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RealClearPolitics Politics Nation Blog

 

Blog Home Page --> House -- Ohio -- 05

GOP Wins Both Specials

Two special elections held today, both in strong Republican districts, stuck to their party registration tonight, as both Virginia 01 and Ohio 05 elected new GOP members of Congress.

With all but one precinct reporting, State Rep. Rob Wittman has won the special election for the 1st District of Virginia 61%-37% over Democrat Philip Forgit, replacing the late Rep. Jo Ann Davis who died in October.

In Northwest Ohio, the race to replace the late Rep. Paul Gillmor caused Republicans some heartache. The party spent more than $425,000 to retain the seat, though State Rep. Bob Latta retained the seat for Republicans. Latta won 57% to Democrat Robin Wierach's 43%.

Though Democrats seemed optimistic about opportunities presented by Wittman and Latta's seats, Republicans held their own. The party swatted away Democratic hopes of stealing a seat; had Democrats succeeded, they would have perpetuated the storyline that Republicans were in a disastrous environment.

-- Kyle Trygstad and Reid Wilson

Sunday Quick Hits

Good Sunday morning. Some news as we wait to watch Rudy Giuliani face his most dangerous foe: Tim Russert.

-- Democrats got good news in New Mexico on Friday when Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez announced he would not run for retiring Sen. Pete Domenici's seat, leaving Rep. Tom Udall unopposed by any major candidate for the nomination. Udall will face the winner of the Republican primary between Reps. Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce, and while polls have shown Udall leading both candidates, their cases won't be helped by a long and difficult primary in which they both tack right in order to win over GOP voters.

-- Just a few days before Ohio voters head to the polls to pick a replacement for the late Rep. Paul Gillmor, Democrats and Republicans are dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into the race. Republicans have $388,000 in television time reserved through Tuesday's election, while Democrats are firing back with $237,000 in air time, the Toledo Blade reports. Democrats are attacking Republican Bob Latta for voting to raise taxes thanks to the 2003 budget, while the NRCC is hitting Democrat Robin Weirauch for her positions on illegal immigration and the estate tax. The district is heavily Republican, as RCP's Kyle Trygstad wrote, but Democrats must think they have a real shot, given the amount of money they've dropped.

-- Longitme Louisiana Republican Rep. Jim McCrery will not run for re-election in 2008, Politico reports. McCrery was in line to chair the House Ways and Means Committee before Democrats retook the chamber in 2006. McCrery opens a solidly Republican seat that the GOP will likely retain. His retirement, though, opens the third seat on the powerful committee for 2008: Reps. Jim Ramstad and Jerry Weller have also announced they will step down as well.

-- In Minnesota, Democrats might have trouble getting a nominee out of a convention unscathed as they seek to bring down freshman Sen. Norm Coleman. The AP reports one AFSCME council, centered in large cities, is backing comedian Al Franken, while another, though smaller council focusing on county government employees is backing attorney Mike Ciresi. Both candidates have pledged to abide by the results of a Democratic convention, but in Minnesota candidates who lose the convention frequently force a later, expensive primary. If Ciresi, independently wealthy, and Franken, able to raise large sums of money, head to a one-on-one showdown, Democrats may pick a wounded nominee to take on Coleman.

-- As Auditor Crit Luallen officially bowed out of the race against Sen. Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, three other candidates are cropping up. Ryan Alessi, the Lexington Herald-Leader's indispensable political columnist, points to businessmen Charlie Owen and Greg Fischer and attorney and Iraq war veteran Andrew Horne as potential Democratic candidates. Owen ran for the seat in 1998, though he didn't make it out of the primary, and was the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor in 2003. Horne ran for Congress in 2006, losing to now-Rep. John Yarmuth in the Democratic primary. Fischer has not run for office before, though he is likely to spend a significant amount of his own money on the bid.

-- Attack phone calls aren't exclusive to the presidential campaign. Rep. Mark Udall, a Democrat running for a Republican-held Senate seat in Colorado, found that out the hard way this week when Common Sense Issues, a group best known for aiding Mike Huckabee in Iowa, began running a new round of calls against him, the Rocky Mountain News reported yesterday. The group is also running television advertisements, while the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee says Common Sense Issues is coordinating with Republican Bob Schaffer's campaign and the Colorado GOP. Both Schaffer and Colorado GOP chair Dick Wadhams deny the charge.

