Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Televangelist Rod Parsley Under IRS Investigation

Today's Washington Post, in a lengthy story about the decline of "values" issues in Ohio politics, reports that Rod Parsley -- a Columbus area televangelist; pastor of World Harvest Church; and founder of Reformation Ohio, a political advocacy group known for its less than subtle support for Ken Blackwell -- is under investigation by the IRS:
Parsley, who faces an Internal Revenue Service investigation prompted by a complaint by a group of ideologically moderate ministers who allege he has crossed a line barring political advocacy from the pulpit, has not endorsed Blackwell. But he is quick to add: "I'm sure Ohioans will recall which candidates have stood with them in the past."
But the bulk of the story focuses on matters like this:

So far, it seems that the efforts of Parsley and other evangelical leaders are being overshadowed by this state's recent record of job losses and the resultant economic concern. The unemployment rate in Ohio is 5.7 percent -- a full point above the national figure. Meanwhile, the Ohio Poll found that 82 percent of Ohioans believe that the economy is in poor or fair shape, and two-thirds say things are getting worse.

Full article

Monday, October 09, 2006

Even Among Evangelicals, Candidates' Religion Matters Less Than Supposed

The October 8 Columbus Dispatch reports the surprising results of two polls it jointly conducted with the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics:

The surveys of more than 2,200 people show that Ohioans are deeply conflicted over several flash points: candidates talking publicly about their religious beliefs, public officials’ closeness to religious leaders, clergy members talking politics from the pulpit, and whether matters such as poverty and health care are just as much religious issues as abortion and same-sex marriage.

The twin polls also reveal sharp disagreements between the public and clergy members over the proper roles of religion and politics.

One of the more striking findings of the surveys was the differences between the clergy members and their flocks, especially among conservative Christians, defined here as white Protestants who consider themselves evangelical or born-again. For example:

• 83 percent of those pastors say they plan to vote for Republican J. Kenneth Blackwell for governor, while just 44 percent of white Protestant evangelical voters are backing Blackwell, now secretary of state.

• 42 percent of the pastors have been involved in some type of political activity in the past year, more than 2½ times the rate of their parishioners. (Some of that difference might be explained by the fact that most pastors are better educated and thus more likely to play an active role in the political process, Green said.)

• 53 percent of the pastors say they encourage their members to vote one way or the other, double the rate of parishioners who say their pastors provide such guidance.

The wide disconnect between pulpit and pew has not turned up in other studies, [John] Green [of the Bliss Institute] said.

"We tend to think of these religious communities as very monolithic. We presume the flock is following in lock step.

"There’s no question that the ministers have influence on their followers, but not as much as we may have thought," he said.

Full story

Forum on Church and State in Ohio Politics: Civility and Substance

Discussants from both conservative and liberal perspectives squared off Sunday afternoon in a 90-minute forum that, although quite animated throughout and briefly contentious at points, was for the most part a model of civility and substance. I was in the audience and the quality of the exchange left me genuinely impressed.

The lineup was first-rate:

