On Tuesday, February 24th, the Republican Party of Cuyahoga County held their Lincoln Day Dinner in downtown Cleveland in the Grand Ballroom of the Renaissance Hotel. The featured speaker was Karl Rove.
The cost of an individual ticket to the dinner was $85. In the hinterlands of Ohio, I’m accustomed to a Lincoln Day Dinner price tag of $25. If it were $25 in Cuyahoga County, though, I imagine 3 or 4 thousand people would show up for dinner. What facility is large enough to seat 3 or 4 thousand people for dinner all at the same time and serve them all a formal dinner? The Grand Ballroom at the Renaissance Hotel was as big a venue as I’ve seen for such occasions, and it was packed. I’m guessing there were 800 guests, since there were about 80 tables, with 10 persons to a table.
In one sense, Cuyahoga County Republicans may seem a bit dysfunctional. After all, the Democrats have a virtual lock on elected offices throughout the county and especially in Cleveland. Furthermore, the Republican base in southwest Ohio may be of the opinion that at least half of all Cleveland-area Republicans are RINO’s. But, RPCC chair Robert Frost and featured speaker Karl Rove both underscored the importance of turning out the Republican vote in Cuyahoga County. Which Ohio county gave more votes to John McCain for president than any other Ohio county last November? Cuyahoga County did.
So, if you are looking to win a statewide office, and you forecast that you need a specific number of votes to win a statewide majority, where are you going to look for votes first? Podunkville? Heck, no! You’re going to get as many votes out of Cuyahoga County that you can get your hands on. From my conversation with Kevin DeWine in Sandusky last Friday, I’d say that the ORP would agree with that assessment.
Having said that, not all statewide hopefuls were in attendance in Cleveland on Tuesday night. I hope they were doing something very meaningful, like attending a family member’s ballet recital, because if they were doing something of a political nature, and they weren’t in Cleveland, they weren’t being as productive as they could have been.
So who was there? State Auditor Mary Taylor was there. She led the Pledge of Allegiance. Supreme Court Justice Terrence O’Donnell was there. He gave a lengthy invocation after saying numerous words about Abraham Lincoln (I greatly appreciate Reverend Clyde Davis, who proceeded directly to the benediction prayer without speechifying, rather than following the example of Justice O’Donnell). Jim Petro was there. Sandy O’Brien was there. State Rep Nan Baker was there, as well as a number of suburban mayors and council members.
Most of all, Josh Mandel was there. State Rep Josh Mandel shared much the same message that he had when he appeared in Tiffin earlier this month. But it didn’t end there. Mr. Frost said a lot of nice things about Mr. Mandel. But it didn’t end there, either. Karl Rove, the keynote speaker, had some very nice things to say about Mr. Mandel, too.
They said Rob Portman had been in Cleveland to speak last year. The U.S. Senator-wannabe had postcards distributed to every seat at every table. Speakers urged us to fill out the form on the Portman postcards and send them in. It seemed empty, though, because Portman wasn’t there. He was a ghost, a shadow of the past. He wasn’t larger than life. Josh Mandel was there, and he was larger than life.
John Kasich was probably busy parsing President Obama’s speech so that he could appear as a pundit on Fox News with savvy commentary about the stimulus bill. I get the sense that a lot of Cleveland Republicans are too busy in the evenings to tune in to television, let alone Fox News. For whatever reason, John Kasich, who wants to be Ohio’s next governor, wasn’t there. Unlike Rob Portman, Kasich wasn’t even a ghost, wasn’t even a shadow, wasn’t even a whisper, because he didn’t even have anyone plugging his candidacy and there was no Kasich literature. Kasich wasn’t there, so he had no chance to be larger than life. Josh Mandel was there, and he was larger than life.
Karl Rove’s most stirring moments occurred while he described the service of those in the nation’s armed forces. He also talked about what it takes to keep the country safe. He talked about the economic crisis, even pointed a finger at the person who stood in the way of Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac reforms that would have prevented the housing bubble in the first place (the U.S. Senator from Connecticut, Christopher Dodd). Of course, he also talked about George W. Bush. And Josh Mandel.