[UPDATE] The hubris of Kasich

I’m not at all enamored with Steve Stivers as a candidate for Ohio’s 15th Congressional District.  But I sure wish he was in Congress right now instead of Mary Jo Kilroy, who has amassed a voting record I absolutely deplore.  Stivers was edged out by Kilroy by less than one percentage point of the total vote count in the 2008 elections for the 15th Congressional seat.

Less than one percentage point.

Guess what?  In that same Congressional race, there was a write-in candidate, Travis Casper, who captured all of 6 votes.  No big deal.

But guess what else?  In that same Congressional race, there was an independent, Don Eckhart, that snagged over 4 percent of the vote.  Who knows . . . maybe he garnered some votes from people who would have left their ballot blank rather than vote for Stivers or Kilroy.  Then again, maybe not.  Or, maybe those votes would have been split 50/50 between Stivers and Kilroy.  Who knows?

But, again, guess what else?  In that same Congressional race, Mark Noble, a Libertarian, captured close to 5% of the vote.  Since Kilroy, by her voting record, stands for big, expensive, intrusive government, and Libertarians are opposed to such, I’m thinking that the presence of a Libertarian in the race created an additional hurdle for Steve Stivers.

But the headline of this post is about Kasich, not Stivers.  Hmm . . . Are you way ahead of me at this point?  Can you tell where I’m going with this blog post already?  Perhaps so.

Remember, that ally of ACORN, Jennifer Brunner, is still Secretary of State through the culmination of this year’s elections, thus she still has her hand in the cookie jar.  In 2009, and now in 2010, Jennifer Brunner has permitted the Libertarian Party much more access to the ballot.

Don’t forget the Tea Party movement, either.  It could be a wellspring of 2010 candidates that are independent of any political party.

All across Ohio, GOP candidates up and down the ballot will have to face up to November’s additional hurdles presented by Libertarian and independent challengers who will demonstrate that the GOP has no monopoly over conservative-minded voters.  On the left?  There will be little competition to fracture the Democrat base.

There might not be an independent running in the Governor’s race, as it is a fairly daunting task to mount an independent run for Governor, but it’s too early to tell.

The Libertarian Party, though rising in prominence, is still small, with meager resources.  It’s unlikely that the Libertarians would subdivide their meager resources to support candidates in all five statewide executive branch races.  I think someone with a Libertarian philosophy might make a good fit for a State Auditor’s race, especially since Ohio Auditor Mary Taylor has now been corralled into running on the Kasich ticket as a candidate for Lieutenant Governor.  But does consolidating Libertarian resources in the Auditor’s race make any sense to the Libertarian Party?  No.

In the Libertarian Party’s own interests, I believe they will contest the governor’s race.  The governor’s race is unique among the statewide executive branch races in that it determines which political parties are major political parties and which are minor political parties, in accordance with Ohio’s election laws. If the Libertarians concentrate their efforts on backing a Libertarian candidate for governor, they’d be hoping to get enough votes to qualify as a major political party.  If they managed to do that, one of the first changes one would notice in 2011 would be that, in 88 counties, Libertarians would be added as officers of each Board of Elections.  Right now, only Democrats and Republicans constitute each county’s Board of Elections.  Other changes to Ohio’s political landscape would follow, and the GOP’s influence would surely be impacted.

Mary Taylor, campaign funds notwithstanding, would have been a shoo-in to retain her Apportionment Board seat as Ohio Auditor.  Among the 5 statewide executive branch races, 3 have a bearing on the composition of the Apportionment Board.  2010 is a U.S. Census year.  Before  the 2012 elections, legislative districts across Ohio must be redrawn to adjust for population shifts revealed by the 2010 U.S. Census.  The 3 races that matter to the apportionment board are: Ohio Secretary of State, Ohio Auditor, and Ohio Governor.  If a political party captures two out of these three crucial races, they capture the majority of the Apportionment Board that will redraw Ohio’s legislative map.  Mary Taylor was the GOP’s surest foothold in the climb to capturing the majority of the Apportionment Board.  Now, she’s been removed from the Auditor’s race, repositioned as a Lieutenant Governor candidate on the gubernatorial ticket headed by John Kasich.

The GOP may have forfeited the Auditor’s race and the Apportionment Board seat.  No one in the GOP was planning on challenging Taylor for the Republican nomination in the Auditor’s race.  The race, at this point, is totally vacant, and petitions to appear on the primary ballot are due to be filed by February 18th.  That’s not a lot of time to qualify for the statewide ballot, let alone clear the candidate’s calendar for campaigning, and especially for raising campaign funds.  Taylor was criticized for her fundraising by some pundits in various corners of the state, but she had more of a campaign treasury to fight for re-election to the Auditor’s seat than an absence of a candidate has.  No candidate=no campaign funds to win the election.  So, how did criticizing Taylor about fundraising help the GOP’s chances of capturing the seat?  Hello! You’ve got to at least have a name on the ballot to have any chance of winning!  Isn’t that obvious?

