WELL, WHAT HAPPENED on November 2 when the inmates took over the asylum?
We're in luck. There are no complicated answers!
On this point, there was sort of a political detente with sheathed swords Thursday night as a bipartsan panel of four campaign gurus agreed that the cause of the Democratic demise in Ohio (as elsewhere) was nothing more profound than an ailing economy. Beyond that, the autopsy produced the insiders' look into the cupboard of strategies that both sides employed - the theatrical props that adorn every campaign , from yard signs to polls to negative ads. Still, all of the traditional stuff appeared to be less important than the fixed perception that when a lot of folks are out of work, the only remedy is to fire the incumbents. To the winning sloganeers with their guaranteed fixes, one can only say good luck to that.
The occasion on panel night was the national conference of the American Association of Political Consultants hosted by the Bliss Institute at the University of Akron. The panelists, who would lead various discussions the next day, were Aaron Pickrell, Gov. Strickland's campaign manager; Michael Hartley, John Kasich's campaign manager; Former Ohio Republican chairman Robert Bennett and former Democratic campaign consultant, Gerald Austin. Bliss director John Green served as moderator.
Of the economic baggage lugged by Democrats in Ohio, Bennett observed that "tsunamis don't stop at the state line". That was soon obvious when the flood waters receded in Columbus. But Bennett was cautious about the long-term benefits to his party. He has witnessed too many reversals by the shifting voters over his many years in managing GOP business to be puffed up with overconfidence after this lopsided mid-term.
Meanwhile, Austin noted that all campaigns can be reduced to "good luck and bad luck." For Strickland the story was full of bad luck, some prompted by his own decisions. The governor's fate was sealed when Barack Obama was elected, Austin said, a novel idea that didn't appear in any of the other post-mortems. His reasoning: Strickland could not run against (i.e., blame) Washington because he and the president were both Democrats. With incisive satire, which has been often been associated with his long path through Ohio politics, Austin referred to Strickland's choice of head of the Ohio Department of Transportation from Brown County, a rural outpost in southwestern Ohio, quipping that the new director probably didn't even know where Cleveland was. He cited other things but you get the idea: bad luck.
On the other hand, Kasich arrived on the crest of the economic meltdown and as a friend of the newly emerging anger-philes souped up as the Tea Party. At that, he merely won a plurality in a close race although he has been sounding a lot like an Eliot Ness who ousted the bad guys by acclimation.
As for the Tea Partiers , Hartley tippy-toed lightly, describing the phenomenon as the "real deal. You can't play games with the Tea Party." That much was already confirmed by the way the TP's wiped out some Republican incumbents in the primaries. I don't think the old Republican lions know what to say or do about the new political menaces who moved into their neighborhood.
All the forthcoming internecine warfare will keep the speculators quite busy until the next election day. For now, Austin was content to compare winning politics with baseball: "See the ball. Hit the ball." That's not inside baseball either.