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Monday, February 04, 2008

Top pundit: 2nd district is worst race ever


Stu Rothenberg, one of the most respected Congress-watchers in Washington, penned this column in today's issue of Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper:

A Nightmare of a Congressional Race in Ohio's 2nd District


By Stuart Rothenberg
Roll Call Contributing Writer
February 4, 2008

Every so often, I come across a great House race, such as the 2000 Michigan open-seat race where voters were lucky enough to be able to choose between Mike Rogers (R) and Diane Byrum (D). Those voters couldn't lose, since both candidates clearly deserved to be in Congress. (Rogers won that race by 111 votes out of almost 300,000 cast.)

This year, I stumbled across the opposite of that Michigan race.

The contest in Ohio's 2nd district may well be the worst Congressional contest I've ever witnessed.

The southern Ohio district gave George W. Bush 64 percent of the vote in 2004 and 63 percent four years earlier. It's a conservative bastion.

If you are a Republican and not under indictment, you shouldn't have a hard time holding the district. Yet the district's Congresswoman, Rep. Jean Schmidt, barely won re-election last time and again is in a fight for her political life.

Schmidt, who was then a former state legislator, was the surprise winner of an 11-candidate Republican primary to fill the seat left open when Republican Rob Portman became the Bush administration's trade envoy in 2005. She won that primary with just 31 percent, and went on to squeak out a win in the special election by just 4 points.

The Republican got off on the wrong foot in Washington, D.C., when, shortly after her election, she called Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) a coward. She subsequently apologized, but the damage was done.

In 2006, Schmidt narrowly beat former Rep. Bob McEwen (R) by 5 points in the primary. McEwen had finished second to Schmidt in the special primary following Portman's resignation. Then she won the general election by only 1 point. This year, she faces a primary challenge from state Rep. Tom Brinkman, who finished third in the special 2005 primary.

I don't know Schmidt, so I can't speak about her. But lots of Republicans don't seem to like her. She had two close calls last time, and her own January 2008 poll shows her barely cracking 50 percent among GOP voters.

Brinkman filed with the Federal Election Commission on Dec. 19 and announced his candidacy officially on Jan. 3, the day before the filing deadline.

Why did he wait so late to decide on running? A Brinkman supporter told my colleague, Nathan Gonzales, that the legislator made the decision to run at the end of the year because "no one was stepping up to take on the incumbent."

In fact, while Brinkman was sitting on his hands, former Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich (R) filed with the FEC in May and was actively raising money and running against Schmidt.

In the candidates' Sept. 30 FEC report, Heimlich showed that he had raised more money than the Congresswoman and had twice as much on hand as she did. As of Dec. 31, he had $266,000 in the bank to Schmidt's $125,000. Moreover, Schmidt's own poll showed her leading Heimlich by only 52 percent to 31 percent, with Brinkman trailing badly at 9 percent.

Veteran Ohio politicians say Brinkman doesn't raise much money and doesn't run good campaigns. The one thing he's done this cycle is drive a credible primary challenger to Schmidt out of the primary.

Given the weakness of Schmidt and Brinkman, you'd think that the seat might simply fall into the Democratic nominee's lap. And it might, even if Democrats once again nominate Victoria Wulsin. (Party switcher Steve Black is also in the Democratic race.)

Wulsin, a physician with a specialty in epidemiology, has an impressive résumé including an M.D. from Case Western and a doctorate in public health from Harvard.

But for a candidate running for the third time, Wulsin is, to put it mildly, scattered in her thinking. For example, she's an anti-war candidate who says that she isn't sure how she would have voted on the supplemental spending bill that has funded the war.

Wulsin ran a TV spot last month in which she pledged, "As your Representative, I will refuse Congressional health care until Congress does its job and passes affordable health care for all."
Sounds like quite a sacrifice, doesn't it? Of course, it isn't, since Wulsin is covered under her husband's "gold-plated" health care plan. When I asked her about this, she talked about the symbolism of her stand and the fact that Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D) made the same pledge previously.

Then, toward the end of the interview, with half a dozen other reporters present, Wulsin referred to her son as "a nice liberal, like his mother." Hmmm.

When asked about that comment, Wulsin went through a lengthy verbal contortion to try to explain that she really is both conservative and liberal. "What I mean by [liberal]," said the pro-abortion rights Democrat at one point, "is that I want change."

But what, asked a reporter, did she mean when she said that she was conservative on family issues? "I think marriage is great. I think motherhood and fatherhood is great," she explained.
What about gay marriage? "I don't think that the federal government should tell any church what to do or who to marry. I'm all for equal rights," said Wulsin, digging herself deeper.

