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Ohio: Republicans' Machiavellian Maneuver in the 6th

House Republicans are pulling out all the stops in their attempt to keep state Sen. Charlie Wilson (D) from winning the May 2 Democratic primary in Ohio's open 6th District race:

Their latest gambit is decidedly Machiavellian, taking the form of a campaign ad sponsored by the National Republican Congressional Committee that attacks Bob Carr, one of the two little-known Democrats whose name will actually appear on the primary ballot on May 2. (Wilson failed to secure the 50 signatures required to qualify for the primary ballot and, as a result, is running as a write-in.)

The ads begins with an quick attack on Wilson ("We know we can't trust Charlie Wilson to do what's right," a narrator intones) before images of Carr flash on the screen accompanied by the phrase "liberal Democrat." The commercial's narrator goes on to note that Carr is "too far left to work with Republicans in Washington" and that he "hasn't even ruled out trying to eliminate President Bush's tax cuts." The ad's tagline? "Bob Carr: Too liberal for Congress." (To view the ad, click here; you'll need to have RealPlayer installed to watch it.)

What's so devilish (and potentially effective) about the ad? Republicans are trying to knock off the Democrats' strongest candidate -- Wilson. They are betting that Democratic primary voters, most of whom have never heard of Carr before seeing the commercials, will be motivated to back him because of the NRCC ads. After all, being described as a liberal by a national Republican organizations is a badge of honor to many progressives, and calling for an elimination of the Bush tax cuts is a long-held position among liberal Democrats -- a group that's likely to be over represented in the primary electorate.

Since Carr is not likely to be able to take to the radio or television airwaves to broadcast his message (he had not even filed a financial report with the Federal Election Commission as of press time), the NRCC has decided to take matters in its own hands to try and boost his prospects. The ad went up Friday night in the Wheeling (W.Va.) and Youngstown (Ohio) markets, which reach more than 70 percent of likely Democratic primary voters in the 6th District. Carl Forti, NRCC communications director, said simply that his committee does not discuss its 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." Burton said Carr was the Republican nominee against Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) in 1996. Carr lost that race 71 percent to 27 percent while being outspent by Stupak $459,000 to $6,000.

Reached this afternoon, Carr said that the only reason he ran as a Republican previously was because he was concerned that the GOP's anointed candidate in that race would viciously attack Stupak. Carr ran in the primary (and won) to prevent that from happening. He insists he has been voting Democratic since 1976 and formally changed his voter registration in 2000.

As for the NRCC ads, Carr said: "Bring 'em on."

This is not the first time the NRCC has dabbled in a Democratic primary. In 2000, House Republicans targeted Rep. Michael Forbes, who had switched party affiliation from Republican to Democrat in July 1999. In his first race as a Democrat, Forbes faced a little-known and poorly funded 71-year-old librarian named Regina Seltzer in the primary.

The NRCC spent between $75,000 and $100,000 on a series of direct-mail pieces that outlined Forbes's conservative positions on hot-button issues like 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 Seltzer as the best choice in the primary.

Forbes outspent Seltzer by more than $1 million in the primary, but the NRCC's tactics proved devastatingly effective as the unknown librarian beat the congressman by 35 votes -- 6,077 to 6,042. Republicans went on to easily win the open seat in the fall.

By Chris Cillizza  |  April 18, 2006; 12:57 PM ET
Categories:  House  
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Next: House Republicans Move to Blunt Ethics Issue


I am sick of Charlie Wilson "pulling out all of the stops".
I work night shift and do not appreciate being called repeatedly during the day.
I asked to be removed from the calling list, and his campaign worker pointedly asked if I was a registered voter.
Well, I didn't register for the spam calling!
The worker then proceeded to say that I would need to identify the exact subject matter of each call before she could remove my number from the calling list, to which I informed her that Mr. Wilson would now NOT get my vote.
I'm am still getting calls, the last involves a recording of Mr. Wilson stating how his campaign workers will be coming to my house to teach me how to write in my vote!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
If the first nasty, pushy campaign worker wasn't enough, this continued invasion of my personal life, with insulting statements about "Teaching" me how to "write", and the mere IDEA of someone coming, uninvited, to my home has prompted me to campaign against Charlie Wilson with my friends, family, and co-workers.
Ohio, say no to pushy millionaires! Say no to people who don't mind ruining all of your personal time just because they are used to getting everything that they want! We don't need them, don't vote for Charlie Wilson!

Posted by: Ohio Voter | April 27, 2006 1:18 PM | Report abuse

That doesn't seem like the most egregious case of media bias to me.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | April 21, 2006 8:59 PM | Report abuse

The first sentence of the print edition story is:

"A new television commercial running in Ohio's 6th District sure sounds as if it has mean things to say about Bob Carr."

The story then goes on to identify "mean things" as simply political views, but they are conservative poltical views, as if it were a given that such views are "mean."

