Joe Hallett’s column in yesterday’s Dispatch nailed the upcoming Ohio Governor’s race on a number of points, but missed a couple important ones.
Look into the future, I asked a Statehouse sage last week, and tell me how the 2010 race for governor between incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland and Republican John Kasich will unfold over the next 11 months.
He didn’t hesitate: “Mud, mud and more mud.”
Ain’t that the truth.
But what kind of mud? Hallet breaks it down.
“Since Ted Strickland took office,” says Kasich, “Ohio has lost more jobs than every one of our neighbors with the exception of Michigan.”
That statement is true. The unemployment rate doubled, from 5.3 percent to 10.6 percent, and 300,000 more jobs have disappeared since Strickland was sworn in three years ago. He set himself up to be the fall guy by promising in his 2006 campaign to “turn around Ohio.”
The current economic mess, according to Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Seth Bringman, “was created by the Wall Street greed that John Kasich was a part of as a managing director of Lehman Brothers.”
Kasich’s response: “Blaming me for Lehman Brothers is like blaming a car dealer in Zanesville for the collapse of General Motors.”
He’s right. But that won’t stop the Strickland campaign from trying to implant this notion in the minds of voters: Kasich equals Lehman Brothers, equals greed, equals financial ruin. At best, it’s a stretch, as outlined in a Nov. 1 Dispatch story on Kasich’s role with Lehman, which he joined after leaving Congress in 1999.
Notice two distinct and clear differences in these two tactics from the two campaigns?
Kasich focuses on the candidate’s record. Strickland’s lackeys attempt to personally smear the Governor’s opponent, despite the facts as determined by third party sources.
But there’s a much more important aspect of these two tactics that is far more important to the 2010 election – what the voter knows.
One thing is clear, Ohioans know the economy is doing poorly. They know unemployment is high. They know somebody who is desperately looking for a job.
Do Ohioans know about Lehman Brothers? Do they know John Kasich worked for Lehman Brothers? Do they believe John Kasich was in some way responsible for the nation’s economic failures?
No, they don’t.
And it will take a lot of money to try to convince them of such, especially when the media so clearly is not willing to buy into their accusation.
As Strickland’s new communications director so blatantly understands from her time with Corzine, in this political environment personal attacks and smearing aren’t going to work. They didn’t work in Blue New Jersey against Chris Christie, and they especially won’t work in Purple Ohio against John Kasich.
This election will be about jobs and Strickland’s failure to Turnaround Ohio.
Unfortunately for the Governor, he clearly doesn’t recognize the jobs crisis exists, otherwise his legislative agenda would primarily focus on job creation. But he doesn’t.
Ohio Democrats should be screaming at their Governor for this strategy to start out 2010. He clearly has learned none of 2009’s lessons.