COLUMBUS, Ohio – The race to replace Massachusetts liberal lion in the U.S. Senate, Ted Kennedy, has been won by Scott Brown, a Republican, who took a seat in a special election from State Attorney General Martha Coakley, a Democrat, few political pundits thought could go to such a Red candidate running in such a Blue state.
But the unthinkable has happened. According to reports on the election, Brown won a close race over Coakley 51.9 percent to 47.1 with one percent going to Liberty Party candidate Joe Kennedy, no relation to the Kennedy family fame.
What happens in Massachusetts may not stay in Massachusetts, especially this year, when animosity toward incumbents across the states is bristling and Democrats, like Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and his new running mate Yvette McGee Brown, try to fend off the ire of disaffected voters who will tag them responsible for the economic malaise the country is mired in, a condition nearly all reputable economic fonts say will linger on through this year and beyond.
Brown’s win, one the media will sculpt into another mile marker showing Democrats are headed down a winding road leading to a political cliff of sorts for them later this year, will blow wind into the sails of Ohio Republican gubernatorial candidate John Kasich and newly appointed political sidekick and running mate, State Auditor Mary Taylor.
Scott Brown, successor to Ted Kennedy in the U.S. Senate: “I know I have a lot to learn in the Senate, but I know who I am and I know who I serve. I’m Scott Brown, I’m from Wrentham, and I drive a truck. And let me just say in conclusion… I am nobody’s senator but yours.”
According to a live blog of Election Night in Massachusetts, Brown said “Raising taxes, taking over our health care, and giving new rights to terrorists is the wrong agenda for our country,” adding that what he heard “again and again on the campaign trail, is that our political leaders have grown aloof from the people, they’re impatient with dissent, and comfortable in the back room making deals. And we can do better.”
The Toledo Blade quoted Kevin DeWine, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, making comments about Strickland’s pick for running mate that prompted some in the blogosphere to bite back, saying he should apologize for what he said about McGee. “I couldn’t think of a more uninspiring pick, and I wonder how she feels knowing she’s the governor’s eighth choice because everyone else said no,” DeWine said to Blade statehouse reporter James Provance. “He’s had nearly a year to make this selection, and the best he could come up with in the face of an unprecedented fiscal emergency is a social worker with no experience in public finance or state government. That should tell you something about the fate of this administration,” DeWine said to the Blade, adding, “Clearly, no one else wanted to run with Ted Strickland because they know he’s a one-term governor.”
DeWine’s biting, denigrating remarks represent the sharp elbows the Ohio GOP and Kasich himself are ready to wield, in what they think is a comeback year for them. Red candidate Brown’s win in such a deep, dark Blue state like Massachusetts should put Strickland and Democrats in Defcon 3 status that their back-to-back victories in Ohio in 2006 and 2008 could be reversed if their base, joined by independent voters who are breaking away from ABM, his agenda and a Democratic Congress they see as enabling it isn’t calmed, quelled or reassured that they can do the job no matter how low the ship of state is riding in the water.
According to one poll by Rasmussen Reports, Kasich leads Strickland, now entering the fourth year of his first term, by nine points or so. With he exception of the last two election cycles, Ohio voters have given Republicans virtual total control over the gears of government since George Voinovich, retiring from the U.S. Senate this year after serving 12 years there, won the race for governor in 1990. Republicans have ruled the Ohio Senate since 1984 and the House since 1994, relinquishing it for the first time last year.
It’s not hard, therefore, to see how Kasich and his running mate Taylor could surf the same wave of discontent that’s sending Brown to Washington here in Ohio. Some statehouse reporters believe forcing Kasich to put up or shut up on what he would do to make up for the billions in lost revenue to the state budget his proposal to eliminate the state’s personal income tax would create, is a road they want to drive down repeatedly. And while Kasich does need to respond to that issue, mimicking Scott Brown’s campaign themes in Massachusetts here in Ohio may be all that’s needed to sway enough voters to their side who may look at Strickland’s performance record on jobs in Ohio, his close affiliation with the Obama White House, his use of one-time stimulus dollars to balance a budget that will be out of kilter for lack of them next year and say the peripatetic former Congressman and Fox TV show host can do better.
With even some of his own loyalists saying his announcement today of McGee was on the weak side, it’s clear that politicos other than Kevin DeWine will take their own potshots at Strickland and company. And while Kasich doesn’t have a memorable campaign mascot like the truck Brown drives, that when Obama made fun of it’s engine, Brown got to say, “I didn’t mind when the president came here and criticized me. … But let me tell you when he started to criticize my truck, that’s where I draw the line,” he did have a memorable auto-related line last week when announcing his running mate. Speaking about Strickland, Kasich said, “He put the car in a ditch. Thank god for the ditch or he’d taken us off the cliff.”
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