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Rambling Through the '06 Battleground

Chris Cillizza, Chet Rhodes, Jim VandeHei
The Ohio River Ramblers -- Chris Cillizza, Chet Rhodes, and Jim VandeHei. (Whitney Shefte - washingtonpost.com)

Back in May, political analyst Stu Rothenberg threw out a challenge we couldn't resist. Rothenberg wrote that "the fight for the House of Representatives could be determined in nine adjacent districts in four states, stretching from West Virginia to Indiana."

The area is ground zero in the battle for control of Congress and the larger battle between America's two major parties. The region is also emblematic of a closely divided nation -- neither the Republicans nor Democrats have a lock on its electorate.

Rothenberg said "this swath of prime campaign territory" roughly follows the Ohio River and could all be seen in a few days and 500 miles. Well readers, buy some beef jerky and grab your iPod, because we're making the trip.

We -- Chris Cillizza, Jim VandeHei and Chet Rhodes -- are taking a ramble down the Ohio River to cover nine competitive congressional districts in nine days (Sept. 20-28). We'll file reports from the road -- blog posts, videos, radio hits and articles in The Washington Post, with the goal of trying to read the electoral pulse in this piece of America's heartland. We'll hang out with the locals and get their take on the big issues. We'll follow the candidates out on the stump, and talk to the region's best pundits and pollsters.

In the end we hope to find out why the region is so sharply divided and which way it may tip in this election. We'll also try to answer a bunch of questions: Are big national issues more important than local concerns? Have Democrats learned the trick to winning rural districts? Does running a second time improve or lessen a candidate's chances of winning?

Check out the Ohio River Ramble page on washingtonpost.com for your one-stop shopping of stories, blog posts and video from the trip. Also, keep clicking on The Fix for the latest updates from the field.

Audio: Listen to the reporters discuss the trip (MP3).

By washingtonpost.com Editors  |  September 20, 2006; 5:01 AM ET
Categories:  House , Ohio River Ramble  
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Next: The Politics of Gas

Comments

I am amazed you are skipping over OH=2, in a big chunk of Ohio River territory and including OH-18
that has no hint of river view anywhere. Shirley and James are right: Mean Jean Schmidt has huge
negatives and Dr. Victoria Wulsin, an epidemiologist, has the wealth of talent and
experience the House needs. She charms voters
as she covers the 6-county district. Paul Hackett
almost took the seat last year; Vic can do it now.
Polls show her 45=45 with Jean. Check her our at
www.wulsinforcongress.com

Posted by: Cincinnati Kathy | September 21, 2006 12:29 AM | Report abuse

Nor'Easter, That is what I thought and wanted more info. Tnks a bunch. lylepink

Posted by: lylepink | September 20, 2006 11:40 PM | Report abuse

Let me add this - There are significantly different burdens of proof between Criminal cases and Civil cases. The Criminal burden being more strict, because the consequences are harsher.

Posted by: Nor'Easter | September 20, 2006 5:55 PM | Report abuse

lylepink - Not a lawyer, but: The defendent may have provided the evidence of their malicious intent in the written materials, or what they orally advised people about their intent. I believe that Libel and Slander are Civil, not Criminal matters, so the "hearsay" problem which looks great in Criminal prosecutions in movies and on TV, may not be a problem as to the burden of proof necessary for proving malicious intent.

Mind reading is not necessary. If it was, there would never be a conviction.

Posted by: Nor'Easter | September 20, 2006 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong about this i.e. The law states that "malicious intent" must be proven in a case involving libel or slander. To me this means you would have to read someones mind to prove or not to prove any allegation made. I know of none that have this ability.

Posted by: lylepink | September 20, 2006 1:50 PM | Report abuse

There seems to be a lot whining that the democrats dont's have a plan, offer a vision, etc. Maybe it's only obvious to me, but when the house is aflame, the only real bit of planning with which one ought to be concerned is PUTTING THE FIRE OUT, not some nuanced rebuilding scheme -- And all empirical evidence indicates Bush & Co. have set the American housing aburning. Douse the Flames! Impeach the Liar!

