Romney had sunk into this thing.
Conservatives now face an unpalatable choice between ideologically-impure McCain and unelectable Huckabee. Where will they turn? Even if everyone who supported Romney switched to Huckabee, however, I don't think he'd catch up to McCain. I'm wondering if there won't be some kind of deal hammered out soon, resulting in Huckabee also dropping out and the GOP trying to unite their fractured coalition.
There a story in the Detroit Free Press about maybe doing the Michigan (and perhaps Florida) primary voting over again if the remaining schedule of primaries and caucuses doesn't settle the nomination:
Interest in giving Michigan Democrats a second chance to pick a presidential nominee -- one that would be counted -- increased Wednesday after the Super Tuesday primaries failed to establish a clear front-runner between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
The tight race makes Michigan's 156 delegates -- blacklisted by the Democratic National Committee because the state's Jan. 15 primary violated party rules -- potentially more important and the prospect of holding another nominating event, likely a caucus, more attractive.
The impetus for the expensive project of repeating the primaries is the prospect of a nasty and divisive fight over whether the tainted initial results should count at the convention.
The prospect of a train wreck over the bonafides of the Michigan and Florida delegations at a convention is enough to make even the Clinton campaign consider a do-over election, said East Lansing-based Democratic consultant Mark Grebner.
For Obama and DNC officials, who want to avoid conflict at the convention if at all possible, the idea is alluring, Grebner said.
I realize that this is Ohio and we are supposed to reflexively hate everything about Michigan, but I think it's an idea to consider. If the rest of the primaries don't decide this thing, re-doing Michigan is better than letting superdelegates decide it.
Lisa Renee did an excellent job with it, and I love the graphic.
This is the first time I've submitted links in a while, but this is a project that I support and highly recommend. Go take a gander!
"We are challenged, but we won't back down." So says the Governor, and kudos to Dispatch reporter Jim Siegel for his excellent live blogging of the State of the State speech on The Daily Briefing. More on the speech from Mark Rollenhagen of the Plain Dealer here. [UPDATE: Full Text is here.]
The highlights of the speech are "Building Ohio Jobs," a $1.7 billion economic stimulus/investment package to be funded by issuing bonds (renewable energy, infrastructure, and high-tech industry are the investment targets), a plan for high school students to earn college credits tuition-free at nearby public colleges, and adding to the cabinet a governor-appointed director of the Department of Education and creating a new Department of Veterans Affairs. Nothing specific on fixing the unconstitutional system for public school funding, a lynch-pin of Ted Strickland's election campaign that he has yet to tackle publicly.
It sounds like the Governor managed to inject as much drama into his agenda as he could, considering that he's handicapped by the projected budget shortfall. This is an election year in which GOP leaders in the General Assembly will probably be loathe to cooperate with a Democratic administration, so whether these proposals will gain any traction remains to be seen.
Last night the Obama camp sent out an email claiming to have "won more states and delegates than Senator Clinton," calling it "a remarkable achievement we can all be proud of." That surprised me, but Mike Allen confirms in The Politico today that the Obama campaign is projecting a nine-delegate win over Clinton in yesterday's contests, 845 to 836. He says that NBC News is backing up the claim by projecting that Obama will wind up with 840 to 849 delegates, while Clinton will gain 829 to 838.
Clinton was ahead in delegates before yesterday and is generally regarded as being far ahead in superdelegates (party bigwigs whose voting is not controlled by primary or caucus results), so out-gaining Clinton yesterday won't put Obama ahead. What it does accomplish is tightening up an already tight race. In a sense this sets up a real nightmare scenario. If the nomination contest goes to the convention and is decided by the superdelegates, all hell may break loose, with supporters of the disappointed candidate protesting the outcome and confusion and discord marring the event. Let's hope that Ohio and Texas resolve the contest on March 4th.
Checking around the Ohio blogs, I see that:
* Modernesquire at BSB thinks claims of success by both Democrats are over-inflated ("nobody comes out of this with a clear lead or a clear sense of momentum ... it was a draw");
* Pho stayed up late enough to observe that "the lead story line is the lack of a lead story line." However, on the GOP side it's "very much a three-man race again. Huckabee won't get close enough to win outright, but he could be a king-maker or he could benefit from a brokered convention," and for the Dems "the longer [Obama] stays in the race the better his chances become."
* Bill Sloat at the Bellwether argues that "outside of the two presidential candidates, arguably the nation's most important Democrat after Super Tuesday is Ohio's 66-year-old governor," Ted Strickland, who will be expected to "build an Obama-proof barrier."
* Chuck at the Chief Source has some thoughtful comments, with an update this morning, including (1) early voting was big for Clinton in holding off Obama in California and Arizona, and her 2-to-1 lead among Latino voters in California was huge, but Obama's 10% loss in California could have been much worse, (2) Connecticut was the big surprise win for Obama, (3) there are rumors that Romney will drop out on Thursday.
