Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Surveying The Aftermath

This Marty Gottlieb piece gives me another chance to survery the aftermath of the Dave Yost switcheroo business which has dominated headlines here at WMD for the last week or so.

Let's start with Marty gets right:
So Yost is running for auditor.

Hey, it’s a statewide office, too. You take what you can get. You let the bumper stickers take care of themselves.
This is the attitude of our friends in Columbus including the political operative class.  This is NOT the view taken by activists who represent the grassroots rank-and-file folks who Columbus must rely for manpower.  As my good friend phoning it in from Virginia once said: “These are Party leaders, grassroots coordinators, fundraisers and combinations thereof. The very people that need to be inspired to work hard to make sure victory is assured in November. It would be easy to say that these people can be counted on already. There is no need to waste time courting folks that will already help you, just as they help each campaign cycle, right? But as a campaign veteran I can tell you there is a ginormous difference between Party activists who feel obligated to help you and Party activists that WANT to help you.”

A good number of folks have misunderstood my position: I am NOT saying that Dave Yost isn't a good statewide candidate (he is, even for Auditor). The point I have been trying to make is that this switcheroo is an ENORMOUS risk and not just for Dave Yost.  This move threatens the relationship with the very activists that Jon Keeling was talking about.

And let me clear up another thing that is related to this point.  I believe that Kevin DeWine, as Chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, had an obligation to secure what his team believes is the strongest statewide ticket.  We can argue about whether or not that is best for Republicans in Ohio or not, but Chairman DeWine is the guy in the position and he will take the hardest hit if we lose the Apportionment Board (as well as it should be) so this is his gamble and while I don't like this move one bit, I respect him for having made a hand out of some crappy cards that were dealt to him by Kasich-Taylor.

More Marty:
Central to switch is state Republican Party Chairman Kevin DeWine, who is apparently not blown away by the candidacy of state Rep. Seth Morgan, of Huber Heights, the first Republican to announce for auditor.

The chairman has successfully finagled things so that his second cousin Mike is unopposed in his bid for the party’s endorsement for attorney general. Pretty fishy, huh?
Not really. Kevin DeWine just did his job. Mike DeWine was obviously the better candidate for AG. And conventional wisdom would hold that Yost is a better bet for auditor.
What would be sleazy would be an attempt to hide Kevin DeWine’s fingerprints, to pretend that the combustion that led to the Yost switch was spontaneous.
I will disagree with Marty when he says that Mike DeWine is the better candidate for AG.  I'm not going to get in to this here (read the Mike DeWine tab if you want that info), but I refute this assertion completely and absolutely.  The rest of Marty's take here is pretty much on the money.  Kevin DeWine was the key player and it was obvious that he doesn't like Seth Morgan.  Kevin DeWine did make it possible for his second cousin, Mike DeWine, to be unopposed in the primary.  But most importantly, it would be sleazy to try to hide Kevin DeWine's actions OR his motivations.  The source of conflict between myself and our friends in Columbus sits squarely on this point.

As usual, our friends in Columbus are trying real hard to have it both ways.  They think we don't undestand Kevin DeWine's motives or his responsibilities to the party.  Some will say that in this case, Kevin's motives and responsibilities line up and on this point, I'll agree to disagree; but I can understand that argument noly if it is based on the Approtionment Board.  Those aren't Kevin's true motivations, but I am willing to suspend disbelief long enough  to allow for it.  The problem that the Ohio GOP now faces is that the activists weren't just pro-Yost, they are anti-Mike.  This move fails to stregthen the ticket from our point of view because now it would appear that we have two candidates on the statewide ticket that we do not like: Mike DeWine and Jon Husted.  Husted is not controversial across all the activist groups, and even I was willing to let that go and put the main effort on eliminating Mike DeWine from the ticket.  With one move, the Ohio GOP has allowed BOTH issues to come back to the surface.

That last point is perfectly illustrated by this point made by Marty:
Actually, what was stranger than this game of musical chairs was what happened last fall. The state party declined to endorse for attorney general, when it endorsed in the other statewide races, including some that were contested.

State Sen. Jon Husted was endorsed for secretary of state, despite a challenge from the right by a former statewide primary winner, Sandra O’Brien. And Rob Portman was endorsed for the U.S. Senate over a well-funded candidate, auto dealer Tom Ganley.
But the man who had served his party as U.S. senator, lieutenant governor, congressman, state legislator and local prosecutor was left to twist slowly in the wind.
That odd development resulted, by all accounts, from the fact that Mike DeWine was opposed, as insufficiently conservative, by some party activists. The Butler County Republican Party organization had taken a vote, and DeWine had lost big to Yost, who had a far lower profile, but was coming at the favorite from the right.

Apparently some people at the state party were leery of ticking off the staunch conservatives — the famously energized Tea Party people — by rejecting their favorites in every race.
My sources always said that Yost had the upper hand in the State Central Committee and that if the vote had been called, Yost would have won it.  So, Marty has the story "mostly right" but he has the conclusion "dead wrong".  The reason why the State Central Committee failed to endorse Mike DeWine for Attorney General is that he didn't have the votes and the "powers that be" didn't want tick off the so-called moderate establishment types who are backing Mike.

Marty also leaves out a critical point: the State Central Committee was so jazzed about getting an early start on this process, that they held a meeting on September 11th.  The very fact that the party engaged in political activity on that particular day had ALREADY enraged a number of "staunch conservatives" around the state.

Let's take a look at what Marty got wrong starting with this bit:
At any rate, there was no point in having an ideologically divisive primary for attorney general, given how strong Mike DeWine looks for the general election.
What is the point of a primary?  I have always thought that the point of a primary was to have a vigorous debate on the issues and positions of the candidates and allow the rank and file an opportunity to elect their choice.  And I can't imagine Mike DeWine looks "good" against Rich Cordray, a Democratic candidate who can come at Mike DeWine FROM THE RIGHT on one of the hottest of hot button activist issues in this state: 2nd Amendment.
If the DeWines weren’t cousins, few people outside political circles would be looking twice at this little behind-the-scenes game.
(I can already hear our friends in Columbus now, "They are SECOND cousins, not cousins.")  If Mike DeWine weren't an issue, a good number of the activists would be energized to defeat Jon Husted.  The people who are ticked about the switcheroo are pretty much the same people who are not pleased with Husted so I don't think it stands to reason that the familial relationship, however distant, is the key ingrediant.  To that end, the Tea Party movement has already enacted their Precinct Project getting "average Joe's" in to the political process.  Why?  Because the rank and file are sick of the political elites making decisions -- like this one -- for everybody else.  I think Marty means that the 527 media wouldn't be interested in it and on THAT point, he would be right.

In the end, Kevin DeWine has a LOT riding on this and in my opinion it was his call to make in asking Dave if he wanted to switch.  (SIDEBAR: Some of those complaining about Kevin's role in this are also folks who support repealing the 17th Amendment [how U.S. Senators are chosen], but their objection is based on opposition to backroom deals which is exactly what would happen if the 17th goes down.)  The sole responsibility for the actual decision rests with Dave Yost and he's the one who has to live with it.  In my time getting to know Dave, he has presented himself as a man of integrity and principle so I know he thinks that this is the right move.  The problem is that what is right for the party is not always the best thing for the conservative movement and that is a lesson that Marty should take from this so that next time he has a better view of what is going on out here.