Posted by: Paine (as in Thomas) Not as in Bush | September 20, 2006 1:27 PM | Report abuse

You, bhoomes, are far too clever. Oh how i wish millions of americans would die in Iraq... that is probably why I want the troops to come home-- so that they can die in Iraq.

Wait a minute...

Oh, right, I remember-- the Republicans want to keep soldiers dying in Iraq because they are too proud to swerve in this intercontinental game of chicken we've gotten ourselves into. Nice move, jackass.

Posted by: JD | September 20, 2006 12:12 PM | Report abuse

To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. [1918] - Theodore Roosevelt

Posted by: M.Martin | September 20, 2006 11:51 AM | Report abuse

You make my point well Jaxas, all you did was rant about Bush and dumb dolts like us whp support him, never once did you try to articulate what your party will bring in the way of ideas. That/s because you don't have any. And lets be honest, you want a whole lot of dead americans and 4 dollars gallon of gas just so you can win. Thats why we have power because we care more about the country than our party you unpatriotic S*B.

Posted by: bhoomes | September 20, 2006 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Many Virginians, myself among them, hope that George Allen (and the other war enthusiasts who didn't answer the phone when their country called) will be sent packing in November. The swift boaters are attacking Webb now and smearing the reputation of yet another real patriot and hero.

Posted by: Hal | September 20, 2006 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Beef jerky on your river ramble? The Midwest isn't Texas, you dolt. Leave your Beltway attitude behind or don't even come here.

Posted by: joshtom | September 20, 2006 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Ideas!? Bhoomes, are you sh!tting me? Name me one freaking coherent idea that this f*#khead in the White House is putting out. Every gd poll I have seen continues to tell us that the public is sick of GOP polices. They have never, ever gotten a poll that didn't indicate that substantial majorities believed that we were on the wrong track.

The point is, it no longer matters what the public thinks or believes. Why? Because Bush, the GOP and their dumbass media allies always ensure that by election day, the last thing voters think about when they vote is issues or ideas.

Don't tell me about ideas you pathetic Bush anal worshiping dolt! Every idea the GOP comes up with can be summed up on a bumper sticker. That is why the only freaking thing they do know how to do is win elections. And it is why we are in deep sh!t in this country and it will get worse!

Posted by: Jaxas | September 20, 2006 10:29 AM | Report abuse

As to the Webb article. All of the clips I've seen of the female Naval Academy grads have shown them complaining that it made their time at the Academy unecessarily difficult. None of the clips showed them addressing the merits, or lack thereof, of Webb's article.

Score a "red herring" diversion for the Allen casmpaign.

Posted by: Nor'Easter | September 20, 2006 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Drindl - "...funny how the media treats Dems and Repugs differently, isn't it Chris? I hadn't seen a reference to Allen's campaign agaist women in VMI, which happened not 30 years ago, but in the last decade."

Russert covered that with Allen on Meet The Press on Sunday. His response was virtually what you included in your post from the 1995 interview. Obviously, he's "stayed on message."

Posted by: Nor'Easter | September 20, 2006 10:18 AM | Report abuse

One other point Chris--the other panel member's name was Howard Fineman.

And, it is not only you and Chris Matthews and Wolf Blitzer and the three major anchors at ABC, NBC and CBS that are being flummoxed. It is also the public. Why? Because you in the media are acquiescing in talking about precisely what Bush and the GOP want you to talk about--all terror all the time and not the body bags of young Americans and the thousands of innocent Iraqis who are dead because of Bush's foreign policy.

And the odd thing about it is that Bush, the GOP and the media make no bones about what they are doing. It is all sanitized under the convenient, euphemistic, pilitical doubletalk called "strategy". As though simply labelling what you are doing in that way somehow justifies the fact that you have all become nothing more than GOP campaign operatives whether that is your intent or not.

