Monday, August 22, 2005

Hackett for Senate?

The Cincinnati Post has an interesting article.

Democrats have yet to find a candidate to challenge Republican Sen. Mike DeWine next year. But one name that has been coming up a lot lately is Paul Hackett.

The tough talkin’ Iraq war veteran who came close to pulling off an upset in southwest Ohio’s special congressional election earlier this month has been discussing the Senate race with party leaders and is seriously considering jumping in, a Washington insider says.

So far, the talks have amounted to nothing more than a few phone conversations. But Democrats may try to bring Hackett to D.C. after Congress returns from its August recess to talk about the race some more, the source said.

The list of prospective challengers for DeWine got a little smaller when U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown of Lorain announced this week that he’s not interested. Another possible contender, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Youngstown, told the Youngstown Vindicator that he’s leaning against making the race.

With Brown out and Ryan on the fence, Hackett is starting to look like the heir apparent to some Democrats. Given his strong showing in the congressional race and DeWine’s perceived vulnerabilities, Democrats are convinced Hackett could unseat Ohio’s senior senator.

It’s not as if the Ohio Republican Party is in great shape as it is, what with Gov. Bob Taft pleading no contest to ethics violations and the current incumbent Mike DeWine seen as vulnerable by those in the know. So a run by Hackett could have instant appeal and could energize the Democrats who have been on the outs in Ohio for a while.

As Michael Crowley at TPM points out, Hackett’s rough edges may turn off some voters; referring to the president as a chickenhawk and a son of a bitch gave some more delicate and moderate voters the vapors. He may have to smooth it over for the state-wide campaign, but unless the Republicans can pull off a personality transplant and make Mike DeWine a True Believer, he’s gonna have a hell of a fight on his hands.

Add to that the race in Pennsylvania — Rick Santorum is in the fight of his life with Robert Casey, Jr. — and in Michigan where both Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Gov. Jennifer Granholm, both Democrats, are not facing serious challeneges as yet in ’06, three big states in the Rustbelt may be swinging back to the Democrats. If that happens, 2008 becomes very interesting.