Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Paul Hackett

Paul Hackett, a Marines reservist who has served in Iraq, ran as a Democrat in a special election for a seat in Ohio that has traditionally been very Republican. Nine months ago, the incumbent, Rob Portman, won almost 72 percent of the vote. Yesterday, Hackett fell short in his upset bid, but came much closer than the last Democrat did, garnering 48 percent of the vote. In other words, the margin dropped from 53 percent to four percent. The question is what this means. Liberal blogs are bragging that the Dems took the fight to the Republicans, and that even if Hackett lost, the fact that he was so close in a Republican stronghold suggests that Republicans are in trouble in the mid-term elections. I'm not so sure. I believe that the comparison to the last election is not nearly so significant for several reasons.
  1. This time the incumbent wasn't running -- instead, the Republicans threw out Jean Schmidt, someone who displayed herself as a reliable vote for Bush, but someone whose campaign hit several bumps along the way, including the whiff of scandal. It likely will be different in 2006 in the races where there's a solid incumbent, or even where they field a better first-time candidate.
  2. Last time the Democrats hardly contested this seat, and didn't pour in the amount of money they did for this single race. Had they challenged for this seat in the 2004 election, it's fair to presume that the race would have been closer, so while there's no doubt that things have changed, it's not clear how much is tied to a shift in the political winds and how much to the strong support Hackett received.
  3. Special elections have a much smaller voter turnout at large, and a greater turnout among interested groups, which raises he possibility that during a normal election, the margin would have been wider.
  4. Hackett deviated from the Democratic party line on several significant issues, most notably gun control. Would he have been so close had he followed the party line?
Truthfully, I don't know if the election result is truly a harbinger of good fortune for Dems in 2006. Still, yesterday's election should provide the Dems hope that they can make serious inroads in 2006, and maybe even take back the House.

1 comment:

Q said...

The conventional wisdom in Canada is that mid-term votes offer an opportunity for people to safely protest against the current government. In this case, people who usually vote Republican can safely vote Democrat, knowing that Dubya will still be in office the next day.

And I gather that Dubya is in trouble. Americans are beginning to realize that Iraq is a mess and there's no end in sight.

I know Democrats took the loss in the past election very hard, and there's a lot of soul-searching going on. But face it, Kerry ran an uninspiring campaign and gave Bush some openings that really damaged him.

I think the Democrats will likely take the White House in 2008, because things will only continue to deteriorate for President Bush.