A Man Of Few Words

Speaking with Real Clear Politics yesterday, State Representative and OH-5 candidate Bob Latta said things are "going well" and that he'll be "campaigning heavily" throughout the weekend for Tuesday's special election against Democrat Robin Weirauch in Ohio's 5th Congressional District. As a member of the Legislature, which was in session on Tuesday, he had to take a timeout from the trail, but says he's back on the road in the vast northwestern Ohio district.

Asked about the TV ad that the DCCC had run in the district tying him to Tom Noe, the Republican fundraiser and convicted felon, and former Governor Bob Taft, Latta said, "You mean the one we had pulled?" Asked about the influence of national groups on the campaign, he simply said, "It's a free country."

-- Kyle Trygstad

Update: This week, money continues to fly into the district. The NRCC has spent more than $366,000 on ads and mail against Latta's Democratic foe, Robin Weirauch. The NRCC and the National Rifle Association spent another $10,000 backing Latta. Democrats have dumped about $85,000 into the race this week alone.

Why the spending disparity? Are Republicans seeing unfavorable poll numbers and panicking? A loss would be devastating, though the national media has paid little attention to the seat, meaning a narrow win, such as Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Niki Tsongas had over Republican Jim Ogonowski, would still be counted as a win. In Tsongas's case, the closeness of the victory was attributed to Ogonowski's outsider populism, which rang true with many local voters.

In reality, Tsongas carried the district with about the same percentage of votes as Gov. Deval Patrick had in 2006. If Latta wins a close election, it may be more telling than Tsongas' narrow win. If he loses, it will be one more nail in the GOP coffin.

-- Reid Wilson

DCCC's OH 05 Optimism

Ohio's 5th District, vacant since the September death of Rep. Paul Gillmor, appears on the surface to be a Republican lock. But the DCCC may think otherwise, what with its recent major ad buy. And a closer look at the district may show why.

True, President Bush did win the district with 61% in 2004, while Gillmor carried it that year with 67%. But in the Democratic year of 2006, Gillmor's take dropped 10 points. Conversely, Robin Weirauch, the 2004, 2006 and now 2007 Democratic nominee jumped 10 points from 33% to 43% between 2004 and 2006.

But the 20-point turnaround between elections had little to do with Weirauch winning over more voters, and everything to do with Republicans not showing up to the polls. In 2004, Gillmor received 196,649 votes to Weirauch's 96,659. In 2006, his vote total plunged to 129,813, while Weirauch's remained about even at 98,544.

Weirauch will have to hope that the trend between '04 and '06 continues in '07, but she'll absolutely need to pick up some more Democratic voters to upset Latta. And the DCCC knows well that a win in December 2007 makes a win in November 2008 far easier.

An interesting battle for votes will take place in Wood County, the district's largest county and home to the university town of Bowling Green and some Toledo suburbs. Republican Bob Latta represents the county in the state House, and carried it in the 2006 state elections with 57%. Though Weirauch did not win one county in 2006, she came closest in Wood, taking 49.6% of the vote against Gillmor.

If Latta loses his home county, where he's served in the state Senate and House since 1996, he may have reason to sweat a bit. But Weirauch will still need to make up a ton of ground in the other counties she finished closest in 2006 to overcome the 31,000+ vote margin she lost to Gillmor by. Those counties include: Defiance, Fulton, Henry, Huron and Sandusky.

By November 21, the latest FEC reporting date for this special election, she had already spent more than she had the entire 2006 election cycle. If she were to win, with one week to go that spending would need to continue to increase, and fast. And while the goal is to get out more Democratic voters, winning will require even more Republicans staying home.

-- Kyle Trygstad

That's A Latta Lead

There is some whispering, albeit from only the most optimistic Democrats, that an upcoming special election in Ohio's 5th Congressional District might be winnable. A new poll, conducted on behalf of the NRCC, shows any optimism might be better used on another race. For now, the seat once held by the late Rep. Paul Gillmor looks like just what Republicans need: A win.