John Green, moderator, is Senior Fellow in Religion and American Politics at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. He also serves as Director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics and is Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of Akron. Dr. Green has done extensive research on American religious communities and politics.
Phil Burress, discussant, is Executive Director of Citizens for Community Values, a Cincinnati-based grass roots organization whose mission is to promote Judeo-Christian moral values and reduce destructive behaviors contrary to those values, through education, active community partnership, and individual empowerment at the local, state and national levels. Mr. Burress and CCV led the successful 2004 Ohio constitutional amendment ballot initiative that bans same-sex marriage.
Russell Johnson, discussant, is Senior Pastor of Fairfield Christian Church in Lancaster, Ohio, and Chairman of The Ohio Restoration Project, an organization dedicated to mobilizing lay persons and "Patriot Pastors" to combat the "toxin of dogmatic secularism which has sought to deny America's Godly heritage and undermine her God-given potential."
Barry Lynn, discussant, is Executive Director, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, a non-partisan, non-sectarian organization which since 1947 has defended separation of church and state in the courts, educated legislators, and worked with the media to inform Americans about religious freedom issues and organize local chapters all over the country.
Marcus Owens, discussant, is counsel to All Saints Episcopal Church of Pasadena, California and former Director, Exempt Organizations, Internal Revenue Service, was instrumental in formulating a recent complaint to the IRS concerning questionable partisan political activities by two central Ohio churches.
Jay Sekulow, discussant, is Director of the American Center for Law and Justice, a Washington-based organization founded by Pat Robertson in 1990. Through its work in the courts and the legislative arena,it is dedicated to protecting religious and constitutional freedoms. The ACLJ specializes in constitutional law and has argued several cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. During the past six years Mr. Sekulow has become closely linked to the Bush administration and is the leading Supreme Court advocate of the Christian Right.
Eric Williams, discussant, is lead spokesperson for the fifty-six central Ohio religious leaders who recently sent letters to the IRS complaining of partisan political activities by two central Ohio churches. Rev. Williams serves as senior pastor of North Congregational United Church of Christ, Columbus, Ohio.

The forum began with the two pastors, Russell Johnson and Eric Williams, speaking for eight minutes each on what they saw as the key issues at stake. Johnson emphasized America's "tremendous heritage of faith" stretching from early colonial times to the present." He noted that references to God and recognizably Judeo-Christian values were embedded in the country's founding documents, and averred that much of the country's success could be traced to the efforts of faith-based people to redress wrongs and improve the society. During the past fifty years, however, an unprecedented wave of "secular bigotry" had rolled over the land. "Forces of darkness" were attempting to "muzzle people of faith." The religious left, Johnson believed, had aided and abetted the secular left in this effort.

Johnson held that the religious left had long been involved in politics in precisely the same ways that the religious right was doing. He mentioned specifically Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton. The religious right, however, was being "demonized" for its efforts in the apparent hope that it could be intimidated into silence. He concluded by saying that both the religious left and right ought to be active in the civic arena.

Eric Williams opened by stressing the need to respect and honor people of other faith traditions. Like Johnson, he looked to history to frame the issues at stake, but took as his touchstones such people as Roger Williams, who was banished from the 17th century Puritan Massachusetts Bay colony for arguing that the colony had grievously erred by effectively merging church and state. He noted the fears of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson that a group of powerful churches might succeed in influencing government sufficiently so as to foist its own religious views on others. He quoted the clause of the First Amendment that reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." He also quoted former president Jimmy Carter, who, in his book America's Endangered Values, agreed with Roger Williams about the abuses that arise when religion becomes entangled with government.

For the next hour, the six discussants responded to a series of prepared questions served up to them by moderator John Green. Three of the discussants -- Johnson, Philip Burress, and John Sekulow -- essentially represented the conservative side of the debate. Johnson and Burress believed that their organizations, the Ohio Restoration Project and Citizens for Community Values respectively, were observing Internal Revenue Service guidelines concerning the political involvement of 501c(3) organizations (churches, etc.). They were engaged in voter mobilization, dissemination of voter guides, and issues advocacy (all legal activities) but not endorsement of specific candidates (which the IRS guidelines prohibit). Sekulow considered the IRS guidelines too vague and cumbersome to be anything but mischievous, and thought the rule prohibiting churches from supporting or endorsing candidates should be eliminated.

The other three discussants -- Williams, Marcus Owens, and Barry Lynn -- represented the liberal side of the debate, or at least the side preferring a robust separation between church and state.

At the end of an hour, moderator John Green asked the discussants to respond to selected questions submitted by audience members on 3x5 index cards.

