Yes, that’s right: Paul Hackett, the man who got the whole veteran/Democratic candidate movement going, has decided to drop out of the Ohio U.S. Senate race. Not only that, but he’s decided to withdraw from politics altogether.
Frankly, I’m genuinely conflicted about this. Hackett was one of those guys that I was really excited about. I was looking forward to supporting him, and I thought that his presence could truly shake things up. In a general election against Mike DeWine, Hackett would have been the favorite.
Now? Let’s just say I have a hard time getting jazzed up by Sherrod Brown. While Brown may be a progressive, and has been steadfast in his opposition to the Bush Administration’s initiatives, he hasn’t impressed me with his performance in the stump.
Unlike the vast legions of commenters at, say, DailyKos, I’m open to persuasion that Brown could win. I don’t see it, but I’m not ruling it out.
The worst thing about this spectacle–and it is a spectacle–is that no one involved looks good. Hackett, despite being recruited by Rahm Emanuel to run against either Jean Schmidt (of Murtha-smearing infamy) again or Bob McEwen, turned down that race, saying that he had made a promise to the various candidates currently running that he wouldn’t run.
To which I say–so what? None of these candidates (Thor Jacobs, Jim Parker, or Jeff Sinnard) are serious candidates? How can I say that? Simple–money talks, and these folks haven’t raised enough money to talk; none of them have even raised $5,000, the amount at which you have to file with the FEC. Even if they raise $5,000 or even $50,000, they won’t pose the serious challenge to the GOP in that district that Hackett would have.
Ron Gunzberger of Politics1.com quoted an Ohio GOP insider as saying that Hackett would have beaten either Schmidt or McEwen in that district, but then he would have been a one-termer. It’s true: Hackett would never have had an easy race in the Ohio Second, the way Brown had a safe seat in the Ohio Thirteenth.
Let’s face it, though: the three strongest competitors in that area were Jean Schmidt, Bob McEwen, and Tom Brinkman. Schmidt’s too mean, McEwen’s too slick, and Brinkman’s too crazy (I mean Blackwell and Tom Coburn crazy). Who’s left on the bench? Heimlich? Too extreme. Incumbency works both ways, and after an election or two, Hackett would have had a level of safety that other Democrats wouldn’t have had.
So Hackett’s quitting politics, despite everyone telling him not to. And he’s taking potshots along the way, which ensure that a return to politics is almost definitely impossible.
The party leadership? Absolutely inept. There was a right way to do this, and a wrong way. In every way, it was the wrong way. By pressuring him publically, Rahm Emanuel made it well-nigh impossible for Hackett to save face if he were to decide to drop out of the Senate race and run for the House instead.
Furthermore, the press release by Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory was a stunning example of golden incompetence. This famous release, which thanked Hackett for dropping out of the Senate race and deciding to run for Congress, didn’t help matters at all–and probably hurt them, maybe beyond repair. I mean, how do you issue a release which is provably false? I’m not saying that Mayor Mallory signed off on it; but whatever press flack did should get canned.
It was an open secret that the Powers That Be didn’t want a primary; they wanted to save their firepower (however wise or unwise of a decision that may be) for the fall to use against DeWine.
There was a right way and a wrong way to do this, though. Sen. Schumer, Sen. Reid, and everyone else concerned should have sat down with Hackett and Brown in June of last year, and spelled something like this out:
We know you both want to run for the Senate. Fine. You have until Labor Day to decide one way or the other. But you have to decide. If the Labor Day deadline passes, and no one’s in, then the first one in gets the prize. Paul, if Sherrod decides to run, you should really consider running for Congress again; we’ll pull out the stops for you, and you can run for Voinovich’s seat in 2010. Sherrod, once you make a decision, stick to it; you can’t revisit it and change your mind; if you decide to run, great. If not, great. But let’s not kill each other to get to half-time.
I don’t know how likely that would have been; I’d like to think it would have happened, but I think both men’s ego’s are so great that nothing would have come of it.
So long, Paul; I hardly knew ye, and I would have liked to know ye more.