A month after an election with mixed results for the small-government cause, Ohio conservatives are suffering through a very public GOP power struggle. Governor Kasich’s push to replace Ohio Republican Party (ORP) chairman Kevin DeWine has national implications: the Issue 2 campaign proved how low Democrats, Progressives, and unions (but I repeat myself) are willing to go to win the Buckeye state.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Barack Obama would love nothing more than an Ohio divided, so let’s get this over with.
Even without the laundry list of inside-baseball complaints cited by House Speaker Bill Batchelder, it makes more sense than you might expect to oust DeWine despite ORP’s success riding the 2010 tea party wave.
Too many ORP leaders from the Taft era (concluded in 2007 amid scandal, scandal, scandal, and more scandal) were unprincipled go-along-to-get-along “moderates,” and signs abound that Kevin DeWine falls into that category. How could DeWine expect to chair an effective party in 2012 – to say nothing of 2014 – given his fracas with Governor Kasich? Why should anyone in the POTUS field trust that campaign stops with DeWine will reach the voters they need to reach?
Case in point, Romney and DeWine’s botched October visit to a Cincinnati call center, where Romney failed to endorse either of the issues volunteers were working to pass. Commentators speculated that Romney was being used as part of an ongoing DeWine/Kasich feud – not exactly the press coverage you want in a key swing state.
In early 2010, solid conservative candidates lined up for the attorney general and auditor races. ORP had other plans: enter Mike DeWine, Chairman DeWine’s cousin and a former US senator (lifetime ACU rating: 79.8) unseated by Sherrod Brown in a 2006 election fraught with Iraq war fatigue and aforementioned Taft-era scandals.
ORP nudged Dave Yost into running for auditor instead of attorney general, bumping Seth Morgan out of the picture to make room for Attorney General DeWine. DeWine narrowly defeated Richard Cordray – now President Obama’s Vital Bureaucrat of the Week – but DeWine family maneuvering contributed to lingering distrust between ORP and Ohio conservatives.
Chairman DeWine has also taken heat for his allegiance to Jon Husted. Husted, a former speaker of the Ohio House, positioned himself as a conservative during the 2010 secretary of state campaign only to kneecap election reform a year later. When the House tried to pass a photo-ID voting requirement, Secretary Husted opposed the measure, handing a rhetorical victory to the Ohio Democratic Party’s race-baiters and class-warriors.
Whatever DeWine’s merits or Kasich’s mistakes, Ohio needs Republican leaders on the same page going into 2012. DeWine should step down, Kasich should offer a replacement conservatives can rally behind, and we should all get back to work against Sherrod Brown and Barack Obama.
Follow Jason on Twitter: @jasonahart