Probably the most substantive part of the discussion dealt with the IRS investigation of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California. The IRS accused the church of violating the prohibition against partisan political activity during a 2004 pre-election sermon which notionally portrayed Jesus Christ as addressing George W. Bush and condemning him for the policy that had led the United States to attack Iraq. Owens is serving as legal counsel for the church; Johnson -- whose Ohio Restoration Project is the target of a complaint to the IRS lodged by thirty-one clergy, notably including Eric Williams -- hoped Owens would be so good as to defend his organization in the same way. Sekulow read extensively from the sermon and used it to help make his point that the IRS were a hopeless muddle.

As I've said, the forum was for the most part a model of civility and substance. Its most contentious moments occurred when Johnson pointedly asked Williams a number of questions. Why had Williams organized and filed a letter of complaint with the IRS without first approaching Johnson in accordance with the scriptural injunction for Christians to resolve their differences among themselves? Would Williams refuse to endorse Lincoln, even though Lincoln freed the slaves? Did Williams oppose the prayers said by Amish schoolchildren in the wake of a recent, brutal series of murders of school grounds in Pennsylvania?

On this last question, Johnson briefly got the better of Williams, who remained doggedly on message in a fashion reminiscent of Michael Dukakis in 1988 when asked if he would favor the death penalty for someone who had raped and killed his wife. But Barry Lynn spoke up and said that questions like the prayers in extremis of Amish schoolchildren "always arise on the edge of these great questions." But when the religious right tries to abridge abortion, squelch equal rights for gays, and arguably establish a de facto theocracy, Lynn continued, he was disposed to stick with his critique of the religious right and "give a pass to the Amish kids."

Photos taken during and after the forum are available here.

Streaming video of the forum (in .mov format; about 90 minutes)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Fireworks at the Goodman - Kreider Debate - Part 3

Actually, here begins the non-fireworks segment of this multi-part post. It concerns the debate itself.

To cut to the chase: Who won? Without meaning to play pollyanna, I'd say the audience won. They got what they came for: a substantive debate between Kreider and Goodman in which, for the most part, you got a good sense for the candidates' views, strengths, weaknesses, and priorities.

But if you insist on asking me to name the winning candidate, I'd argue it was Kreider, not because I'm a Kreider supporter but because, as the challenger, she had the most to gain and also the most to lose. Consider: Goodman is the incumbent. Kreider has never held public office. With over a decade of experience in Ohio policy and politics, one would expect Goodman to have a strong command of the issues. Kreider, in contrast, ran the very real risk of appearing to be out of her depth. Instead, with one (in my opinion, avoidable) exception, she did very well. You might be out of sympathy with her views, but she certainly showed that she had studied the issues and knew what she was talking about.

The debate format involved a moderator who served up questions prepared by Otterbein College students and given to the candidates ahead of time -- a format, it must be said, that was surely helpful to Kreider. Each candidate had a few minutes to respond and an optional opportunity for a brief rebuttal. At the end of the first hour, the debate was opened up to questions from the audience. That lasted roughly thirty minutes, and it was during this final phase that the Crowd of Three (see parts 1 and 2) ganged up on Goodman.

Before the Q&A, each candidate got to make an opening statement. Kreider emphasized her connection to ordinary people and averred that Goodman's ad campaign was trying to portray him as an agent of change but that he was really an established political insider and a member of a Republican-dominated General Assembly that had driven Ohio steadily downhill for over a decade. Deploying the debate's only visual aid, she showed the wide difference between the sources of Goodman's campaign contributions and her own:

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 (coming)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Fireworks at the Goodman - Kreider Debate - Part 2

The second episode occurred when Kennedy Kent and James Whitaker (Mr. Whitaker shown at left), confronted David Goodman about an attack on two West High School students that took place on February 14, 2006. Apparently Goodman's office had been asked to help in the case -- exactly how was not well explained -- and Ms. Kent and Mr. Whitaker felt that they were being stonewalled.

The details didn't really come into focus for the audience, because the pair essentially spoke as if the audience was already oriented to the context of their concerns. Nor did most of us grasp Ms. Kent and Mr. Whitaker's connection to the event. Personally, I didn't even catch their names, and only figured out their identities a short time ago.

