Final Showdown

Ohio Republicans nervously face elections next year as major scandal swirls around outgoing Gov. Robert Taft and other statehouse leaders. Democrats from National Chairman Howard Dean on down are drawing a bead on the state that put George W. Bush over the top in ’04. Flanked by Buckeye State Democratic leaders and candidates, Dean recently told reporters: "The truth is that we do have a real problem with corruption in this country and in this state."

But one of the more interesting and intense political clashes will come before November. Former Rep. (1980-92) Bob McEwen, who fell short in a crowded special election primary in Ohio’s 2nd District last year, recently announced he will run again in the May primary to try to remove the fellow Republican who edged him out by about 700 votes, present Rep. Jean Schmidt. Although both McEwen and Schmidt are considered strong conservatives, the two hold each other in "minimum high regard," and a gloves-off primary battle in what is considered one of the safest GOP districts in Ohio appears certain.

Much of the media attention in the 2nd District primary is spurred by Schmidt herself. Last November, as the newest member of the House, the 54-year-old Ohioan made headlines nationwide when she attacked Democratic Rep. John Murtha (Pa.) for his opposition to the Iraq War and quoted Murtha’s fellow Marine Corps veteran, Ohio State Rep. Danny Bopf, as telling her "Cowards cut and run; Marines never do." Bopf angrily told reporters that he never said any such thing to the fellow Republican for whom he had campaigned in the special election. Schmidt thereupon apologized to Bopf and Murtha, but was editorially pilloried by the Cincinnati Enquirer (which had endorsed her election). Bopf has signaled he is neutral in the contest between Schmidt and McEwen.