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Preview: RealClearPolitics - Articles - Adam Schaeffer

RealClearPolitics - Articles - Adam Schaeffer

Last Build Date: Sat, 04 Nov 2006 00:38:13 -0600

Copyright: Copyright 2007

Why Steele Will Win... And Blackwell Won't

Sat, 04 Nov 2006 00:38:13 -0600

Steele has run a strong campaign that puts him right behind Cardin in the polls. He will earn a sizeable share of the black vote - over 30% is quite possible - and benefit by a low turnout from black Democratic voters. Cardin must have a large and lopsidedly Democratic turnout from black voters, who make up almost 30% of the population. My analysis of the role of race in Blackwell's campaign holds true - only much more so - in the case of Maryland. If Steele keeps the polls within 5 points of Cardin, he stands a very good chance of winning this election. The media will wake up on Wednesday to a reconfigured landscape of race, party, and politics, with national implications reverberating from the Maryland upset. Blackwell's campaign in Ohio has gone much differently, although the path to success should have been just as clear. In my early analysis of Blackwell's candidacy, coming quick on the heels of his primary victory, I assumed he would continue to emphasize his long-standing disagreements with the state Republican establishment. Blackwell's position as a principled conservative among knaves was perfect for a general election campaign. Certainly, I wrote, "Both candidates will run as reformers who will clean up and invigorate Ohio--Blackwell will propose to do the same for the Republican Party as its leader." The Ohio Republican Party was the biggest hurdle for him to overcome in pursuit of victory. But instead of breaking with the Party establishment, the first thing Blackwell did after the primary was cut a deal with it . . . dropping active support for the Tax and Expenditure Limit amendment limiting state spending in exchange for legislation. Blackwell ceded the high ground of principle that could have lent some independence to his campaign for the dubious benefit of an extremely unpopular establishment's support. He has hammered the issue he needed to - cutting taxes and growing jobs - but why should anyone believe him? It has been his Party that did this to Ohio. It is Blackwell's Party that raised their taxes, not Strickland's. Why on earth should Ohio voters believe anything an Ohio Republican says? Why not take a chance on Strickland? Blackwell has largely run as the Republican establishment's candidate, mellowing his criticism and going along to get along as he did not do in the primary. "Run to the center," his advisors surely whispered. But the center of the Ohio Republican Party is a swampy lowland infested with tax-hikers and outright criminals. Ohio voters need proof of character in that word's most basic sense - a test through trial. Blackwell has not taken the risks or stoked the controversy needed to prove to a cynical electorate that he is a principled Republican. It's a very difficult task to accomplish, but there was a way for Blackwell to prove his bona fides to a skeptical public. A sharp break with the Party, a strong denunciation of its corruption, and a call for reform would have earned Blackwell badly needed credibility and earned media. After all, the media love Republican in-fighting and candidates who criticize the Party (this year even more than most). No reporter could resist covering it - it's too delicious. And Blackwell's background supports the frame . . . he was not the Party choice, and he is a principled conservative. Blackwell should have fired up his primary rhetoric, critical of fellow Republicans, to a blazing white inferno. He should have linked his opponent to the free-spending Republicans (a phrase like "Taft Strickland" has a nice ring to it). He should have run as a Republican reformer who, as its leader, would make his Party vote for the pro-growth policies they campaign on. With such a performance, Ohio voters might have believed a Republican who says he's a fiscal conservative. Blackwell faced a potential Party insurrection over his support for a Tax and Expenditure Limit amendment, and he would surely have faced a revolt from the Party regulars if he had aggressively challenged the wayward Ohio Republican Party. But a Re[...]

