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August 03, 2005

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» He Lost, But... Hackett Post Mortem from Now That's Progress
And while the fact that Hackett was a strong candidate and Schmitt a tainted candidate with obscene bows in her hair played a role in the close race, the influx of money and support from around the country made a difference. In short, Hackett didn't ... [Read More]

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from the Cincinnnati Post (which endorsed Hackett):

Certainly the Democratic Party should be heartened by the outcome. Hackett, a political unknown who sharply criticized President Bush's military policy, came awfully close to winning in a district that gave the president 64 percent of its vote last November.

While we not privy to exit polls, we're inclined to believe that the results reflect, at least to a degree, the uneasiness that so many feel about the Iraq war. We suspect as well that Hackett's strength outside Greater Cincinnati's affluent suburbs (he carried Brown, Adams, Pike and Scioto counties) reflects the increasingly desperate struggle in rural areas to provide enough decent jobs for those who want them.

...Schmidt will go to Washington knowing she faces a probable primary challenge next year from the Republican right - not on social "values'' issues, but because of complaints (leveled by Hackett as well) that she's insufficiently phobic about taxes. The fact is, the tax hikes for which she was pilloried - a temporary 1-cent increase in the state sales tax (since cut in half) to avoid a budget meltdown and a 6-cent boost in the state gasoline tax (which is giving Ohio enough money to keep up with demand for road improvements) - were sensible. We don't want to be represented in Washington by a dullard whose only vote will be a "No'' on anything that might be construed by fanatics as a tax increase. We want someone who will do their homework, listen to their constituents and vote their conscience.

Details of turnout by voting location will be of interest.

How did Schmidt do in her old legislative district -- roughly 18% of the congressional district, 2/3 of Clermont County?

Was it fatter margins alone? Or was it fatter margins PLUS (relatively) high turnout -- where existing ground organization may have provided a winning edge.

Actually, DemfromCT, I thought that Times article was about as bland a summary of last night as could have been hoped for by the RNC. They might at least have referenced Charlie Cook's pre-polling analysis, which clearly labelled the margin by which Hackett eventually lost as extreme-danger-level for the GOP. The Times' attitude seemed to dwell more on the fact that Hackett lost, rather than on his phenomenal showing.

Which is not to say there's no justification for such a stance. Politics is about winning, after all, and, though coming close is nice (especially, as in this case, when it seems to light a path to future victory), Democrats have been in this range of victory for what seems a decade now, and they keep losing tight races by just-enough to have actually moved further into the minority. (2000 was the only year our side scored some of those essential close wins -- in the Senate races -- and even that was offset by the heartbreaking presidential result) I'm not saying I'm not optimistic -- I tend to accept the "this is great news for us" analysis -- but I await the year that our victory is not imminent/hypothetical, but actual.

The best news is, Hackett seems to have done extremely well in those rural areas -- the ones that have made us scream so long "Why would those people vote Republican?" -- so maybe there's not as much the matter with Kansas as we think...at least when the right candidate's involved. The most interesting thing about Hackett's candidacy -- which I believe the DLC will choose to ignore -- was his rejection of fuzz-the-issues/support-the-president/go-light-on-abortion/don't-dare oppose-the-war as his strategy for winning over these people. Apparently the fact that he was a straight shooter was more important than individual issues (or they actually AGREED with him on some). I don't want to restart a Dean argument here, but this reasoning is why alot of us saw Howard as a stronger candidate last year than the conventional wisdom crowd did -- we always thought his persona was enough to trump caricature. (Though I freely acknowledge: one thing Dean was not was a veteran, and that may have been Hackett's ace of aces)

I see lots of people at other sites are having the same idea I had the other day: that Hackett for Senate '06 seems a natural. (As Dem says, Ohio's scandals aren't going to be less of an issue, and the statewide terrain is infinitely more hospitable for any Democrat -- particularly against an incumbent with 30% approvals) But Hackett has made this statement about returning to Iraq, and, should he go back on it, you can bet the GOP (with its media minions) will hang the words around the guy's neck. Pubbies can backtrack on anything, of course, but a Democrat who retracts one comment is a contemptible liar.

demtom, my Times reference was to the idea that this was all a local affair - not. The Cincinnati paper I cited in the comments gets closer to the reality, and your excellent points.

Charlie Cook said:

If Schmidt's victory margin is in double digits, this tells us that there is not much of an anti-GOP wind in Ohio right now. If the margin is say six to nine points for Schmidt, then there is a wind, but certainly no hurricane. A Schmidt win of less than five points should be a very serious warning sign for Ohio Republicans that something is very, very wrong, while a Hackett victory would be a devastating blow to the Ohio GOP.

Re: turnout.

I haven't been able to find breakouts yet, but there is this from the Cincy Enquirer:

But, for both candidates, the key to Tuesday's election - an election that everyone knew would have relatively low turnout - was to identify supporters and cajole them into turning out for an election when school is out, many families are on vacations, and the heat was insufferable.

Turnout Tuesday in the western, most populous part of the district appeared to be light, ranging from 10 to 20 percent by late afternoon on a day where 95 degrees temperatures and high humidity may have been as much of a factor as lack of motivation.

But in some areas, like the heavily Republican suburb of Madeira, turnout was over 30 percent by late afternoon, with nearly three hours of voting time left.

One of the oldest saws of politics is that high turnouts favor Democrats, but many Democrats believed this election may be the exception to the rule.

"I don't now what low turnout means in this case,'' said Tim Burke, Hamilton County Democratic chairman. "It may be good for us, if our voters are more motivated to get out and vote.''

I agree that Hackett's showing in the rural counties demonstrates that plainspoken but articulate Dems who stand for something can compete in rural areas without diluting their stands on such things as abortion. This is an important take-away. Too bad the rural areas aren't more populated. ;-)

The real problem was the affluent suburbs, where the bulk of the votes were. But here again I would imagine there are some of "our" values voters, as in the Philly suburbs, who will respond to a reasonably liberal candidate.

All in all, the fact that he almost won by NOT using a play-it-safe strategy should, but probably won't, wake up the risk-averse DC pols.

One more thing--the election showed how much money there is in the netroots. This should propel at least a few candidates in somewhat marginal districts to move in this direction.

oops, forgot the Enquirer story link .

Paul Hacket not only called Bush a chickenhawk but also said he was more dangerous than OBL or AQ, I don't remember which. Even after saying that he was inside of 4 points. I don't see how that can be referred to without the word "huge" involved. Even getting a call from Dear Leader didn't seem to help all that much.

I'm interested in how well Hackett did in the four rural counties. He was loudly pro-gun, and he was plainspoken and straightforward, and other than that he made no real "concessions" on social issues.

I speculate that the anti-tax dogma of Republicans has far less sway than it used to in rural communities that are flat-out dying, and could use some public investment. They've been sold anti-tax for years, and it just hasn't worked out for them. The combination of tax cuts and social issues (and fear-mongering) is obviously still powerful in the affluent suburbs, but rural America literally has bigger problems.

If only Democrats could find a way to solve them, I think we could pick up those votes. Catch is, what can you do for backwater Kentucky or Nebraska?

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