In Ohio’s Second Congressional District, adjacent to the one where I grew up and where two of my brothers currently reside, George W. Bush took 64% of the vote in the 2004 presidential election, two points higher than Barack Obama’s performance in the Bay State in the fall of 2008. Nine months after W’s romp in that district, there was a special election when Rob Portman, the district’s Congressman, stepped down to take up the post of U.S Trade Representative. The Republican nominee, Jean Schmidt barely edged out attorney and Iraq War veteran Paul Hackett (51.6% to 48.4%).
While a weak candidate (but decent person), Schmidt has managed to hold on to the seat by the skin of her teeth in the two succeeding elections.
In the 1995 special, the enthusiasm and energy was clearly on Hackett’s side. The left-wing blogs were clearly energized for him as the conservative blogs today are energized about the candidacy of Scott Brown in the Bay State. Brown may well be winning “the battle of the blogosphere”, but, a Paul Hackett learned, “That’s not where elections are settled“. Still, it is “something.”
This is not to say that Brown will suffer Hackett’s fate, but to offer a cautionary tale.
Would Hackett have fared any better had the special election been held after Hurricane Katrina when Bush’s poll numbers began their irreversible decline and the left became increasingly energized? We don’t know, but we do know that the energy right now is clearly on the right, even in the Bay State. But that’s not always enough to win elections.
Still, should Brown make this a close race, it could well signal a coming Republican tide as the 2005 race in Ohio-2 was a “harbinger of the 2006 midterm elections nationally.”