Journalists who reinforce prejudices only serve to further stupify the drooling bobbleheads who confuse emotional agreement with critical thought.

Posted by: spencer | April 21, 2006 7:44 AM | Report abuse

Linda, you are right about McDermott. He did tape Boehner and Gingrich talking about how Gingrich planned to break his promise to the ethics committee about the proceeds of his book sales.

It has really come to the point where trying to inform citizens of the corruption and hypocrisy of Republicans is a crime.

And just to be nonpartisan, Sandwich repairman, Rumsfeld served as a flight instructor from 1954-1957.

Posted by: JoshA | April 20, 2006 8:59 PM | Report abuse

What's the context of how the phrase appears in print?

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | April 20, 2006 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Just to clarify, the phrase "mean things to say" appears in the Post Print edition story, and I think it says quite a bit about media bias.

Posted by: spencer | April 20, 2006 7:57 AM | Report abuse

Linda, can you actually name the DemocratIC woman in Congress whose son slashed car tires? Or is this another outright fabrication?

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | April 19, 2006 3:38 PM | Report abuse

I searched this whole page; the phrase "mean things to say" does not appear anywhere in Chris' article, just one comment.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | April 19, 2006 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Hypocrisy...hmm...I can think of an awful lot of "family values" Republicans whose actions don't comport with their demagoguery. There's Rep. Ferguson (NJ-7) who lost his Member pin at a bar in Georgetown trying to pick up undergrads, even though he's married with children. There's Rep. Dan Burton's (IN) illegitimate son. Likewise former Rep. JC Watts (OK). There's former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who believes so strongly in the sanctity of marriage that he's entered it with 3 different women. There's House impeachment manager Henry Hyde (IL) who blew off his extramarital affair as a "youthful indiscretion" (at age 42). There's former Rep. and Appropriations Chair Bob Livingston (LA) who also had an extramarital affair. There's former GA congressman Bob Barr who is on tape licking whipped cream off women's breasts. There's former Sen. Tim Hutchinson (AR) who divorced his wife to marry a 23 year old staffer. Rep. Steve LaTourette (OH-14) did the same thing. Sen. Norm Coleman (MN) has a sham marriage which is an open secret in Minnesota (his wife lives in California), hits on college age women on a regular basis and drinks so much the cops have to be called to escort him home from bars in Eden Prairie. And don't forget Sen. Mike DeWine (OH) whose top-ranking staff were paying a 23 year old staff assistant for sex AND pimping her out to other men.

Oh, and what about the chickenhawks? We have a team of warmongers--Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz--none of whom ever served in the armed forces! Cheney got 5 deferments because he "had other priorities". Bush went AWOL from the Air National Guard. The ONE member of Congress with a son or daughter serving in the military now is a DEMOCRAT: Sen. Tim Johnson (SD).

Like Garrison Keillor said, the Republicans made their peace with hypocrisy a long time ago.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | April 19, 2006 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Karen, the tire slashing thing was done by the son of a Democrat woman from Congress. I wonder what ever happened? Did he get convicted and go to jail or did his mother cover up for him?
And Jim McDermot of Washington state finally convicted for his illegal wiretape of a cell phone conversation by other members of the House and then going to the press with the tape. These are the same Dems who scream and holler about their violated rights by some Big Brother group monitoring their phone calls. Hypocrite Dems lose the debate every time.

Posted by: Linda | April 19, 2006 1:48 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad we're finally fighting back against the Democrats. The howls of protest from a party that is being outmaneuvered are music to my ears.

Posted by: Silent Cal | April 19, 2006 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Whatever one thinks of the political games being played in Ohio, surely we must all agree that the phrase "...mean things to say..." in the story's first paragraph is the silliest sort of editoralizing.

Posted by: spencer rowe | April 19, 2006 7:12 AM | Report abuse

Wow - I knew the republicans were desperate to keep Wilson off the ballot I just didn't know that they were THIS desperate. I am more certain now than ever that if Wilson gets on the ballot he will win in November. This district is going to vote overwhelmingly for Strickland for governor and Wilson will benefit immensely from him. I love how much money the NRC and NRCC is flushing down the toilet on this race.

Posted by: Ohio guy | April 19, 2006 12:37 AM | Report abuse

The gambit in Bill Luther's district didn't work in large part because Minnesotans are big on good government and have a very low tolerance for this kind of cynical dirty pool. It might work or at least have a real effect in Ohio just as it did in NY.