* Matt Hurley at the conservative WMD blog says Huckabee "isn't out of it by any means" but can't win the nomination and would be a horrible Veep pick for McCain, Obama avoided a knockout and McCain failed to score one, the Democratic contest will go to the convention, and conservatives proved liberals wrong by not behaving like "drones" and instead "thinking for themselves." [I guess he is referring to conservative voters not lining up solidly behind any one candidate.] "We're going to see some more serious discussion of conservatism and what that means for the Republican Party," he writes, and "conservatives have a LOT of work to do."
* The MCDAC Blog calls the results inconclusive and Ohio therefore "vital," with Ohio and Texas likely to receive the biggest media attention of any remaining primaries: "Ohio because no Republican has won the presidency without winning Ohio and Texas because of its large Hispanic vote. Indeed the two together will have 301 delegates being selected by the primary process. So the winner of those two primaries will have a lot to talk about with the uncommitted "super-delegates" who may end up holding the key to the Democratic nomination."
Here are video clips of the candidates on national TV last night.
The Clinton piece is a snippet, the Obama one is long. [I have located a longer clip of the Clinton speech.] Both sounded like victory speeches, and indeed both had plenty to feel optimistic about. Clinton said "I know we're ready," and Obama said "Our time has come."
If the exit polling holds up, Mike Huckabee may take Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama in addition to his earlier win in West Virginia. Instead of helping McCain by damaging Mitt Romney around the edges, it looks like Huckabee may wind up hurting McCain by depriving him of a clear victory -- leaving the race in a three-way muddle.
By the way, I heard Pat Robertson saying earlier tonight that he isn't sure he could bring himself to vote for John McCain either. It's like a widening fault in the Republican terrain.
UPDATE: McCain avoided the three-way muddle by fending off Romney in California, but Huckabee's strong showing is still the big story of the night.
Word is that McCain engineered the Huckabee win in West Virginia by encouraging his pledged delegates to switch to the former Arkansas governor in the second round of voting, thus thwarting the expected victory by Mitt Romney.
News of this bit of election-fixing is spreading around the country, and conservatives aren't happy. I just received this email from someone in California, responding to my earlier post about Huckabee's victory:
I don’t consider Huckabee a real winner in WV and many of us in California will try to see to it that he and his collusion buddy McCain don’t win in California. As a Christian conservative I am not really for Romney, but what happened in WV sickened many of us when we heard it over the Christian station.
Pho had a good post yesterday about Huckabee's increasingly transparent effort to position himself as McCain's running mate by attacking only Romney while trying to establish his electability across the strategically-critical South. This alliance may already run pretty deep, if the cooperation in West Virginia is any indication.
Super Tuesday isn't even over yet, but Gov. Ted Strickland just sent out an email to enlist Ohio Democrats to volunteer for Hillary Clinton:
On March 4, less than one month from today, it will be Ohio's turn to vote in our primary. In order to win, Hillary and I need your help. There are thousands of Ohio voters we need to call this week and remind them to vote on March 4. We can't do it without you.
This presidential election is making history, and Hillary is leading the way. The time for change is now, and Hillary is ready to lead. But she can't do it alone. Every state and every delegate will matter, which means everything you and I can do before March 4 makes a big difference.
I guess they're not counting on wrapping this thing up tonight.
The next four weeks are going to be absolutely wild here in Ohio.
Courtesy of Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Niles):
Mike Huckabee picked up all 18 delegates awarded by about 1,000 attendees at the West Virginia GOP state convention. Mitt Romney and Ron Paul had worked hard to sway the delegates, but Huckabee takes the prize.
According to the report, Paul was knocked out in the otherwise indecisive first round of voting. Huckabee then prevailed on the strength of McCain delegates who defected to him in the second round.
The Dispatch quotes "sources" as saying the debate will be in Columbus, but Rep. Zack Space (D-Dover) today sent a letter to CNN making a pitch for Zanesville as the site for the debate.
I've been reading about this, but it's so much more fun to hear and see Rush Limbaugh's frothing-at-the-mouth assaults on Sen. John McCain directly:
Like Ann Coulter, Limbaugh has said quite plainly that if McCain is the GOP nominee he will prefer the Democrat for president:
"If I believe the country will suffer with either Hillary, Obama or McCain, I would just as soon the Democrats take the hit . . . rather than a Republican causing the debacle," he said. "And I would prefer not to have conservative Republicans in the Congress paralyzed by having to support, out of party loyalty, a Republican president who is not conservative."
[UPDATE: Today influential social conservative leader James Dobson released a statement saying that he will refuse to vote if McCain is nominated.]
Last night on Larry King Live, Bill Maher described conservatives as "cutting the throat" of the Republican Party by insisting on policies that the majority of Americans oppose, and that's pretty much the essence of what we're seeing.