Myers, Steve, The American Spectator
In Ohio, scandals surrounding Taft grandson Robert A. Taft Il have made that state's long-dominant GOP suddenly vulnerable up and down the ticket just as Kenneth Blackwell, a favorite among national conservatives, makes his long-awaited run for the Buckeye State's governorship.
Conservatives nationwide therefore ought to pay close attention to elections in Arizona and Ohio this year, as important barometers of Republican and conservative strength heading into a possible 2008 presidential match-up against Hillary Clinton. The articles below describe the current lay-of-the-land in those two key states, unvarnished, as the 2006 elections approach.
My money (figuratively speaking), by the way, is still on Mr. Blackwell to pull out a gubernatorial victory in Ohio. -QUIN HILLYER
FOR YEARS, OHIO'S SLOGAN was "The heart of it all," a vague statement that made residents proud of their Midwestern-ness. But the motto was pretty accurate in terms of Ohio politics, and it is now more accurate than ever.
The 2004 presidential election was so close, and Ohio so electorally important, that some Democrats still claim (against all official findings) that the race was stolen. With Ohio expected to be crucial again in the 2008 presidential election, this year's elections for governor and U.S. Senate have special weight-evidenced by the frequency with which heavyweights from both parties, including President George W. Bush and Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain, have been visiting the state this summer.
Meanwhile, Ohio's Republican Party remains powerful nationally: Cincinnati's John Boehner is the newly elected House Majority Leader, and the Columbus area's Jo Ann Davidson is co-chairman of the Republican National Committee.
But Republicans nationwide are dealing with unease about Iraq and the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, and Ohio is a microcosm of the national scene-concerns about Iraq, dissatisfaction with a comparatively stagnant Rust Belt economy, and disgust with a political scandal that has cast its shadow on the governor's mansion. Ohio Democrats thus sense unprecedented opportunities.
"There is damn near a perfect storm that has brewed in Ohio." said Dale Butland. former chief of staff to Sen. John Glenn and now a Democratic consultant running a congressional campaign near Columbus. "If we can't win this year. I don't know when we win." Rutland has some experience in this arena, given that Glenn was the last Democrat to win any statewide non-judicial office, in 1992. A Democrat hasn't taken the governor's office in 20 years.
The Abramoff scandal extends to Ohio, with Rep. Bob Ney implicated in guilty pleas by others involved in the scandal, though the congressman has not been charged with a crime. Ney's open seat is one of four considered by Democrats to be competitive this year. But the larger issue here is the scandal known as "Coingate," involving Republican Party activist Thomas Noe. He was responsible for $50 million in investments for the state Bureau of Workers' Compensation. Up to $13 million of the original amount could be missing, according to lawyers. The state is also reeling from the loss of $215 million, also for the Bureau of Workers' Compensation, that was invested in a risky hedge fund.
Noe has been charged with 53 counts of theft, money laundering, forgery, tampering with records, and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity. His trial is set for October-bad timing for the GOP, unless the trial is moved back again. Noe also pleaded guilty to three federal charges involving illegal campaign contributions to the Bush-Cheney campaign.
"Mr. Noe is a crook. He deserves to go to jail," said state Republican chairman Boh Bennett, who argues that the election is about job creation and taxes, not scandal. "And the sooner he does go to jail... the sooner Ohioans will see that this has been fully exposed and [the guilty] been brought to justice. …