The poll, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, a well-respected Republican polling firm, tested State Rep. Bob Latta, who won a heavily contested Republican primary, and Robin Weirauch, who ran against Gillmor in 2004 and 2006. It was conducted 11/11-12 and surveyed 350 likely voters, for a margin of error of +/- 5.24%.

General Election Matchup
Latta 50
Weirauch 36

Generic Congressional Ballot
Republican 45
Democrat 37

Despite a nasty primary, in which Latta took hit after hit from the Club for Growth, 88% of Republicans say they will choose the GOP nominee, indicating that time heals at least most wounds in the district. In two nail-biters statewide, President Bush easily carried the 5th District, taking 59% in 2000 and 61% in 2004. The general election will be held December 11.

Morning Thoughts: Always On Time

BETTENDORF, IOWA -- Good Wednesday morning. Politics Nation is an American League fan (though not as extreme as some people), so we're not purists, but replay in Major League Baseball? That's a pretty slippery slope. Here's what Washington is watching today:

-- The House and Senate today will hold a joint meeting to hear from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is in the middle of his first official visit to the U.S. The Senate will then consider the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill conference report. A story line Democrats must be thrilled about: In the ongoing battle over federal spending, a category into which Republicans hoped to lump SCHIP, the House voted overwhelmingly to override President Bush's veto of the Water Resources Development Act, a margin that is expected to be repeated in the Senate. How effective is an argument if a majority of your caucus votes against it? That's a question the GOP will have to wrestle with as funding battles continue.

-- Democrats waking up after election day have reason to be happy. The party reclaimed the Kentucky Governor's mansion and the Virginia State Senate and held on to the New Jersey Senate. For full results of the races we were watching, click here. Chris Cillizza offers his take here.

-- In the special election to replace the late Rep. Paul Gillmor, in Northwest Ohio's 5th Congressional District, State Rep. Bob Latta appears to have fended off a tough fight from State Sen. Steve Buehrer in the Republican primary. The race at times was spectacularly nasty, with Buehrer and Latta trading personal barbs and the Club for Growth weighing in heavily on Buehrer's behalf. Latta will likely cruise to a win in the December 11 runoff against Democrat Robin Weirauch, who ran against Gillmor in 2004 and 2006.

-- Here in Bettendorf, Barack Obama plans to outline his path to reclaiming the American dream. In a town hall meeting last night in Cedar Rapids, Obama was not asked about rival Hillary Clinton, but he took the opportunity to offer distinctions between the two anyway. This morning, Obama will offer a similar critique. "We're not going to reclaim that dream unless we put an end to the politics of polarization and division that is holding this country back; unless we stand up to the corporate lobbyists that have stood in the way of progress; unless we have leadership that doesn't just tell people what they want to hear -- but tells everyone what they need to know. That's the change we need," Obama plans to say, per excerpts provided by the campaign. Look for Obama to continue drawing more marked distinctions with Clinton throughout the day, and at virtually every campaign stop he makes in Iowa.

-- The Cedar Rapids event was somewhat marred when the candidate showed up almost an hour after the advertised 7 p.m. start time. Obama isn't the only candidate to leave a crowd waiting. Rudy Giuliani has faced complaints about his on-time record. One reporter suggested to Politics Nation that Obama was so late it merited a story, and another, the New York Times' Jeff Zeleny, reported that story. Being late once will probably have little effect on the campaign, but if it becomes a pattern, Iowa voters, who take the character part of a candidate notoriously seriously, will likely take note.

-- A sign for the Mike Huckabee campaign: He's beginning to be attacked by candidates and prominent officials on the Republican side, including more than just the Club for Growth. That's both good and bad for the former governor. Good, because it means he's reached a point where other candidates see him as a threat. Bad, because he doesn't necessarily have the money to respond. "I like him and he certainly is somebody who can give a stemwinder, but I have learned so many things about his waffling positions," said top conservative Paul Weyrich, who announced his support for Mitt Romney last week. Funny, isn't that the same thing some were saying about Romney?

