I had this “duh” moment yesterday. I was talking to my priest–we get together for coffee once in a while just to talk, and things invariably veer to discussion of politics. Anyway, I mentioned McCain, the supposed moderate, “straight shooter” endorsing Blackwell for governor of Ohio. He said, “There are three Republicans running, and he endorses Blackwell?”

Somehow that part didn’t even occur to me when I heard that McCain endorsed Blackwell. I just thought, “Oh, more evidence that he’ll shill for the Republican, no matter how awful the guy is.” But no, it’s worse than that. This is still the primary season, and he’s endorsing the Spawn of Satan over two other Republican candidates.
Blackwell’s endorsement by John McCain is one of the top stories in this week’s edition of The Other Paper, one of central Ohio’s alternative newsweeklies.

I will leave speculation about what sort of deal with the devil McCain has made for another time, but for now I’d like to focus on Blackwell’s candidacy. From the article, Blackwell woos the Statehouse types:

It was another ho-hum week for Ken Blackwell. Yet another statewide poll showed the Ohio secretary of state with a commanding lead for the 2006 Republican gubernatorial nomination. Yet another national Republican celebrity, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, endorsed Blackwell’s candidacy.

And in Columbus, Republicans establishment types continued to silently wring their hands.

Blackwell’s biggest weakness–and so far his only weakness–is that the Republicans who have worked alongside him on Capitol Square for the past dozen years have yet to embrace his campaign. Blackwell fever might be sweeping the state, and even the nation, but it hasn’t made its way into the corridors of power Downtown.

Traditionally, Republican power brokers–lobbyists, consultants and businesspeople–have coalesced around their favorite candidate for governor, and that candidate has tended to go on to win the nomination. For ’06, there are two Republicans–Ohio Auditor Betty Montgomery and Attorney General Jim Petro–with whom they feel comfortable.

But Blackwell scares the hell out of them.

Does that remind you of anyone? Makes me think back to the days when Howard Dean seemed to be running away with the nomination. He had huge grassroots support, was way ahead in the polls, and started to pick up some big name endorsements, but he had much of the Democratic establishment “wringing their hands”. There was a definite “Anybody But Dean” movement that developed.

Of course, on the issues, Howard Dean and Ken Blackwell could hardly be more different. Howard Dean spoke out against the foolishness of tax cuts for the rich because it meant cutting necessary social programs and creating huge deficits for our children and grandchildren. One of Blackwell’s key issues is pushing for a so-called “Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights” (TABOR). Here is what the Ohio Library Council has to say about TABOR:

If Ohioans approve the amendment, the expenditure limitation placed on local governments will cut the very programs and services that residents want and depend upon. Services such as police, fire, EMS, and public libraries will all be affected. Education, human services, parks, and prisons will be hurt as well.

Then there’s the issue of gay rights. Howard Dean supported equal rights for all citizens–even though people like Bill Clinton claimed that meant he “forfeited” his chance to win the Democratic nomination. Ken Blackwell heavily campaigned for Issue 1–an amendment to the Ohio constitution which, far from being a “same-sex marriage ban”, as it was often billed, denied same-sex and non-marital opposite-sex partnerships any legal standing or protection. As if that weren’t enough, he also managed to compare same sex couples–unfavorably–to farm animals.

So, on the issues, Blackwell and Dean are often lightyears apart. But consider this… Blackwell is far ahead of Betty Montgomery and Jim Petro in the polls. He has a huge amount of grassroots support. “Republican establishment types” seem like they’d prefer “Anybody But Blackwell”. Why? Maybe, at least in part, because they don’t think he’s as “electable” as one of the other two? He appeals to a vocal, energized part of the Republican base, but party insiders may be worried he lacks the broad appeal necessary to win in the general election.

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