Joe the Congressional Candidate (formerly the Plumber)

Samuel Wurzelbacher won a tight primary race for the Congressional race in Ohio’s 9th “Lake Erie” district. People were watching the other side of this race as Marcy Kaptur beat Dennis Kucinich by almost 20 points, and she is heavily favored in this gerrymandered Democratic seat. It connects Toledo, moves through Ottowa, Erie, and Lorain Counties before including the urban parts of northwestern Cuyahoga County. These are heavy Democrat areas, but is there a chance for an upset in November?

In Cleveland, Kucinich was quick to attack Kaptur after her victory. (http://www.cleveland.com/open/index.ssf/2012/03/dennis_kucinich_holding_back_o.html). Voters who may be solid Kucinich fans may switch sides just to punish Kaptur. There may be other Democrats who are new to this district who simply don’t know Marcy Kaptur and hold no particular allegiance to her.

In an article from Canada’s National Post (http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/03/11/joe-the-plumber/), we see the appeal he may have as simply an out-of-the-box candidate. “What qualifies him for Congress?” asks CNN. “What qualifies me? I’ve worked all my life. I mean, see these hands right here, there’s callouses on them,” he said. “I worked the last 25 years having to make results to feed my family, pay my bills. Politicians, you know, they live off the backs of broke taxpayers.”

In order to win, Wurzelbacher will need a good number of Democrats who are likely to vote for Obama to then choose to split their vote and punch his name for Congress. If these voters do split their vote, it won’t be because of the Toledo Republican’s views on tax policy or on Isreal. If Joe wins, it will be because people who have been working and struggling all of their middle-class lives will identify themselves more with a plumber than with a person who has been in Congress since the Reagan administration.

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The Importance of the Jean Schmidt Primary Loss

I live in northeast Ohio, so I sometimes miss the ground game in other parts of the state. But I was not alone in missing the fragility of Jean Schmidt’s standing with Ohio’s 2nd district. According to news outlets, none of the Republican machine expected this result, and now we must figure out what happened and see if it might happen elsewhere. And before digesting this race, lets meet the Iraq combat doctor who beat her. http://www.fox19.com/story/17097080/iraq-war-vet-defeats-jean-schmidt-in-gop-primary.

Jean Schmidt has been in a difficult situation from the time she was appointed in 2005. Her special runoff election met with national news as her Democratic opponent was an other Iraq veteran Paul Hackett. He was the original “Vets Against the War” recruited by the Democratic Party to run for Congress in 2006. Hackett lost a close race in 2005, but we all know what happened in 2006. In her first term, she again made national news by directing to John Murtha on the floor of the House the line, “Cowards cut and run, marines never do.” She later apologized, but it was certainly an auspicious start to her Washington career.  In a time when incumbents frequently win in landslides, Schmidt hardly got past 50% of the vote in subsequent elections.

Compunding her troubles within her district were two new issues. Her disctrict to the east of Cincinnatti was stretched to the north exposing her to a new voters. Also the SuperPAC Campaing for Primary Accountability (http://www.campaign4primaryaccountability.org/) had spent some money supporting her opponent. This PAC also ran ads against Marcy Kaptur as they are trying to get rid of incumbents in “safe” districts through the primary process. I must admit that this is an attractive technique – if politicians are going to draw themselves into partisan districts then it’ll take primary challenges to keep them accountable.

I could not find a simple list of candidates who they are supporting, but their next fight will be in Alabama where they have targeted Rep. Spencer Bauchus. If next week we hear that he has lost to a relative unknown (Scott Beason, in this case) then we might have a Tea Party 2 on our hands, and every Congressman will need to check their backs to make sure nobody is about to knock them down.

Ohio: Super Tuesday to November

It looks like Mitt Romney will sneak past Rick Santorum in Ohio by about 38%-37%.  Romney had some momentum with some victories last week, and conventional wisdom said that Santorum would be hurt by all the negative press on the social issues.  (This would be the Limbaugh – Fluke flap.)  But Santorum had obviously built up enough trust and good will among Ohio voters to give him the edge through most of the night.

Romney has done well with urban Republicans, a fact that causes some people concern while other people see it as an asset.  Here is a side-by-side comparison of the Romney-Santorum county map with the Obama-McCain county map.

We see that Romney beat Santorum in most of northeast Ohio, then in the Columbus and the Cincinnatti areas.  The rest of the state including the appalachian and rural areas went to Santorum.  In 2008, Obama won the three big cities plus more of northeast Ohio, the Toledo area, and a few counties by the Ohio river.

So Romney’s strength is regionally identical to Obama’s strength.  The Optimist: “Romney’s urban strength will weaken the margin of victory Obama has in the cities, while the more conservative areas will still hold strong for the Republican.”  The Pessimist: “the turnout in the cities will overwhelm the Republican, and the conservative turnout will be dampened by a candidate like Mitt Romney.”  It remains to be seen which scenario is correct, but I’m afraid that this is the question we’ll be asking ourselves for the next eight months.

In addition to winning the state, Romney has won ten congressional districts while Santorum took six.

There are seven Romney districts in red and three in pink.  These pink disctricts are ones where Rick Santorum failed to get his delegate nominations on the ballot.  These include the Lake Erie district (Marcy Kaptur) and the Younstown district (Tim Ryan) which both would have been won by Romney anyway.  Rick Santorum won the counties included in the southeastern ohio River district (Bill Johnson), so he could have closed it to a 9-7 split with this district flipping to his side.  The red district just to the north of Columbus (Pat Tibiri) was a close call for most of the night, but Romney ended up with a slight edge here.