-- Elsewhere in the GOP, Rudy Giuliani today wins the backing of Christian conservative patriarch Pat Robertson. Robertson is a huge get for the mayor, who has had problems with social conservatives. Speculation mounted earlier this week that the nod might come from Sen. Sam Brownback, the former presidential candidate with whom Giuliani met two weeks ago. The campaign shot down that rumor, and the big surprise today is that Brownback will instead announce his support for John McCain in Dubuque, Iowa. Brownback had something of a following in Iowa, and McCain had already picked up several top Brownback aides in the state. The move is another step toward McCain making a serious play for the Hawkeye State.

-- Finally on the GOP side, Fred Thompson appears to be making a real effort, counteracting a long-held image as a lazy campaigner. Thompson, campaigning yesterday in South Carolina, took shots at Romney for spending his own money on ads in the state. "Governor, you can't buy South Carolina," Thompson said, per Jonathan Martin. "You can't even rent South Carolina." The comments came the same day Thompson launched his first campaign ads of the cycle and in the middle of what has been Thompson's most grueling campaign week to date, with stops in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Tennessee, writes the Post's Michael Shear. Thompson will be in Iowa next week as his campaign begins to resemble the intensity of the rest of the field.

-- Study Guide Of The Day: USA Today posts a definite must-read for any political junkie as they run down the "what's at stake" question for all 50 states. Read, remember, then wow your friends at cocktail parties.

-- Today On The Trail: Obama delivers his speech in Bettendorf, then holds town hall meetings in Muscatine and Burlington before ending his day in Fort Madison, Iowa. John Edwards addresses the Politics & Eggs crowd in Bedford, New Hampshire, then holds a town hall in Amherst. Hillary Clinton campaigns today in Peterborough and Nashua.

-- On the GOP side, Mike Huckabee is in Cedar Falls, Waterloo and Vinton, Iowa. Mitt Romney is in Columbia and Hilton Head, South Carolina, while Fred Thompson hits Greenville before attending the Country Music Awards in Nashville. Rudy Giuliani gets that endorsement in Washington before campaigning in West Columbia, South Carolina. And John McCain campaigns in Livonia, Michigan, before talking with the press in Grand Rapids.

Tomorrow's Forecast

In The West Wing, as President Jed Bartlett is running for re-election, one character gets nervous because it's raining in Oregon on Election Day. A later scene shows Will Bailey, played by Joshua Malina, precipitously looks to the heavens and asks for rain just hours before the polls close, leaving his candidate, we are led to believe, the winner.

Rain, the theory goes, depresses voter turnout. Other weather can also have a dampening effect on turnout. Here, then, with the Official Real Clear Politics Election Day Weather Forecast, special RCP Weather Correspondent Steve Shepard:

A cold front currently across the Ohio River valley will affect weather conditions in the following areas, bringing with it light precipitation and the coldest air of the season thus far.

Virginia: Mainly light rain showers associated with a cold front should clear out from west to east (overnight across the Blue Ridge, by daybreak in the Northern Va. suburbs of D.C., and by lunchtime in the Tidewater area), and skies will clear by afternoon. It will be breezy, with high temperatures ranging from the mid 40s across the higher elevations, to 55 in the D.C. suburbs, and into the lower 60s south and east.

New Jersey: Morning showers will give way to sun, clouds, and brisk winds in the afternoon. Highs will range from the upper 40s north and west to the mid 50s down the shore.

Mississippi: North: Sunny and cooler, with highs in the mid 50s. Along the Gulf Coast, a slight chance of a shower, otherwise more clouds than sun, with temperatures in the upper 60s to near 70.

Kentucky: Sunny, and much colder, with highs only in the 40s across much of the Commonwealth, which is between 20-30 degrees colder than today. Breezy along the Cumberland Plateau.

Toledo, Ohio [Ed. note: The primary election to replace the late Rep. Paul Gillmore takes place in Ohio's 5th District tomorrow]: Cloudy and colder. Scattered rain and snow showers are possible, though there will be no snow accumulation. Brisk west winds will make temperatures feel a bit colder than the lower 40s.