Politics & Policy

Cleveland Plain Dealer Endorses John Kasich and Rob Portman

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, one of Ohio’s leading statewide news sources and also the paper of record for a city which is Ohio’s political equivalent of Chicago, has dropped a bomb shell on the Democrats — endorsing both Rob Portman for Senate and John Kasich for Governor.

This is an especially brutal slap in the face in the Senate race, where Lee Fisher, whose hometown is Cleveland, has probably been holding out hope for support, which this endorsement can only erode.

Highlights from the Portman endorsement:

Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, Portman’s Democratic opponent in the contest to replace the retiring George Voinovich, is a talented and smart public servant who’s long appeared to have a clear compass about Northeast Ohio’s needs and the state’s economic development agenda in general. Yet after listening to both candidates for months now and watching how each man has conducted his campaign, there is no doubt that Republican Portman, 54, is better prepared to represent these interests as well as to tackle the weighty national issues that will come before the Senate.[…]

Portman has in many ways duplicated what Ohio’s soon-to-be senior senator, Sherrod Brown, did four years ago in his return to the statewide stage. The comparison to Brown may unsettle admirers of both men. Portman’s approach to most issues is as predictably conservative as Brown’s is liberal. But for all the focus on Capitol Hill ideological gridlock, a lot of a senator’s work involves seeking practical solutions to specific local concerns.[…]

Fisher’s campaign for the Senate — an effort we supported in his primary against Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner — has been a profound disappointment.

In the 1990s, Fisher was an advocate of Bill Clinton’s “third way” approach and campaigned as a moderate New Democrat. As Gov. Ted Strickland’s development director until he surrendered that hat to run for the Senate, Fisher cultivated a pro-business image. That’s why we have so much trouble recognizing the candidate who’s running for the Senate by bashing foreign trade and clinging to the party line at every turn. It’s a cookie-cutter approach Democrats around the country are using. It not only doesn’t fit Fisher very well, it also revives the old criticism that he is a political chameleon.

And from the Kasich endorsement:

The easy option would be to endorse Strickland, a dutiful caretaker steeped in public policy minutiae.Anchor At least you know what you’d get. But therein lies the problem.

Strickland, 69, suffers from limited imagination and political timidity; at times, he seems almost shellshocked by the loss of 400,000 jobs on his watch. He told The Toledo Blade last week that his administration should have moved faster to prevent Ohio businesses from fleeing to other states. He has consistently mistaken talk for action, produced budgets held together with bubble gum and twine and allowed his team to adopt a siege mentality. He stumbled badly on gambling, treated Ohio’s cities as stepchildren and, in a shameful kowtow to his union allies, waged war on effective charter schools.

Even when his heart and mind are in the right place, Strickland can’t or won’t be daring. He ran for governor in 2006 — with this editorial page’s support — promising to overhaul public education. After more than two years of study, he unveiled a blueprint for Ohio’s classrooms that fobbed off many of the toughest decisions, including how to pay for it all, on some future administration.

Add to those disappointments Strickland’s relentlessly negative campaign, his inability to articulate a vision for the state and the ennui that overtakes most lame-duck administrations, and there’s little reason for excitement about Ohio’s future under his leadership.[…]

But then consider the needs of this state. Ohio needs to jumpstart an economy that was struggling even before the Great Recession. It needs to convince skeptical investors that its many assets — top-shelf colleges and research institutions, solid transportation infrastructure, abundant freshwater, a Midwestern work ethic and a revamped tax code — matter more than its reputation for stodginess and conflict. It needs to convince its ambitious young people that this is a great place to dream, innovate and achieve. And, for now anyway, it needs to do it all while digging out of a giant budget hole.

A can-do, roll-the-dice mindset just might enable Ohio to regain its self-confidence and sell itself to the world. Kasich has it; nice guy Ted Strickland never will.

What a smack-down.

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