Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Hackett Steps Aside in Senate Race; Assails National Dems


Cincinnati area attorney and Iraq Veteran Paul L. Hackett III dropped his bid to become the next US Senator from Ohio today. When Hackett initially announced his campaign for Senate, he was being wooed by national Democratic leaders like Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and DSCC Chairman Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Hackett's entry into the Senate race came only after Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) announced his intent to run for re-election in his safe Democrat US House district and pass on an opportunity to take on incumbent Sen. Mike DeWine (R) in the 2006 election cycle. But just days after Hackett's entry, Brown changed his mind and entered the Senate race as well. Since Brown's entry, it has been quite clear that Rep. Sherrod Brown has been the establishment choice of Democrats (particularly DC Democrats) to take on DeWine in November. And Hackett more than acknowledged this reality in his exit from the race, Hackett denounced national Democratic leaders like Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer for 'sabotaging' his Senate campaign by telling big Democratic to donors to skip on giving to the Hackett coffers and pointed them in the direction of the Sherrod Brown camp. Hackett specifically targeted Sen. Schumer, claiming, “The original promise to me from Schumer was that I would have no financial concerns. It went from that to Senator Schumer actually working against my ability to raise money.”


Analysis: As some sort of consolation prize, both national and Ohio Democrats urged Hackett to enter the OH-02 race against incumbent Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland), who narrowly beat Hackett in a special election by about 3 points in August of 2005. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Youngstown), DCCC Chairman Rahm Emmaunel (D-IL), and Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory all urged Hackett to enter that race yet again but it seems this latest conflict with the party establishment and its swing of support to Brown almost immediately has left a sour taste in Hackett's mouth. Hackett said he'd return to his private law practice and is now most likely done with political life.

Republicans cannot help but feel some sense of satisfication that Hackett's Senate campaign ended up being a thorn in the side of many national Democrats who had themselves originally begged and pleaded with Hackett to join the Senate race. It's also great to see Hackett go public with his complete dissatisification with the Democratic Party. Ohio Republicans knew the Hackett candidacy would turn out to be an utter disaster for Democrats (both Ohio and national) but I thought that disaster would play out at the ballot box rather than as a clash of egos between Democratic bigwigs and Hackett.

There's no doubt that DeWine is a vulnerable Senate incumbent but much of the dissatisfication with DeWine comes from the right-end of the political spectrum who are themselves fellow registered Republicans (case in point for this theory is the Senate candidacy of Bill Pierce, who received the endorsement of the Knox County Republican Party on January 27th with 70% of the vote). Hard-right Republicans were not going to turn out at the ballot box to cast votes for Hackett OR Brown, the worst they could do is stay home in November. DeWine is a scandal free incumbent who is also largely uncontroversial and notably moderate. With this backdrop, it's hard to imagine a known liberal Congressman from northeastern Ohio mounting the campaign necessary to beat the 2-term incumbent.

It's also worth noting that DeWine's future in the Senate could rest on the outcome of the Republican primary for Ohio Governor in May. If the darling of the social conservatives, Ken Blackwell, wins the primary and goes on to November as the Republican standard bearer for Governor, his campaign machine will turn out social conservatives at the ballot box to the same degree that the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign team was able to do in 2004. With this key demographic presumably turning out in high numbers to cast votes for Blackwell, they certainly would be holding their noses when they got to the Senate race on the ballot, but all of them would almost certainly cast votes for DeWine over the liberal Brown. This situation would lead to a 10-12 point win for DeWine over Sherrod Brown, assuming Blackwell is the gubernatorial nominee for the Republicans. If Petro is to win (which this blogger is praying for), DeWine's future could be more uncertain and more vulnerable. This may perhaps be the only possible advantage of a Blackwell candidacy for Governor.

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