I’m sure somebody will surface as a GOP candidate for Auditor, but they’ll probably have to do so with less funds than Taylor had in trying to capture an open seat.  Taylor was only defending a seat she already held, and she’d won accolades for her performance as Auditor from many quarters, including even from some Democrats.  Doesn’t a positive perception of her job performance by voters add up to an advantage that can compensate for some campaign dollars?  I think so.  All-in-all, this opportunity to retain this Apportionment board seat appears to have been squandered.

In the Secretary of State race, the supposed frontrunners for nominations to their respective parties are Jon Husted for the GOP, and Jennifer Garrison for the Democrats.  Jon Husted, however, isn’t popular among all of Ohio’s Republicans, and perhaps Sandy O’Brien can steal away the GOP nomination like she did in the Treasurer’s race in 2006.  Jennifer Garrison isn’t popular among all the Democrats, either, so Husted and the Ohio GOP chair, Kevin DeWine besides banking on winning the May primary, are hoping and praying Garrison’s base won’t be energized this November.  I think the GOP’s chances of securing this Apportionment Board seat are iffy, but I think the chances are better for this race than for the Auditor’s race or the Governor’s race.

And now for the hubris of John Kasich, Republican candidate for Ohio Governor in 2010.  No doubt he’s giddy about capturing Mary Taylor to run on his ticket.  He may even be giddy about Strickland’s poll numbers as Strickland’s term in office resembles a train wreck.  But John Kasich, not Mary Taylor, will be at the top of the ticket, and Kasich is not universally revered and loved.  In fact, Kasich is not even universally known.  Furthermore, Kasich won’t have a monopoly on the “smaller government” message, as there’s likely to be a Libertarian candidate as well, a Libertarian with lots of incentive to peel away as many GOP voters as possible.  Keep in mind that Jennifer Brunner is still Secretary of State, and she’s not shy about leveraging whatever she can to improve Democrat outcomes.  Those Strickland versus Kasich poll numbers?  They don’t include any Libertarian in the polling.  Kasich may tout his balanced budget in Congress all he wants, but many voters, even among the Tea Party crowd, might only be dimly aware of that accomplishment.  More than likely, those who know just one or two things about Kasich are probably going to know that he used to be in Congress (a Beltway insider!  Oh no!  Yes, they will conveniently have already forgotten that Strickland was once a Beltway insider, too  . . . but the Libertarian definitely won’t be a Beltway insider) and, thanks to the Strickland campaign, voters will learn that he was somehow involved in the bankrupt Lehman Brothers firm (a Wall Street insider!  Double whammy!  Even Strickland can’t be portrayed that way!  The Libertarian will, no doubt, be free of that baggage, too!).  When the eventual Libertarian candidate is included in the poll numbers, the pollsters will be informing those polled that there IS a Libertarian alternative, and they might even mention the name of that candidate in the same breath as John Kasich and Ted Strickland, helping the Libertarian candidate overcome anonymity enough to erode Kasich’s voter base.  The left wing media might do their part to help re-elect Strickland by devoting coverage to the Libertarian (at least, I suppose Jennifer Brunner was envisioning all this as she facilitated Libertarian candidates’ access to the ballot during the past year or so).

Kasich should take nothing for granted.  Unfortunately, that’s not the way he has campaigned, to date.  Kasich seems to be taking much for granted.  He doesn’t seem to have realized it, but, despite the Strickland train wreck, he faced longer odds of capturing the governor’s seat at the outset of his campaign than either Husted or Taylor faced of winning their seats.  The GOP had a sure foothold in the Auditor’s race, an iffy chance in the SoS race, and a very challenging race in the Governor’s race.  The sure foothold has been forfeited, and, somehow, Kasich prides himself on that accomplishment, but he hasn’t shored up the possible sources of electoral base erosion in doing so.

Mary Taylor, from all appearances, wants to challenge Sherrod Brown for U.S. Senator in 2012.  Supposedly, a Lieutenant Governor seat would afford her the opportunity to campaign for Senate and hold government office at the same time.  She was likely to win re-election as Auditor.  But, as a voter, what would add to Taylor’s stature as a Senate candidate?  Taylor as state auditor, doing a better job than any of her auditor predecessors?  Or Taylor as Lieutenant Governor, where it’s really difficult to quantify her contribution to state government for the benefit of voters?  I think she’s more formidable as a Senate candidate as the sitting Auditor.  Now, let’s take that one step further.  As I’ve outlined, Kasich has more obstacles to winning than he’s, so far, acknowledged.  What are Mary Taylor’s chances of winning the 2012 U.S. Senate race as a failed lieutenant governor candidate if Kasich loses this November?  Greatly diminished, I think.

Kasich, in his hubris, has probably shortchanged both the Ohio GOP, notably the GOP leadership and the eventual GOP Auditor nominee, but potentially shortchanging all Republicans who will be seeking General Assembly seats for a decade beginning in 2012, and he may even be shortchanging Mary Taylor’s U.S. Senate aspirations, as well.

He’d better get off his duff (he probably thinks he’s already doing so, but I think he needs to redefine his notions) and campaign like his life depends on it if Kasich is going to win this November.  He’s holding way too many of the Republican Party’s marbles for him to come up short on Election Day without seriously damaging the party.

[UPDATE 1/21/2010] Lo and behold, as foretold, a Libertarian on the ballot for Ohio Governor.