Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Good Riddance to Bob Taft?

Conservative malaise over Bob Taft has boiled over to the point of welcoming Ted Strickland into the Governor's Mansion in Bexley and rehashing Strickland campaign messages at the direct expense of the Ohio Republican Party. A column by James Uhrling recites the typical mantra about how horrible Taft's reign as Governor was. But exclusive focus on Bob Taft, his record low approval ratings, and state tax increases is precisely what has gotten us to this point. The GOP candidate for Governor, despite being on the verge of electoral history in Ohio and garnering the support of national political celebrities like John McCain and Rudy Giuliani lost to the generic and virtually unknown (and surely untested) Democratic candidate by a 23 point margin. Republicans lost all statewide offices but one and Democrats came very close in capturing the state house.

Nobody likes Bob Taft or his reign as Governor. Fine. But let's put that fact to bed already.

Bob Taft is a nice man with noble intentions. His executive leadership and management skills are certainly lacking. But to purge the Republican Party of so-called "RINOs" simply because they supported the legislative agenda of a GOP Governor seems short-sighted at the very least.

The fact of that matter is that the Ohio Republican Party needs as many members as possible now. The balance of power in the state house now stands at 53 Republicans and 46 Democrats. Purging the party now could lead to vindictive legislators joining the Democratic caucus.

The 2006 election results in Ohio were a part of a national wave of discontent with Republicans and their political leadership. In Ohio, specifically, Taft became a punching bag for that voter discontent. But the election result involved much more than Bob Taft. After all, his name appeared nowhere on the ballot and Ken Blackwell ran far to the right of Bob Taft on nearly every issue. In the Republican Primary for Governor, Blackwell tried to tie both of his primary opponents (Petro and Montgomery) directly to Taft. Blackwell tried to cast himself as the anti-Taft, with a conservative solution for every problem Taft has caused. Yet Blackwell's candidacy went down in a crushing defeat.

Beyond the Governor's race, characterizing Rep. Jean Schmidt as a RINO is beyond ridiculous. Schmidt is solidly pro-life, pro-gun with high marks from the NRA, supported President Bush's tax cuts, opposes gay marriage, obviously supported the President's policy in Iraq, and . There's not one issue that Schmidt has a moderate-to-liberal position on, let alone any evidence indicating tagging her as a RINO is fair.

These hardline conservatives of Ohio need to realize that a Gov. Taft and Sen. DeWine are much more hospitable than Gov. Strickland and Sen. Brown. The real RINOS appear to be those so-called conservatives who openly welcome the defeat of Republican candidates and the election of Democrats solely for the sake of purging a party that has already been purged of its most recognizable and experienced candidates.


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