Although the names of Bob McEwen and Jean Schmidt both appeared on the 2nd District Republican ballot last year, there are significant differences between that race and this year’s. In barely nabbing the Republican nod over McEwen last year, former state legislator and Cincinnati Right-to-Life head Schmidt topped a field of 11 candidates — in part, by leading in her home county (Clermont) with a handsome plurality and carrying populous Hamilton County (Cincinnati) portion of the 2nd District. McEwen led in the other five counties in the district.
In addition, the third-place finisher in the race, State Rep. Tom Brinkman, undoubtedly benefited from a media campaign on his behalf by the conservative Club for Growth. The club’s mailings and radio spots slammed Schmidt’s votes for Taft’s increasingly hated sales and gas tax increases cast while she was a member of the Ohio House of Representatives from 2000-04. McEwen backers have long maintained that had Ohio had a Southern-style run-off that requires a candidate to win a majority to be the nominee, their man would have picked up Brinkman’s votes and won handily. (When I asked Schmidt’s top aide Barry Bennett about this "what if" scenario, he replied with a line usually attributed to Monday Night Football’s Don Meredith: "If ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ were chocolates and nuts, every day would be Christmas Day.")
Past Brinkman backers such as Anderson Township Trustee Russ Jackson accompanied McEwen on his recent announcement tour. Brinkman himself is now expected to endorse McEwen, as have two of the minor candidates in the ’05 primary, David Smith and Eric Minamyer.
The other reason most frequently cited by the McEwenites for the former congressman’s running again is that they anticipate he will have an easier time raising money in ’06 than in ’05 because the fourth-place primary finisher, Hamilton County Commissioner Pat DeWine, is not running. Numerous local donors who had contributed to McEwen in the past did not do so last year, area sources told me, in large part out of deference to DeWine’s father, Republican Sen. Mike DeWine. Young DeWine’s decision not to run again has given McEwen’s team hope that checkbooks he could not count on last year will now be open to him.