With nearly a week's worth of reflection, some thoughts now on the election year just past, and about the one just ahead:
WORST campaign: That of Dock Treece. I know Dock well enough to know he is a nice guy, but, after running a miserable re-election campaign for Sylvania Township trustee last year - finishing third to two challengers in a three-way race for two openings on the board of trustees - he managed to top it with something even worse this year.
His campaign was so bad he didn't even make it to Election Day, and, on his way off the ballot, managed to get himself sued by his opponent.
WORST television commercial: That atrocity that featured a dying man with beryllium disease who spewed venom about Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Stratton.
This spot wins because it was bad on so many levels. Its shameless exploitation. Its misstatement of fact. Its terrible script: “They call Evelyn Stratton the velvet hammer. Sure. Big business gets the velvet. Working families get the hammer.”
It's no surprise Justice Stratton won re-election. Of course, the runner-up for worst television commercial also involved the Stratton race. You remember the ad with the two men playing the parts of attorneys trolling for clients by urging even those with frivolous claims to call their office? That one was paid for by a group trying to help Justice Stratton get elected, but she hated the thing and was very public in her efforts to get it off the air. It was pulled after running a short schedule.
WORST radio ad: Those commercials attacking Republican Maggie Thurber. They alleged that she had badly mismanaged her job as clerk of Toledo Municipal Court and knew next to nothing about county government, and were designed to help Sandy Isenberg, the Lucas County commissioner who Ms. Thurber was trying to unseat.
Like the bad television ads, these radio spots were paid for and run by an independent expenditure campaign committee made up of several building trades unions, not the Isenberg campaign. They were so full of innuendo and half-truths they were ruled to be in violation of a clean campaign pledge sponsored by the Toledo-Lucas County Clean Campaign Committee and signed by both Ms. Isenberg and Ms. Thurber. In the end, they became an embarrassment to the Isenberg campaign, probably costing her more votes than they won.
The ads were bad because they represented an incredible political miscalculation, employing a brutish, ham-handed style. Experts know it is risky business to air insulting ads against a woman candidate, and, with two women in this race, no one expected it would happen.
So when the unions stepped in to verbally bully Ms. Thurber, voters reacted in a predictably negative way. It was really the only new aspect to the campaign in the last week before the election, and might have been one key reason Ms. Thurber was able to win.
BEST imitation of a U.S. Senate campaign: The re-election campaign of Gov. Bob Taft, who went out of his way to obliterate Democratic challenger Tim Hagan. Mr. Taft defended his hard-charging campaign style by saying he could not trust public opinion polls that showed him a mile ahead. He gets no blame for that.
Sprinting to the finish line was perhaps the best way for the governor to say to all his potential competitors for the Senate seat that is expected to come open in 2006, when Mike DeWine returns home to run for governor, that he is the pre-eminent vote-winning Republican in Ohio, and is therefore the logical successor to Mr. DeWine.
Other Democrats were damaged by the election, a couple of them badly. Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri, the partisan leaders of their respective chambers who appeared to have advantages over their competitors, badly botched their election efforts, allowing President Bush and the Republicans to pick up seats, against all odds.
Miss Kaptur has staked out positions on key issues that appeal to the populist American voter who is disaffected because of the looming war against Iraq or the U.S. trade policy that seems designed to ship manufacturing jobs overseas.
It seems reasonable to predict that these two issues will still resonate as we begin to make choices for president next year.
The campaign that once seemed impossible is now merely unlikely.
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