Ohio2006 Blog

News, analysis, and comments on Ohio elections.

Monday, April 17

Cong. OH-13: Sawyer (D) Meets the Bloggers

I attended the Meet the Bloggers session with former Rep. Tom Sawyer (D-Akron) at Cafe Momus in Akron on Saturday. Pho of Pho's Norka Pages, Tim of Democracy Guy and Buckeye State Blog, Kyle and Tara from The Chief Source, Jason of Psychobilly Democrat, and George of Brewed Fresh Daily were also there, along with the candidate's spouse, Joyce Sawyer, and a few other folks I didn't get a chance to meet. Reporter Alex Parker of the Lorain Morning Journal, who talked to me on the telephone previously, was apparently one of the others in the room since the session is featured prominently in his excellent article about the effect of blogs on the 13th Congressional race.

Let me start by saying that I like Sawyer. He is knowledgable, sincere, genial, thoughtful, unflappable, comfortable with himself. He is remarkably well-read and articulate when talking about the issues he cares about. I have no doubt about his integrity (despite the efforts by primary opponents to make hay over trips he took during his prior service in Congress, and a recent late payment of taxes), and he is plainly correct to emphasize his experience and knowledge as these factors help his candidacy. He is also "good looking" in a relevant way. He has a direct manner, a handsome sort of square-jawed look, and enough gray to appear very distinguished. He seems like the kind of candidate that many voters will feel comfortable voting for: a likable, trustable, familiar face, a safe harbor in scary and uncertain times.

My concern about him is whether he can be inspiring, and whether he can be tough. I see this as the kind of election where Democratic voters need to feel inspired by the candidates in order for them to be motivated to go out and vote. All the polls show that the voters on the whole are disgusted with the Republicans, but the approval numbers for the Democratic Party are not especially great, and turnout in special elections (such as the recent one in California's 50th Congressional District) have not been high. In order for the Democrats to benefit from the kind of transformative election in 2006 that the Republicans experienced in 2004, I feel like the Democrats need to field candidates whose passion is palpable, whose enthusiasm is infectious. Hence the inspirational part of my concern.

Since all of this is evident to the Republicans, and since they feel like they will have a shot in the 13th District with Lorain mayor Craig Foltin as their candidate, I also want a candidate who is really tough. I expect a well-funded and nasty Republican campaign in the fall, and I want to make sure that the Democrat will be forceful and immediate in defending against attacks. Sawyer's campaign to date has been low-key (no web site, no army of volunteers, very little advertising). Can he turn aggressive when needed? On this score I was pleased to hear him decline when Tim asked if he would pledge not to run negative ads during the primary. Instead he said that he never launches negative advertising, but he will respond when attacked. I also liked that he distinguished his support for civility and good working relationships in Congress from seeking bipartisanship with a Republican House leadership that has spurned it. However, I was left with some uncertainty about how hard-edged he will be when that is needed in the fall. He described his campaign so far as a "thread the needle" campaign, a "don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes" campaign. Will he successfully ramp up the energy, the fund-raising, the media and internet presence, and the rapid-response sharpness in the gerenal election?

Bottom line, I liked the guy, was impressed with his demeanor and experience, feel like he would be fine as a Congressman, but was left feeling a little unsure whether he can display the zeal and aggressiveness to really energize this Congressional race.


At 12:23 PM, Blogger Kyle said...

I thought your fire in the belly question was excellent. Good work.

At 12:49 PM, Blogger OHi3 said...

I appreciate the thoughtfulness of your comments. A pet peeve I have developed recently, however, is that political analysis [these days] seems to too often revolve around perceptions of what other perceptions might be.
Additionally, maybe voters are sick of the rah, rah. Trust your instincts: he's got more integrity and credibilty than the rest of the candidates combines.

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