Gov. Taft and State GOP Woes, Not Iraq, Made Ohio a Tight Race

To believe the national media, the election for the open U.S. House seat in Ohio’s 2nd District on Tuesday was nearly won by a Democrat because of mounting opposition to the U.S. presence in Iraq.  Republican Jean Schmidt, former state legislator, barely clung to the most Republican congressional district in the Buckeye State by a margin of 4,000 votes, or 52% to 48%, over Democrat and Marine reserve officer Paul Hackett.  In a race that drew national attention because of Hackett’s opposition to the Bush policies in Iraq (and reference to the President as an "S.O.B."), the Democratic nominee handily carried four counties that only last year had gone for Bush (Pike, Scioto, Adams, and Brown).  Conservative GOPer Schmidt, however, was saved by a big margin in her home county of Clermont, drawing 58% of the vote in Warren County (which had gone for Bush with 72% of the vote in ’04), and a slim 51% margin in Hamilton County (Cincinnati). 

In the Washington Post and other national publications, Hackett was almost always identified as "Bush critic."  Yet several local figures who talked to HUMAN EVENTS said that the scenario of a referendum on Bush’s Iraq policy was a creation of the national media, that the Democratic camp made far more of an issue in the special election of the scandal-tinged Republican governor of Ohio than the U.S. presence in Iraq.

"This should be a wake-up call for Ohio Republicans," said Portsmouth lawyer Eddie Edwards, a longtime Republican activist in the 2nd District, who said that Iraq was only a small part of the Democratic broadside against Schmidt.  "When we came home on the Saturday before the election, there were more than seven political messages on the answering machine.  The call for Hackett charged Jean with being tied to [GOP Gov.] Bob Taft, who is being hurt by this Noe scandal [the controversial investment of state retirement funds into a private coin collection owned by Thomas Noe, a longtime GOP contributor], that she was a lobbyist for gambling interests, and that she voted for the biggest tax increase in state history."

Schmidt may have stumbled badly in the twilight days of the campaign, when she told the Cincinnati Enquirer she "had no recollection" of lobbying the governor’s office on behalf of Cincinnati businessman Roger Ach’s Internet Lottery business while she was in the legislature.  The story came out when the Toledo Blade reported that the records of a Taft staffer included a memo stating Schmidt "continues to bug me on the Internet lottery;"  a year after the memo, Schmidt received a $1000 donation from Ach.  Hackett hit this hard, charging that Schmidt was too close to the ethical problems surrounding Gov. Taft.