Ohio’s Republican Whack-A-Mole Tournament

By: Guest Authors

By:Gerard Valentino

As Republicans set the stage for a run to take back Congress in the 2010 elections, a fractured Ohio Party is a serious issue because according to the old cliché, as Ohio votes, so does America. At the moment, fractured is an optimistic description of the status of Republicans statewide due to Party Chairman Kevin DeWine’s decision to treat the statewide ticket as his own personal game of whack-a-mole.

Basically, whenever a candidate pops up in a spot he doesn’t like, he keeps whacking them until they pop up in a different hole – or not at all.

Oddly enough, things actually started easily enough for Kevin DeWine in his first electoral season in full control of the Ohio Republican Party. But, matters beyond his control, including the candidacy of liberal Republican, and failed U.S. Senator Mike DeWine for Attorney General sent things into a free fall.

Now, Kevin DeWine is left with a fractured Party that is lining up against his handpicked candidate for Attorney General, and is in the midst of a brutal campaign for the State Auditor nomination.

Once Mike DeWine was officially in the Attorney General race, Kevin DeWine decided that Delaware Prosecuting Attorney Dave Yost needed to drop out. Instead of complying, Yost went on the offensive and vowed to stay in the race. But as time went on and Kevin DeWine continued to whack at the Yost campaign, he relented and agreed to run for State Auditor.

With one problem solved, Kevin DeWine turned his attention to yet another, since State Representative and CPA Seth Morgan had already declared his candidacy for Auditor.

Now, Kevin DeWine has a conservative base angry over his choice to champion liberal Mike DeWine over Dave Yost in the AG race, and a base even angrier at being forced to choose between the only two true conservatives left on the statewide ticket. In true brother against brother fashion, the campaign between Morgan and Yost has been ugly at times.

The simple fact is in Dave Yost and Seth Morgan, Republicans have nearly perfect candidates for the Attorney General and Auditor race respectively. But, with a background as a CPA, it’s clear that Morgan is more qualified to fill the Auditor role. That doesn’t matter to Kevin DeWine, who has attempted to whack Seth Morgan and his supporters until he leaves the race.

Despite alleged strong-arm tactics at county Party meetings, Morgan continues to win endorsements, proving the ORP is once again out of touch with the rank and file.

In a time when Obama’s backroom deals over health care angered voters, the Ohio Republican Party leadership decided to use the same tactic to cajole candidates to move where they saw fit, an inexplicable mistake in a state with a highly energized Tea Party movement that is demanding less political gamesmanship. Ohio Republicans are also coming off of an election season where some of their most established candidates were easily beaten.

While the Republican leadership in Ohio blamed conservatives for those losses, it was their willingness to marginalize the state’s large pro-gun and conservative base that led to defeat. Now, they are creating a rift in the Party by refusing to let rank and file voters determine Republican candidates for the state’s most important offices.

Further proof that the ORP is out of touch is Kevin DeWine’s decision to run a Bob Taft-like candidate for Attorney General in Mike DeWine. For those that don’t remember, former Governor Taft was an anti-gun, pro-tax liberal Republican that left office with an approval rating hovering around 12% – a historic low. Mike DeWine is not only a contemporary of Taft, but a near political clone.
In a vacuum, it might have been a good idea due to Mike DeWine’s statewide name recognition, but in a time when conservative voters are angry over the unsurpassed expansion of government, it hasn’t played well. Even Mike DeWine’s attempt at catering to the right is backfiring. His decision to get a concealed carry license was met with scorn due to his longtime record of opposition to gun rights.

Election year conversions never play well, and Mike DeWine’s case is no exception.

The outcome of the primaries will have a huge effect on the future of the Ohio Republican Party. If Kevin DeWine’s hand-picked candidates lose, he will blame conservatives for fracturing the Party just as the ORP leadership always does after a loss. If they win, he will claim a mandate to run more liberals in the future, and will further marginalize conservative voters.
Either way, a unified Ohio Republican Party is unlikely as the 2010 Congressional elections loom, and that’s bad for Republicans in Ohio, and across America.

(Gerard Valentino is the author of The Valentino Chronicles, Observations of a Middle Class Conservative, on sale now at Amazon.com)