Blackwell vs. Strickland -- Part II: Coup de Grace

Tue, 23 May 2006 15:43:46 -0600

The African American community is not as homogeneous or as liberal as the voting record might suggest. Historical ties and the legacy of the Civil Rights battles in both Parties of course play a huge role, but black voters are relatively conservative on many issues, and becoming more so. 56 percent of African Americans consider themselves to be born-again or evangelical Christians. 57 percent of African Americans take the most restrictive stances on abortion--only in the case of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother; just to save the life of the mother; or under no circumstances whatsoever. A complete ban on abortions under all circumstances is supported by 15 percent of African Americans.[1] And 46 percent of African Americans are against gay marriage and civil unions. Even on fiscal issues, African Americans are not as left wing as the Democratic Party would have you believe. When asked what would do the most to provide African Americans with more jobs, 36 percent chose tax breaks for businesses over more government programs.[2] 37 percent of African Americans chose "I see myself more as part of the middle class and am looking for political candidates who share my beliefs on issues such as reducing taxes and spending and strengthening moral values," over working class and government solutions.[3] And support for school vouchers ranges from around 50 percent to almost 80 percent, depending on how bad local schools are and whether or not the respondents are parents. Abortion, gay marriage, vouchers, and religion are all visceral, important issues on which 46 percent or more of black voters agree with Blackwell. And even on fiscal matters, Blackwell would find support from around 35 percent to 40 percent of the black community. But the issue of black public opinion is not as simple as the polls might suggest. All polls are inherently imperfect, but the interplay of race, government policy, and political principles makes for additional complications. RACE MATTERS What conservative principles mean when many black voters hear them depends on who is promoting those principles. Conservative principles were used from before the Civil Rights era on by honest conservatives as well as racists looking for reasonable cover. For some, states rights became code for perpetuating segregation and discrimination; self-reliance code for abandonment. It's no surprise that African Americans interpret conservative statements differently when attributed to a white speaker or a black speaker. More interesting, however, is that the race of a speaker has a larger impact on the way African Americans interpret a political statement than either Party or ideology. A political science experiment, for instance, found that a black Republican source is much more likely than a white Democratic source to elicit agreement with the statement, "African Americans must stop making excuses and rely much more on themselves to get ahead in society."[4] What is heard as abandonment and lack of concern when attributed to a white politician is heard as a message of self-reliance and confidence in African Americans when attributed to a black politician. Because of his race, Blackwell's conservative message is much less likely to be misinterpreted and more likely to resonate with the significant portion of black voters who agree with him on the issues. THE BLACK ELECTORATE Race matters in the most direct way as well--a statewide Democratic victory in Ohio requires historical patterns in the black vote to hold. In 2004 the black vote in Ohio was estimated at 17 percent of the electorate, and it often goes around 9 to 1 against Republicans nationwide. But President Bush increased his percentage of the black vote in Ohio seven points to 16 percent in 2004, and Blackwell claims upwards of 40 percent of the African American vote in his statewide elections. Fighting in a Republican state against a tough opponent, Strickland cannot win without a strong turnout from black Democratic voters. Blac[...]

Blackwell vs. Strickland -- Part I: Meet the Candidates

Wed, 17 May 2006 08:32:47 -0600

Blackwell's a bible-carrying Christian, and conservative churches are energized in support of this unabashedly religious candidate. Social conservatives will turn out in force for the general election. Indeed, Blackwell's opponents are so concerned about this religious conservative enthusiasm that they've complained to the IRS about church support for his candidacy. But Blackwell's real Party power is his ability to bridge the increasingly problematic fiscal-social divide in the conservative movement. He is a true believer in the restorative power of a Tax and Expenditure Limitation (TEL); a perfect "tell" for those who hold fiscal conservatism dear and those who are bluffing. He excites the political passions of the anti-tax-and-spend crowd who are increasingly angry at their Republican-controlled state and federal governments. The whole of the Republican base will leap to the polls for a tried and trusted conservative (as they already did for Blackwell in his 56 to 44 percent primary win). STRICKLAND, MAN WITH THE VIRGINIA PLAN In marked contrast to Blackwell, Democratic frontrunner Ted Strickland is a moderate's moderate. Like Mark Warner and his successor Tim Kaine, who have twice in a row secured the governor's mansion for the Democrats in an otherwise Red Virginia, Strickland is the kind of Democrat that wins in Republican states. He's a relatively conservative Congressman from a rural District. He's a former minister who's pro-gun and, though pro-choice, is against partial-birth abortions. Many think Strickland is the perfect candidate for the times and the state. More promising still for Strickland, Ohio Democrats taste Republican blood in the water and this has invigorated them for victory. Strickland is running against a staunchly conservative foe who is 100 percent anti-abortion and wants to control tax and spending increases through a Tax and Expenditure Limitation (TEL). The TEL threatens the public sector minions more than any other policy, for it clamps down on the spending increases that are their source of life and power. The unions and public sector will pull out the stops to mobilize their supporters and take Blackwell down in the press. A CHOICE & AN ECHO This scenario portends rough parity between the candidates in base mobilization. And Strickland, the moderate to Blackwell's "extreme" conservatism, is generally expected to win the independents. Although from this picture it seems a Strickland win is inevitable, the first glance is deceiving. Blackwell will be portrayed as a crazy Christian conservative who will de-fund social services, but Ohio voters are not in a mood to be scared by social program cut-backs, restrained government spending, and tax-cuts. Following a 63 percent increase in spending between 1994 and 2002, and a 36 percent increase in the tax burden over the past 30 years, most Ohioans are ready for a message of fiscal restraint. 86 percent of the public prefer spending restraint over increased taxes. 64 percent of likely voters say tax increases hurt the struggling economy, and they overwhelmingly support Blackwell's supposedly deadly TEL 71 percent to 15 percent.[1] Blackwell's "vulnerabilities" with centrist voters are hardly deal-breakers, and may even be turned to significant advantage. Many pundits still think Blackwell's true-believer brand of conservatism will be his downfall in a presidential swing state fully fed up with Republicans running the show. But Ohio voters are disgusted with Republican hypocrites, not conservative principles. Blackwell has made a career and many enemies by decrying the degenerate state of his own Party. His primary campaign was a prolonged attack on the same "culture of corruption" that Democrats in general and Strickland's campaign believe will be their route to easy victory. What on earth is Strickland to do when his attacks on Ohio Republicans are met with hearty agreement from his opponent, followed by credible conservative solutions? Both candida[...]