Paul Hackett doesn't fit conventional political profiles. He is a Marine Reservist and an Iraq war veteran who opposed the war before the U.S. invasion and remains a harsh critic of President Bush's policy there. He is also a Democrat battling to win a special House election in Ohio in a district that has been in Republican hands for more than three decades.
On Tuesday, voters in Ohio's 2nd Congressional District will elect a successor to former representative Rob Portman, who quit Congress to become U.S. trade representative. Hackett hopes to beat the long odds by defeating Republican nominee Jean Schmidt, a former state representative, by stressing his military service and independence.
A lawyer and a major in the Marine Reserves, Hackett volunteered last year to serve in Iraq and spent seven months there in a civilian affairs job, including service around Ramadi and Fallujah. He returned to Ohio in March and decided to jump into the race for Portman's seat, seeking to become the first Iraq war veteran elected to Congress.
His campaign has drawn support from Democrats across the country. Liberal blogs have defended him from GOP attacks. Former Ohio senator John Glenn, another former Marine, sent a message to online supporters of Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) asking them to pitch in financially. Democracy for America, the organization founded by former Vermont governor Howard Dean, says it has raised $80,000 for Hackett.
Schmidt, who won a crowded GOP primary, has charged that Hackett's views don't fit with those of voters in conservative southwest Ohio, where Bush won 64 percent of the vote last November. But the outspoken Democratic nominee hasn't been shy about bad-mouthing the president.
Hackett told USA Today that Bush's taunting line, "Bring 'em on!" was "the most incredibly stupid comment I've ever heard a president of the United States make." He also told the newspaper that, while he was willing to put his life on the line for the president, "I've said that I don't like the son-of-a-[expletive] that lives in the White House."
Both the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee have bought TV time for commercials over the weekend. "He called the commander in chief a son-of-a-[expletive]," said NRCC spokesman Carl Forti. "We decided to bury him."
Hackett, hoping to capitalize on the widespread disarray in the scandal-plagued Ohio GOP, remains unapologetic about his characterization of the president. "I said it. I meant it. I stand by it," he said in a phone interview. "In this district, we need more straight-talking, straight-shooting politicians."
Edwards Uneasy About Roberts Nomination
If he had sought and won reelection last year, former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.) would be looking forward to a prominent role in the upcoming confirmation hearings of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. for a seat on the Supreme Court. Instead, he is on the outside looking in.
On Friday, Edwards spoke to the American Constitution Society about the courts and the Roberts nomination, saying the Senate should demand the right to see documents from Roberts's tenure in the solicitor general's office during the administration of President George H.W. Bush.
Edwards sounded troubled by what he has seen of Roberts's record and said his former colleagues should press the nominee to explain his philosophy in greater detail. "Does Judge Roberts still hold today the views he promoted earlier in his career?" he asked, according to his prepared text. "Is Judge Roberts committed to implementing the radical 'protect-the-powerful' jurisprudence or does he recognize the claims of the powerless as well as the powerful?"
These were questions that Edwards did not linger over in 2003 -- when he joined other Democrats in voting to send Roberts to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
As a former senator, Edwards won't get to grill Roberts this time, but at least he gets to travel where he wants. Where he wants is New Hampshire -- the 2008 aspirant left for an appearance there immediately after his speech.
Panel Tackles Granite State's Influence
Speaking of New Hampshire, the Democratic National Committee commission tasked with studying whether to change the nominating calendar for the 2008 primaries and caucuses has begun looking at ideas that could reduce the Granite State's outsize influence in picking presidents.
Commission members say they want to preserve the kind of coffee shop style of campaigning required of any candidate who runs in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary. But they also want some changes to ensure a larger voice for blacks, Hispanics and other minorities, as well as organized labor, in the crucial opening weeks of a nominating contest.
At a recent meeting in Washington, the commission staff presented the group with scenarios that included regional primaries and the more radical idea of trying to prevent states from having primaries or caucuses before early March. Democrats say none of these proposals is likely to be embraced in the end.
But there appears to be more interest in plans that call for keeping Iowa as the site of the first caucuses and New Hampshire as the host of the first primary, but that would insert a few other caucus contests between the two.