After the debate, I spoke to Mr. Whitaker -- I should have gotten his name but unfortunately did not -- and although initially he seemed a bit wary of me until he got a basic idea of who I was, he was then kind enough to let him take a snapshot of him (and reciprocated by getting one of me, I guess just in case). He also gave me two CD-Rs with material on the incident. Both contain recordings of phone conversations: the initial 911 call and seven subsequent exchanges with various school board and law enforcement officials.

I listened to the conversations and could gain only an impressionistic picture of what had occurred. But using various names, dates, and so on, I conducted several Google searches until I found a web site, Justice for Kids. That's how I finally learned the names of Ms. Kent and Mr. Whitaker.

According to the Justice for Kids (JFK) web site, the pair "have been fighting for children's rights for over 20 years. They are professional advocates and educators, and their passion and conviction have helped many."

Here's the gist of the original incident and its significance, taken from a JFK press release on June 6, 2006:
[T]wo teenage girls were assaulted on February 14, 2006 at a West High School basketball game by a 36 year old male felon named James Drennen and another unidentified male adult.

The police report, hospital records, photographs and criminal complaints filed February 15, 2006 at the City Prosecutor's office indicated the girls were seriously assaulted on February 14, 2006. Although James Drennen was arrested that night, he was released from Reynoldsburg jail on an unrelated charge February 16, 2006.

The criminal complaints against James Drennen for his attack on the girls were closed with unsigned letters to the parents dated March 1, 2006 and with the approval of three male intake persons, one of them being Bill Hedrick, the Director of Intake in the City Prosecutor's office.

Due to the effort of Justice for Kids and the families affected by James Drennen, the case was reopened May 11, 2006; and Steve McIntosh, our Chief City Prosecutor, indicated he and another prosecutor would personally handle the case.

On May 23, 2006, Assistant City Prosecutor Bill Hedrick charged James Drennen with two counts of menacing threats and two counts of disorderly conduct on West High School property on May 19, 2006; however, Drennen was not charged for his previous menacing threats and assaults against children and women. Why so little protection for children and women?

Even with his criminal history of felonious assault, theft, robbery, manslaughter, crack cocaine possession, and present charges of menacing threats and disorderly conduct on school property, James Drennen is still free to threaten and intimidate our most vulnerable citizens.
Subsequent press releases detail JFK's advocacy efforts in connection with the case, but none mention David Goodman or state senator Ray Miller, in whose 15th district the attack actually occurred.

Judging by the CD-Rs and a fascinating video on the web site, Ms. Kent and Mr. Whitaker usually adopt a pretty "in your face" stance toward public officials, who generally respond as if the pair are tiresome at best and slightly demented at worst. It's impossible for me at this point to offer much by way of a conclusive judgment on their advocacy efforts, but the JFK web site puts me in mind of a famous remark by abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, "I have need to be all on fire, for I have mountains of ice about me to melt."

To return to last night's debate, however, I still don't get the "mountain of ice" dimension of David Goodman or his office.

I did speak to Goodman after the debate for several minutes. He told me that he was in touch with the parents of the girls in question and that the parents wished the matter to be addressed as privately as possible.

For additional details about Justice for Kids and the West High School incident, see the following:

Nasty federal NCLB [No Child Left Behind] /abuse investigation in Columbus, OH (Daily Kos, September 22, 2006)

KingCast Presents Audiotape . . . (Chris King's First Amendment Page, May 20, 2006)

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 (coming)

Fireworks at the Goodman - Kreider Debate - Part 1

The Columbus Dispatch offers this weird headline concerning last evening's debate between 3rd Senate District incumbent David Goodman and his Democratic challenger, Emily Kreider:

GOP incumbent verbally attacked by hostile crowd

Hostile crowd?? You mean the three people who at one time or another asked Goodman some sharp, confrontational questions? The subtitle, byline, and time stamp, at least, are accurate:

Candidates widely split on school funding
The Columbus Dispatch
Thursday, October 5, 2006 12:12 AM

Offering starkly different views on whether Ohio's education funding system still needs an overhaul, state Sen. David Goodman and his Democratic challenger, Emily Kreider, faced off yesterday in a debate that turned chaotic near the end when some audience members became verbally hostile.