Anyway, Wulsin might well get elected to Congress. But if she does, it's only because of Schmidt. And Schmidt might win. But if she does, it's only because the district is so Republican. And Brinkman might win. But if he does, it's only because of Schmidt.

Stuart Rothenberg is editor of The Rothenberg Political Report.


30 Comments:

at 2:02 PM, February 04, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

This article expresses my thoughts exactly. Rob! Please come back!

Ohio 2 has truly become an embarrassment for SW Ohio.

 
at 2:03 PM, February 04, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jean Schmidt is in trouble, not because of anything major she did but because of George Bush and her solid support of him. Not only did she have a close call the last time but the Republicans lost most of the major state wide offices they've controlled for some time, at the very least, due to the negative George Bush feelings.

 
at 2:56 PM, February 04, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

We went from having the best congressman in the legislature to the worst. The Republicans can't seem to get out of their own way to provide leadership for this region. That get what they deserve. I normally vote Republican for this position, but I'll vote for the Democratic candidate as I did in the last election. I can put up with a liberal Democrat for 24 months in order to replace Rep. Schmidt and hopefully after that term a viable Republican candidate will emerge from the pack. Rep. Portman....you spoiled us.

 
at 3:02 PM, February 04, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

2:02- About your Rob please come back comment. I think the reason I am only the third respondent on this blog story so far is that everyone else is thinking the exact same thing you are.

Rob Portman- we miss you. How far OH-2's prestige has fallen on the floor of the house :(

 
at 3:07 PM, February 04, 2008 Anonymous Jason Gloyd said...

Brinkman has been able to raise enough money to win every general and primary election he's ever entered. The only election he has lost was the 2005 special election in which there were 11 participants running and the two that finished ahead of him loaned their campaigns over $100,000 ea.
It's funny that Heimlich would claim that Brinkman is a non-factor when he entered the race, but uses Tom as an excuse as to why he got out of the race.

 
at 3:25 PM, February 04, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a Democrat, I'd have to think this is the best chance we have to take control of the district. I almost wish Hackett would run again considering the credibility he has as a veteran. Schmidt is an absolute disgrace to Cincinnati, whatever side of the aisle one is on. I just hope that Wulsin campaigns smartly and effectively and doesn't waste the political capital Schmidt has dumped into her lap. Still, it will be tough for any Democrat to win in the district regardless of these mitigating factors.

 
at 5:38 PM, February 04, 2008 Anonymous Bye Bye Bobby said...

Stewart Rothenburger has no idea what he is talking about with the Schmidt drubbing of Bouncing Bob McLean Mcewen.

She crushed him by more than 20 points, not 5. It was such a humiliating defeat for Bouncing Bob that he has scurried back to Virginia and hasn't been seen in his "home" state of Ohio since.

It was such a humiliating defeat that McEwen's campaign "manager" Mike Harlow is still unemployed 2 years later.

I could take Rothernberger's analysis a lot more seriously if he could get such basic facts right.

 
at 6:22 PM, February 04, 2008 Anonymous billo said...

Stu's a little behind on the news; about ten days ago Heimlich dropped out, saying he'd use "what's left" of the $350k he'd raised to pay staff(?)
and retain the remainder for future opportunities. Hmmm...
As for "party switcher" Black, I certainly have my doubts about the judgment (no pun intended about his father) of someone who, SFAIK, voted R all his adult life, suddenly realizing that the party he supported for, oh, say, the last thirty-five years or so, was corrupt and not worthy of controlling Congress (1994-2006), much less the current Executive Branch. Why did it take Steve soooo long to "get it?"

 
at 6:31 PM, February 04, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would really hate to see our district be represented by a democrat. However, we just can not continue to send someone like Jean Schmidt to represent our district. The truth to be told, Jean should have never made it past Miami Township Trustee. I see Jean coming home next January to stay.

 
at 6:37 PM, February 04, 2008 Blogger Matt Hurley said...

Holy crap, Stu...you don't know Jean Schmidt? Jeez man, pick up the phone...or walk over to her office... I dunno, maybe learn a little something about the district...

This is supposed to be great insight in to the race???

 
at 6:54 PM, February 04, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim Parker, Former / Future Candidate for US Congress in the Ohio 2nd has an interesting poll up on his site.

http://www.JimPARKERad.blogspot.com/

 
at 8:56 PM, February 04, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

BBB,
It's Stu Rothenberg, not Stewart Rothenberger, Rothernberger, etc.
According to the Almanac of American Politics, Schmidt got 48 percent as opposed to 43 percent for McEwen.

McEwen still owns his Anderson Township condo, appeared with Mike Huckabee in Mason, and spoke to at least 2 local Republican clubs since then. I am far from a fan of his, and have no idea where he really lives, but it is another falsehood to say he hasn't been in Ohio since May 2006.