My mind went immediately to the Michael Forbes incident when I started reading about this. I'm glad Chris mentioned it in his post.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | April 18, 2006 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Current House makeup
231 R
201 D
1 Ind
2 vacant (CA 50 Cunningham, NJ 13 Menedez appointed to US Senate)

8 open seats
OH 6 (Strickland running for Gov), OH 13 (Brown running for US Senate), IL 17 (Evans retiring), MD 3 (Cardin running for US Senate), FL 11 (Davis running for Gov), HI 2 (Case running for US Senate), NY 11 (Owens retiring), TN 9 (Ford running for US Senate)

1 open seat VT(Sanders running for US Senate)

17 open seats
CO 7 (Beauprez running for Gov), IA 1 (Nussle running for Gov), NY 24 (Bohlert retired), TX 22 (Delay retiring), AZ8 (Kolbe retiring), IL 6 (Hyde retiring), MN 6 (Kennedy running for US Senate), FL 13 (Harris running for US Senate), NV 2 (Gibbons running for Gov), WI 8 (Green running for Gov), CA 22 (Thomas retiring), CO 5 (Hefley retiring), FL 9 (Bilirakis retiring), ID 1 (Otter running for Gov), NE 3 (Osborne running for Gov), OH 4 (Oxley retiring), OK 5 (Istook running for Gov)

Posted by: RMill | April 18, 2006 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Charlie Wilson and thank you DCCC for leaving him to his own devices such as collecting signatures and filing all by his lonesome.

You can believe the Dims would be doing the same if the situation presented itself and they thought of it first.

Like they NEVER orchestrated anything devious.

Posted by: vivabsuh04OH | April 18, 2006 4:08 PM | Report abuse

I guess that is more upfront than the vote trading that was being done in the 2004 presidential election. The dems in New Hampshire have told people to re-register as republicans so they can vote in the primary. I love all the offended democrats. tire slashing is okay, but don't you dare run an advertisement.

Posted by: Karen | April 18, 2006 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Would anyone report how many Democrats and Republicans are retiring this year? I heard at time there are 25 open seats, and that Henry Hyde's seat is not guranteed to go to a Republican. Anyone got a clear report on what is going on with the House seats? The California seat for example will probably go to the Republican, so I wonder how many seats are so tight that it will difficult to see political change?
With 231 Republicans in the House, 201 Dems, 1 Indie (running for the Senate in Vermont) and 2 vacant seats, it will be interesting to see how the voters decide which party will represent their views in Congress? I also heard there are 2 military men, on the Republican ticket, running for the House in Ohio and another state I can't remember. The Bush supporters will have to fight to defend their candidates if we have a hope of holding onto the majority. With only 201 Democrats in Congress, I just don't think they can pick up those 15 seats.

Posted by: Sylvia | April 18, 2006 2:58 PM | Report abuse

The NRCC is putting in a good effort but it will probably be for not. Charlie Wilson's situation is a national story. In a off year election, voter turnout is only about 40% & in an off year primary, my guess it will be half that. Furthermore, primary voters more motivated to vote, more knowledgeable about what is going on & who they are voting for then the average election voter. Therefore it is unlikely NRCC can help one of the other no name & (more importantly) no money candidates to win.

Posted by: Andrew | April 18, 2006 2:46 PM | Report abuse

The other thing is that for this to work well, it has to be somewhat secret. If you have it up Chris, then you can bet that Wilson and his staff know about it and I would wager that they will turn this on the GOP by showing using that commercial to show that the Republicans are afraid.

Posted by: Andy R | April 18, 2006 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Amusing tactic, but maybe too cute by half. Voters don't like being played, and this is pretty transparent. Gray Davis used a similar tactic in his re-elect and was successful in the short-term but it contributed to the voter backlash against him.

Forbes's spending was focused solely on the general election as he never took the Seltzer candidacy seriously.

Posted by: ksw | April 18, 2006 2:12 PM | Report abuse

This maneuver is just plain sleezy and beneath contempt. I just hope the Ohio dems don't bite.

Posted by: Ellie | April 18, 2006 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Kudos, GOP. Well done. I hate you for it, but well done. And Brittain's right; in the end, Charlie Wilson has no one to blame but Charlie Wilson.

Posted by: jhupp | April 18, 2006 1:35 PM | Report abuse

I give them credit, even as a Democrat. This is pretty clever and it's Charlie Wilson's fault for leaving them the opening by not getting in all the signatures he needed.

Republicans seem to have a much more thorough record of finding candidates with the same name as the incumbent and running them in the primaries as Democrats or in the general as Republicans. They've hit Dick Gephardt, Jesse Jackson Jr., and John Lewis with this gambit.

I remember an ally of Rep. Bill Luther of Minnesota signing up as a candidate of the "No New Taxes" party solely to draw votes away from the Republican in 2002. It didn't help.

Posted by: Brittain33 | April 18, 2006 1:11 PM | Report abuse

The GOP is superior at dirty tricks to obtain power and keep it. Democrats are better at using power for the public good. This latest anecdote from Ohio illustrates that very well when it comes to dirty tricks. The respective records of Democratic and GOP congresses illustrate who is better at governing - and it's not a close call. Republicans are horrible fiscal managers and strategic bundlers on the world stage.

Posted by: Intrepid Liberal Journal | April 18, 2006 1:01 PM | Report abuse

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