Before the ruckus, during which a handful of audience members at Otterbein College's Riley Auditorium shouted at Goodman and one even approached the stage, Goodman defended the current school-funding system while Kreider insisted that more property-tax relief is needed.

The two are vying for the 3rd Senate District, which covers much of northern and eastern Franklin County.

Full story

I was present at the debate, and I simply do not recognize the part of the story that suggests a meltdown. An Arab American man accused Goodman of having said, in 1994, that Arabs were "scum" and "filth." The moderator, audience, and Goodman himself sat still for it until the man, Mahmoud El-Yousseph, a retired twenty-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, became frustrated when Goodman steadfastly denied having ever said any such thing. He continued to repeat his accusation, which derived from a 2004 email received by Mr. El-Yousseph from an attorney who once had an office near Goodman's during his early days of private practice, until the audience grew clearly impatient and the moderator managed to get Mr. El-Yousseph to subside.

I spoke to Mr. El-Yousseph afterward and got the impression that he had posted the email and related material on the web. That may indeed be the case, but a preliminary Google search shows mainly that he is a member of the Association of Patriotic Arab Americans in the Military. He seems to be a frequent letter writer to the Dispatch and has done some free lance op/ed writing as well, including at least two articles which have appeared in the English-language edition of Al-Jazeera.

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 (coming)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The George Allen Insult Generator

Need a blow to your dignity and self-worth? Try's George Allen Insult Generator!

I pondered briefly about what Republican candidate in Ohio -- Ken Blackwell, MikeDeWine, Deborah Pryce, Pat Tiberi -- would make a good pick for an insult generator. None are in Allen's league, but given a forced choice I'd have to go with Blackwell.

For everyone else, a Hackneyed Platitude Generator would be altogether more apt.

You Suck! No, YOU Suck!

This was either a lot of fun to watch or a real pain in the ass. . . .

Candidates’ face-off is pointed, passionate, personal
Blackwell and Strickland sharply draw differences
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Joe Hallett and Mark Niquette

Displaying passion for their deeply different philosophical viewpoints, the two major-party candidates for governor confronted each other yesterday in a frank and intensely personal way.

Republican J. Kenneth Blackwell and Democrat Ted Strickland, both claiming to be the mainstream choice, went at it face to face in a nearly two-hour meeting with The Dispatch editorial board, at times seeming to forget everyone else in the room.

"I’ll be happy to let you talk if you let me talk," Strickland said at one point as the two repeatedly talked over each other.

Although both maintained measured tones, the candidates pressed each other from the outset, each seeking to define his opponent by the company he keeps. Blackwell said that labor union bosses would hold sway in a Strickland administration, particularly Ohio AFL-CIO President William Burga.

"They will be a real block in the efforts to implement change in the status quo," Blackwell said, referring to unions.

Strickland said Blackwell would render the governor’s office a captive of the religious right, including two of its most vocal leaders: the Rev. Rod Parsley, of World Harvest Church in southeastern Columbus, and the Rev. Russell Johnson, senior pastor of Fair- field Christian Church in Lancaster.

"They have been the backbone of his campaign so far," Strickland said. "He has chosen to associate himself with that particular faction within the Republican Party, and I think that’s why a lot of moderate Republicans have broken ranks with their party and chosen to support me in this election."

