Just two weeks ago, the situation was at least tolerable. Though what I have been calling ORPINO (the Ohio Republican Party in Name Only) was backing a residency-challenged candidate for secretary of state (more on that in a bit), it at least had the sense not to get in the way of proven fiscal conservative John Kasich’s outsider-framed effort. On January 14, Kasich selected current state auditor and rising star Mary Taylor as his running mate. This move justifiably led ORPINO chair Kevin DeWine to declare Kasich-Taylor “as strong a gubernatorial ticket as you will see on any ballot in any state.”
Then Kevin DeWine proceeded to complete his ruination of most of the rest of the ticket in the name of money and nepotism.
Until he decided he wanted to be Ohio’s next attorney general, Kevin’s relative, former U.S. Senator Mike DeWine, was last seen being repudiated twice by Buckeye State voters in a 17-month span in 2005-2006. First, despite spending $1 million, his son Pat finished a distant fourth in a June 2005 GOP primary race to fill an open congressional seat. That thrashing was accurately seen as a proxy repudiation of Mike over his participation in the Gang of 14 and other conservative-betraying votes. After yet another vote in November 2005 to stop drilling for oil in Alaska and a 2006 GOP primary where two completely underfunded challengers blockaded by ORPINO nonetheless took 28% of the vote, Mike DeWine lost his U.S. Senate reelection race against far-left Cleveland-area Congressman Sherrod Brown by a stunning 12 points.
Second-cousin Kevin and the ORPINO gang decided that this awful track record justified clearing the AG field for Mike, even though DeWine’s primary opponent Dave Yost had already racked up a 5-0 record in December and January GOP county endorsement meetings and had earned an intense level of tea party and other grassroots enthusiasm.
Nobody seems to want to own up to what Kevin and ORPINO did next, but all of a sudden early this week Yost, whose campaign slogan was “A Prosecutor, Not a Politician,” decided that he wanted to run for state auditor instead. Not coincidentally, ORPINO was also unhappy with the not-beholden CPA who had just started his own auditor campaign after Kasich selected Taylor.
So let’s review:
- At the top of the ticket, the party now has two formerly bulletproof candidates who stood around while their party apparatus rigged two down-ticket races. Their slogan is “A New Way, a New Day.” Really?
- In the secretary of state race, the party is running Jon Husted, a guy who currently represents a state senate district he admits to not living in and owns an empty house in the district he admits to not living in, while claiming that his SOS campaign headquarters is that empty house. He is supposed to convince voters that he’ll be the state’s steadfast enforcer of election laws in a state where ACORN ran wild in 2008. Uh huh.
- Attorney general candidate and Second Amendment skeptic Mike DeWine, four years removed from public office with no prosecutorial experience in almost three decades, is supposedly going to unseat a Second Amendment-supporting Democratic incumbent. Riiiiight.
- Now auditor candidate Dave Yost thinks we’ll all forget his betrayal of his supporters and that voters will be jazzed about a lawyer running for head bean-counter. Don’t count on it, bud.
- The only uncompromised candidate remaining is treasurer candidate Josh Mandel. The grassroots pray nightly that ORPINO leaves him alone.
Tea partiers who should be the Republican Party’s best friends in a state that has been horribly mismanaged during the past three years under Democratic Governor Ted Strickland are justifiably exasperated to the point where I understand that there is serious thought being given to going the third-party route in certain of the down-ticket races. I suspect that similar third-party moves are under consideration in other states and in higher-profile races. ORPINO and its compadres in other states will only have themselves to blame if this comes about.