Ohio2006 Blog

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Tuesday, November 21

Sen: John Ryan Provides Blow-by-Blow Account of Campaign

John Ryan, who took a leave of absence from his position as Executive Secretary of the Cleveland AFL-CIO to run the U.S. Senate campaign of Sherrod Brown (D-Avon), has posted a lengthy, detailed description of the race at Huffington Post.

Historically, he compares the race to Howard Metzenbaum ousting Bob Taft in the wake of Watergate in 1976, which was in fact the last time that an incumbent Ohio Senator lost. Much of the essay is devoted to Brown's "put the middle class first" message, which eclipsed so-called values issues and resonated all across Ohio, even in rural areas. Together with an emphasis on practical strategies to reach rural and small-town Ohioans (bus tours, radio interviews, and small-venue appearances by spouse and family members as surrogates), the middle class message helped Brown outgain 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry all across the state, but especially in counties that went strongly for Bush. Brown didn't win many of those counties outright, but he gained a lot of votes there by losing more narrowly than Kerry. Partnering with gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland in the latter's southeastern Ohio base also helped greatly in that area.

The best part of the essay is the chronology of the ad war. Despite being outspent overall, Brown succeeded by having stronger, more message-oriented ads; punching back hard on national security; and emphasizing Brown's distinctive voice and demeanor. Bottom line, people like how Brown looks and sounds while Mike DeWine's more personal ads (speaking directly to the camera from his porch, living room and kitchen) were a disaster. DeWine also flubbed two of his negative ads, using a doctored photo of the World Trade Center in his early 9/11-themed attack ad and exaggerating a nonpayment-of-taxes incident in a late attack ad (to the extent that many TV stations stopped airing it).

Near the conclusion Ryan argues that Brown's success provides a model not just for other progressive legislative candidates, but for 2008 presidential hopefuls looking to carry the critical swing state of Ohio.

Of course, I was disappointed to find no mention of blogs or the internet. I should think that the unhappy episode of Paul Hackett's brief primary campaign and the role of the netroots in healing the resulting rift in the base would deserve at least a mention. Oh, well. Still a very interesting, informative account.

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