Complete article

The Professor and the Patriot Pastor

The thing I most dislike about politics is the itch to demonize one's opponent. This is a time-honored tradition in the United States. It has been called "the paranoid style in American politics," and it plays off the fact that citizens tend to vote their fears more than their hopes. It also depends, in no small measure, on citizens being only half awake, so to speak, when it comes to public affairs. I suspect that many office holders and aspirants would like nothing better than to discuss with voters the issues of the day. But by and large, voters don't have that kind of attention span. Thus there's little percentage in getting into the specifics of one's policy prescriptions. Whatever you say is more likely to be distorted and turned against you by your opponent than to influence the electorate. American voters claim to loathe the prevalence of negative political ads. The fact is, however, that they have only themselves to blame. Ultimately, the health of a republic is always in the hands of its citizens. All too often, American citizens are tried in the balances and found wanting.

The itch to demonize is, if anything, even more repellent when indulged in by politically active Christians. Nowadays when one thinks of politically active Christians, one thinks mainly of the Religious Right: conservative evangelicals, particularly Fundamentalists. And sure enough, it is not at all uncommon to hear such people excoriate those who disagree with them, implying or stating outright that people of different views are willfully, morally wrong, destructive of all that is righteous, and pretty much the devil's henchmen. But as someone who labors in a more liberal vineyard, I can tell you that the same itch exists on our part as well. It is not really a phenomenon of the political left or right, but the artifact of a fallen humanity.

I figure that if others are vulnerable to that itch, then so am I. And without compromising for a moment my own convictions, I try as hard as possible to bear in mind that those on the Christian Right are animated by a sincere concern for this society, that they have the courage of their convictions, and that they are willing to organize and fight for the things in which they believe.

As a military historian, I am a student of the warrior ethos, and in nearly every culture in the world, the warrior ethos counsels respect for one's adversary. It goes beyond mere chivalry or good manners. It has psychological survival value. Psychiatrist Jonathan Shay, who for years has treated veterans with post traumatic stress disorder, notes in a fine book entitled Achilles in Vietnam that often his clients begin to heal when they are able to honor the enemy they fought instead of continuing to think of them as subhuman "gooks," "rag heads," and so on. I think that by analogy this same dynamic applies to the so-called culture war. In many ways the metaphor of war is apt. The stakes are thought to be high, the possibility of compromise non-existent. One side or the other must prevail. Nevertheless, just as there are laws and customs of literal war, so too there ought to be laws and customs of this metaphorical culture war. And the foundation of these laws and customs must be a basic respect for one's adversary.

That is why in recent weeks I have twice visited Fairfield Christian Church, whose senior pastor is Russell Johnson, the driving force behind the Ohio Restoration Project and its "Patriot Pastor" movement. Individuals from my own church, North Congregational United Church of Christ, were the driving force behind the well known complaint to the Internal Revenue Service that the Ohio Restoration Project and another organization, Reformation Ohio, were engaging in partisan political activity prohibited under IRS rules for non profit organizations. Based on my reading of the evidence, I think the complaint is well founded. And in any event, enough of a case exists that it is reasonable to place the matter before the IRS for adjudication. But the fact that I think these organizations have overstepped the law, or that I find some of their tactics -- gay bashing, for instance -- reprehensible, does not give me license to forget that they are people, fellow citizens, not demons beyond the pale.

And I have found that they exhibit the same forbearance. This past Sunday I had to be in Lancaster to give a talk at the Sherman House Museum. Since Fairfield Christian Church is located in Lancaster, I decided to attend its morning worship service. One of the eighteen -- count 'em, eighteen -- pastors of this immense and vibrant church recognized me as a visitor. I explained that I was from Columbus and in town only for the day. He asked what church I attended, I told him, he instantly recognized the name. His demeanor didn't stiffen for an instant. Indeed, if anything he seemed even more pleased to have me as a visitor.

He invited me to stick around for lunch after church and if it had not been for my speaking engagement, I would have accepted. As it was, I thoroughly enjoyed the service, which had an authentic joy, and I admired Pastor Johnson's sermon, which was a well-crafted, intelligent exploration not of those awful secular humanists or whatever, but of the dynamics that typically injure a marriage and the skill set required to deal with the inevitable conflicts constructively. It was an impressive performance.

