GOP's Ohio Double Play

By Chris Cillizza
Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A new television commercial running in Ohio's 6th District sure sounds as if it has mean things to say about Bob Carr. He is supposedly a "liberal Democrat" who wants to overturn President Bush's tax cuts and is "too far left to work with Republicans in Washington."

Them's fightin' words, all right -- but their real target is not Carr.

The ad is paid for by the National Republican Congressional Committee, whose strategists -- trying their best to channel the spirit of Niccolo Machiavelli -- actually are hoping to damage another Democrat, state Sen. Charlie Wilson.

This gets a bit complicated. The Democratic primary is May 2. Republican strategists believe that Wilson would be by far the strongest candidate this fall. But Wilson has a race on his hands, largely because he is hoping to win as a write-in candidate. That is because earlier this year -- in a blunder that would have won no applause from Machiavelli -- Wilson failed to collect the signatures to qualify for the ballot.

The NRCC, Republican and Democratic strategists privately agree, would pay for an ad attacking Carr for one reason only: They want to help him in the primary. Being called an anti-Bush liberal, after all, is the best endorsement one could get for many of the people who will vote in the primary.

If Carr wins, there is no reason to suppose that he will be a formidable candidate in this open district, being vacated as incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland runs for governor. Carr once ran a hapless campaign, as a Republican , in Michigan. He lost that race in 1996 to Rep. Bart Stupak (D) by 71 percent to 27 percent.

Carl Forti, NRCC communications director, refused to comment, saying that his committee does not discuss internal strategy.

Bill Burton, Forti's counterpart at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said it's "no surprise that national Republicans would back the Republican in a Democratic primary in Ohio."

This is not the first time the NRCC has dabbled in a Democratic primary. In 2000, House Republicans targeted Rep. Michael P. Forbes (D-N.Y.), who had switched parties (from Republican to Democratic) in July 1999. Republicans sent out a slew of direct mail highlighting Forbes's conservative positions on abortion and guns -- issues sure to turn true-blue Democratic primary voters against him. The NRCC also used phone banks to echo those attacks and cast septuagenarian librarian Regina Seltzer as the best choice in the primary.

Forbes outspent Seltzer, but the unknown librarian beat the congressman by 35 votes.

Eight States Seek Early Caucus

Eight states seeking to vault into the influential early days of the 2008 nominating process submitted proposals to the Democratic National Committee late last week.

The states -- Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada and South Carolina -- will have a chance to make their case in person when the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee meets tomorrow in New Orleans as part of the committee's spring gathering.

Earlier this year, the committee tentatively approved a plan that would add one or two caucuses between Iowa's caucuses and New Hampshire's primary in 2008 -- a change that grew from protests within the party that the presidential selection process was neither geographically nor ethnically diverse. At issue is how many states to add before the electoral "window" opens on Feb. 5, 2008, after which any state can hold a nominating contest.

The handicapping of which state or states might land the coveted slot between Iowa and New Hampshire is underway.

The early front-runner is Nevada -- it's Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid's home state, it has a strong organized-labor presence, and about one-fifth of its population is Hispanic. Nevada is also a less-populous state (like Iowa and New Hampshire), and party leaders have emphasized adding contests where grass-roots politicking, not television advertising, is decisive in determining the winner.

The Rules and Bylaws Committee will announce its pick (or picks) this fall.

Cillizza is a staff writer for washingtonpost.com. The Fix, his online politics column, runs daily athttp://www.washingtonpost.com/thefix.


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