As for Mr. Harlow, he goes by Michael and not by Mike. He wasn't the campaign manager, and he seems to make pretty good money whatever he does now.

Other than that, your comments were dead-on.

Whichever political party you are involved with, you are giving it a bad name.

 
at 9:52 PM, February 04, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

.

This sure is 'schmidty' to be bringing up all this politico when it is 'black history' month !

PATHETIC 'family values'

HAD ENOUGH, VOTE, for a real, DEMOCRAT 2008 !

 
at 11:47 PM, February 04, 2008 Anonymous In the know said...

I think old Tom Brinkman has a few surprises left for Jean and the rest of the Schmidtheads...

Muhuhahahahahahahahaha.

 
at 12:51 AM, February 05, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stu is so far removed from OH-2 that it's no wonder his superficial remarks sound so hollow. He seems to know nothing about the state-wide and nationwide political context in which the Second District races of '05 and '06 were conducted. He's got Wulsin's liberal fluff downpat, but his understanding of the hubris of COAST mouthpiece, Tom Brinkman, and the toughness and persistence of Jean Schmidt are zilch. You might know The Enquirer would think his piece worthy of publication. I think it shows just how desperate the local rag is for sensationalism.

 
at 1:26 AM, February 05, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Schmidt is a lying fraud and a disgrace. Anyone else who had lied so obviously about her credentials would have been fired.

 
at 6:21 AM, February 05, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://JimPARKER4ad.blogspot.com/

http://JimPARKER4ad.blogspot.com/

http://JimPARKER4ad.blogspot.com/

http://JimPARKER4ad.blogspot.com/

http://JimPARKER4ad.blogspot.com/

 
at 10:06 AM, February 05, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOOK AT ME.

LOOK AT ME.

LOOK AT ME.

LOOK AT ME.

LOOK AT ME.

 
at 10:22 AM, February 05, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does the Enquirer ever really do any reporting or do they just read & reprint what others have reported?

 
at 7:39 PM, February 05, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

COAST is TOAST - once Jean Schmidt defeats Tom Brinksmanship. And she will beat that old doughboy - by double digits.

 
at 9:23 PM, February 05, 2008 Anonymous the Shadow said...

Rothenberg's article is hopelessly outdated. So of course the Enquirer runs it...because it's openly anti-Republican.

Congresswoman Schmidt is ahead in all the polls and Tom B. has zero money and no name ID outside Hamilton County. The race is over.

The only question that remains is: how badly will Schmidt beat Tom B. and wacky Wulsin this time?

 
at 12:55 AM, February 06, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

I fail to see a problem with Black switching parties. I don't think how "soooo long" it took him to change his party values has anything to do with it.

 
at 5:31 AM, February 06, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a 2nd District Poll on Jim Parker's website. We have about ten more days to vote and guess what...

NOBODY is winning the 2nd District.

http://www.JimPARKER4ad.blogspot.com/

Cut and Paste the above link and take the poll. As of right now, there is no clear winner from either party in the 2nd district.

 
at 12:29 PM, February 06, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Buzz off Parker, you annoying insect. You're a loser.

 
at 7:55 PM, February 07, 2008 Anonymous The Answer to the Problem is... said...

Parker's has been knocking on doors in Clermont County. He has over two thousand signatures. I believe he is running as an independent this time.

The Republicans are terrified of Wulsin and half of them really don't like Schmidt. The Democrats have never won this district since Lyndon Johnson was President. There is no true front runner on either side of the Presidential race. The 2nd District is perfect for an Independent candidate this year.

This district will be won with 34% of the vote.

 
at 10:21 PM, February 07, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have full faith in Jim Parker as my Congressman. Never has a politician been so passionate, so connected, so dedicated.

If ever there was a chance for someone to swoop in from the outside and remind us that we are not Democrats, that we are not Republicans, but we are all Americans, it is now. Parker's up from the bootstraps approach is so genuine, so sincere, and so gosh-darn American that he is the anti-candidate, the anti-politician, he is the Second District, he is America.

 
at 5:58 PM, February 08, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wulsin will win this time; she took her licks the first time around, but she'll be a much better "candidate" now. Schmidt's a goner.

 
at 6:57 PM, February 08, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rothenberg would never have disrespected our district if Parker was our candidate...

 
at 1:21 AM, February 09, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Buzz off Parker, you annoying insect. You're a loser.

 
at 12:01 AM, February 11, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

U people are so full of it. Jean Schmidt is a very well respected congresswoman. I have had the priveledge of working for her, and i know first hand the person she is. You people seem to forget, dont get mad at Congresswoman Schmidt, get mad at all the supports that continue to support her! No wonder she has not raised as much money as her opponents, maybe its becasue she is too busy doing her job in Washington!!

 
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