After the service, the associate pastor who had greeted me earlier made sure I was introduced to Pastor Johnson. Actually re-introduced: I met him once briefly last March. I often keep a small digital camera in a pocket of my sport coat. I handed it to the associate pastor and asked if he would take a picture of Pastor Johnson and myself.

Pastor Johnson requested, in a joking but serious way, that I digitally remove his fangs.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Man's Gotta Do What a Man's Gotta Do . . .

. . . and for 3rd District Senator David Goodman, that means going negative against his appealing Democratic challenger, Emily Kreider. From Ohio2006:
This could be the cheesiest attack ad ever. Having failed to make an impression as a legislator, State Sen. David Goodman (R-New Albany) is trying to portray opponent Emily Kreider (D-Westerville) as an "incumbent" and himself as a "challenger" by running a TV spot that says "for the past 12 years official records show Emily Kreider failed to vote on important issues like schools, critical care for senior citizens and emergency services," and referring to himself as "leadership for a change." It makes her sound like an elected official and him as a breath of fresh air, doesn't it? No, Kreider hasn't held office. The ad is referring to levies and ballot issues in special and primary elections. Few people vote in all elections, and although Kreider missed the general election in 2002 she has voted in every general, primary and special election since 2003. Goodman has been in the General Assembly since his appointment to the House in 1998, so the "leadership for a change" theme is pure fiction.
A comment on the post notes that according to the Franklin County Board of Elections, Goodman has himself missed eight elections since February 2001.

Handicapping the U.S. Senate Races

John J. Miller, the national political reporter for National Review Online, evaluates the U.S. Senate races. Although an ardent conservative, he is sufficiently realistic to see that the Democrats and Republicans both have their work cut out for them -- and that since his last profile, the Republicans have lost a bit of ground in Virginia, thanks to George Allen's highly publicized campaign gaffes.

As for Ohio, the picture, from a Republican perspective, is a bit grim:
Democratic congressman Sherrod Brown continues to hold a slim lead over Republican senator Mike DeWine, 45 percent to 43 percent, according to Mason-Dixon’s poll of likely voters, released yesterday. It’s hard to bet against the incumbent, but this is a tough year for the GOP in Ohio. Would DeWine be doing better if Republican governor Bob Taft, who is enormously unpopular after an ethically challenged and lackluster tenure, had resigned? TOSS UP
I have a better question: Would DeWine be doing better if the Bush administration had not proven so spectacularly incompetent, or the Republican Congress so blatantly disinterested in any Americans save the wealthiest?

PS - What Miller doesn't say is that the Mason-Dixon poll, cited in his assessment of the Ohio Senate race, places the Democrats within striking distance of capturing the Senate. This is big news, since until recently the Republicans were expected to hold the Senate even if they lost the House of Representatives.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Blackwell Too Weak For Christian Right to Assist

As nearly as I can figure, organizations like Reformation Ohio and the Ohio Restoration Project -- whatever one may think of them -- have energetically and quite competently stumped for Republican gubernatorial candidate Kenneth Blackwell. The problem is that Blackwell himself is such a lousy candidate that these organizations are not so much driving voters away -- after all, in 2004 Ohioans voted 62-38 percent to pass the anti-gay marriage amendment -- as they are unable to really jump start their own base.

I attended a rally sponsored in part by the Ohio Restoration Project on September 10. The line-up of speakers, including several from out of state, was impressive. But the immense church sanctuary was more than half-empty. Only about 200 rank-and-file who had bothered to come. Several speakers publicly expressed disappointment at the turnout.

Similarly, I visited Lancaster yesterday -- home of Fairfield Christian Church, which created the Ohio Restoration Project. I saw only a few Blackwell bumper stickers on cars in the church parking lot, and none once I left. In contrast, Strickland bumper stickers and yard signs were all over town.