Santorum had a very slight edge in the 8th district just north of Cincinnatti (John Boehner), but won more comfortably in the rest of the state with particular strength in the northwest districts (Bob Latta and Jim Jordan).   He also won the Democratic 3rd district in Columbus, an unexpected result given Romney’s win in Franklin County.

In other races in the state, Josh Mandel won the Senate nomination with 63% of the vote.  The second place challenger got 14% and ran for Senate as a Tea Party Independent in 2010, while I’ll admit that Donna Glisman is a surprise getting 12%.  I believe Mandel will be a strong candidate with some national appeal (RedState and Jim DeMint), and will bring a good fight to Sherrod Brown and his national appeal (DailyKos and MSNBC).

Two incumbent Congressmen lost in primary races.  Toledo’s Marcy Kaptur was endorsed by Cleveland’s Plain Dealer, and her strength in the Lake Erie distrct was too much for Dennis Kucinich to survive.  I look for him to either move to Washington state to continue his political career, or maybe he’ll switch gears and become a contributor to FoxNews.  Either way, his chapters in Cleveland seem to be coming to a close.  In a surprising race, Brad Wenstrup (http://usabrad.com/) beat Jean Schmidt in Ohio’s 2nd district.  Jean Schmidt had never had a comfortable race since taking over the seat vacated by Rob Portman in 2005, and she obviously could not appeal to newer voters in a redrawn district.  Finally in the new Columbus 3rd district, Joyce Beatty (http://beattyforcongress.com/) won a tight race against former one-term Congresswoman MaryJo Kilroy and she is likely to win this Democratic seat in November.

A long night here in Ohio.  Romney seems to have held his 2:1 margin in delegates over Rick Santorum.  Next week we move south, and if Romney is the front runner then he’ll have to try and compete in Alabama and Mississippi.  Losses there will cause people to continue to question his strength as a front-runner and he’ll have to chalk up victories in the dominican territories (which are likely wins for Romney) which follow afterward.  Two weeks from now is the next Super Tuesday with Illinois in play.

The path to victory is more difficult after tonight for Santorum and especially for Gingrich, but it is not impossible. Mitt Romney was the conservative choice four years ago, and voters may have to satisfy themselves with pushing him even more to the right in 2012.

Santorum in Ohio and After

A new Quinnipiac poll was released this Friday and PPP and other firms are going to be polling through the weekend, and it shows that Mitt Romney got a bump after his Michigan win but not enough to take an Ohio lead over Santorum. National polls show a bigger jump, but that has changed after every state election. Super Tuesday will be very important for Rick Santorum if he is going to win the nomination. Ohio is as close to a must-win as you can get.

Currently Romney has about twice as many delegates as the second-place Santorum. Even if Santorum wins Ohio on Tuesday, his absence in Virginia and Romney’s strength in Massachusetts will more than cancel out the margin of victory in Ohio. Santorum also was not able to get on the ballot in every Ohio congressional district.  Looking at the total delegate count on Tuesday, it will likely be about a 2:1 victory for Romney which will certainly get every television soul with a mouth proclaiming that Santorum should give up.

In reality, Gingrich should be the one to give up first. (Ron Paul should as well, but nobody expects that.) If Gingrich only wins Georgia and neither Oklahoma nor Tennessee, it’ll be doubtful he could win Alabama and Mississippi the following week. With Gingrich out and Santorum sticking strong, those states may not be likely to vote for Romney and should give their delegates to Santorum.  (Although Alabama has an interesting Republican problem, as presented in Redstate by Daniel Horowitz.)

The weekend after Alabama / Mississippi is the Missouri caucus where Santorum’s “beauty contest” win will be challenged by Romney in a very severe way. The next Tuesday is a big fight in Illinois with Hawaii, Samoa, and Puerto Rico chalking up votes along the way. Santorum needs to play for and get delegate wins because at this rate, Romney can just play for delegate ties and keep his lead in place.

Looking at the crosstabs in Quinnipiac poll, it shows an expected divide among conservative and moderate Republicans as opposed to the strange exit polls out of Michigan.  Santorum leads Romney and Gingrich among conservatives 40-27-18 and among Tea Party supporters 42-25-22, and also among people who do not identify themselves as Tea Party supporters 35-32-13.  Romney leads among moderates by 46-26-13.  Romney also has small leads among those with a college degree 37-34-14 and with non-evangelicals 37-35-13, and Romney has a significant lead among those 65+ by 40-27-17.  Every other demographic, even among women, shows that Santorum is the current favorite.  Finally, Santorum also has the smallest unfavorable rating at 24% with Romney at 34%, Gingrich at 38%, and Paul at 42%.

This weekend will show different numbers and maybe Romney will catch up and take a small lead.  He is definitely outspending his competition with radio and TV ads, although the Gingrich PAC has also made its presence felt.  Ohio Republicans have had election problems for about a decade.  Josh Mandel should be a good candidate for Ohio conservatives to rally around, but that competition has not started yet.  Mitt Romney has the establishment smell of a Bob Taft and Bob Ney, but only for conservatives who recognize those names.  Santorum has had a very good run as the last of the anti-Romneys and Ohio will be a nice notch in his belt if he can get it.