Now based in Columbus as a partner in Woodland Venture Management (which he founded), Wilhelm is sharing his political insights in a series of lectures to students at the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron. He also turned up at the lectern this week for a modest Bliss luncheon group to talk about essential differences in campaigns that have given the Republicans the edge in controlling the narrative.
We all can remember how Al Gore was victimized in 2000 by ridicule that he claimed to be the absolute founder of the Internet. The Republicans of Karl Rove drilled him with a specious charge to discredit whatever else one might have throught about Gore's credibility. (Gore still won the popular vote by more than a half-million ballots - but that's another story. )
In 2004, Wilhelm reminded us, John Kerry was framed with a charge that he was lying about his service in Viet Nam.
"It was switftboatswiftboatswiftboat," Wilhelm declared, " to the point where "Swiftboat
became a verb."
In both campaigns, the Republicans brutal talent of cornering opponents with baseless issues was obvious. As Wilhelm noted, "Republicans know how to play offense."
Even in Ohio, Ted Strickland failed to be aggressive enough against John Kasich, who built his campaign on a promise to restore the economy. While voters fell for the trap, they had earlier voted for a $700 million Third Frontier extension for technololgy programs in the state on Strickland's watch. Go figure.
No wonder that Wilhelm prefers to keep the the rhetoric on the Democrats' side. Many voters don't pay enough attention to protect them from their own contradictory ideas when they enter the booth.
There also has been much said about President Obama's willingness to turn the other cheek aginst his rivals, a frustrating point for supporters that Wilhelm believes will change as the president's campaign takes off. "Obama is extremely smart, and he's cool..,The candidadte of change will find a voice." But he cautioned Democrats from putting too much faith into believing that the Republicans will "screw up" - even if the current field is overrun by comedians (my word, not his).
"I think they will find someone who is more moderate than the ones who are campaigning today," he said.
But I would merely ask in this day of Tea Party Hegemony: From where? Think birther. .
Think abortion. Think socialist. Is there still time for them to give up their nasty habits?