And meanwhile, I am told in the little crawler that creeps acrtoss the bottom of my television screen that four more Americans were killed yesterday. But, why should any of you care? You have the President to warm the cockles of your heart every morning as he blubbers on endlessly about this "clash of civilizations".

Posted by: Jaxas | September 20, 2006 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Well maybe Jaxes you perfer to live in a country where you don't have to compete on ideas. Of course we did have a little help from our oil buddies, they promised us republicans to have gas down to a buck 30 by election day.

Posted by: bhoomes | September 20, 2006 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Chris, I find myself becoming more and more disillusioned with the whole damn country. Things have gotten steadily worse in Iraq, yet Bush and the republicans seem to be rising in the polls again as the election nears.

I have been witness to this phenomenon for the the past three elections and now here we go again. Precisely on time after Labor Day, Bush and the republicans begin their big push to define downward and demean the opposition, and time after time, you in the media become their biggest allies in this massive propaganda effort.

Let me just give you an example of what I am talking about. On a recent Chris Matthews program he was engaging his political panel--You, Nora O'Donnell, Pat Buchanan and Bill Press and another media analyst from one of the major magazines whose name presently escapes me. All of you--except Press--were fairly gushing and giggling over how Bush was rising in the polls and were marveling over how time and again the republicans seem to be able to flummox the democrats in every election campaign, with an eye toward trying to explain the phenomenon.

While you were all yukking it up and chucling admiringly over haow republicans are consistently able to change the subject, four more Americans were killed that very day in Iraq. Since that day last week, 8 more young Americans were killed and hundreds of innocent Iraqis. I found myself sickened by your performance that day. Why are you not reflecting the anger that so may Americans feel over what is really happening on the ground instead of wallowing in all of this gratuitous, slavering applause for the GOP for being able to distract the people from what should be the central issue of this campaign.

And, how can you all feign ignorance of how the Bush and the GOP can pull this trickery off every post-Labor Day period in an election year? Can you not see that you and all of the cable news media are being used and manipoulated as well by these slick, smarmy politicians who do not have the slightest qualms about peddling fear and slander to ensure their stupid, incompetent majority?

I am so damn sick of all of you that I have told my son--who is working in Amsterdam and engaged to a young Dutch girl--to stay put and not come back to this miserable country which has been hi-jacked by Bush, a radical GOP, and a hysterical, selfish media who craves its access to the office irrespective of the oafish clown who occupies it.

Rest assured Chris. There is no mystery here. One way or another, the GOP will win this election. And they will do it by hook or crook and all under the slavish, adoring gaze of a media that has slavishly abandoned its most hallowed charter of keeping the public well informed and speaking truth to both power and public.

Posted by: Jaxas | September 20, 2006 10:03 AM | Report abuse

You see, the dems are already starting to whine about elections because they now correctly sense republicans holding on to power. you dems have only yourselves to blame because you don't offer the country anything other than we hate Bush and if we win we will impeach him. NOT A WINNING MESSAGE YOU POLITICAL IDIOTS.

Posted by: bhoomes | September 20, 2006 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for this very appropriate 'river ramble' series which has reminded me to mail in my absentee voter ballot ...which will be nearly unanimous Democrat in Ohio's 18th district. I'm registered Republican but it's time to clean house on corrupt, greedy, incompetent idiots, both at State and National level. No, I'm not so naive to think Dems will do much better, but you simply can't reward the huge mistakes GOP has made.

Posted by: overseas military | September 20, 2006 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Indiana's eighth and ninth districts are huge in this fight for control of congress. In the ninth how about a little coverage of Karl Rove's friends sending out the slimiest mailers imaginable about Baron Hills supposed support for gays and gay marriage. It has a picture of Hill superimposed in front of the Transamerica Building and states his true beleifs are coming out of the closet. This is in a district won by representative Sodrel by .4% in the election two years ago that pitted these same two candidates against each other. In that election billboards happen to go up all around the district connecting Hill with gays. All of this even though Hill voted for Clintons ptotection of marraige act and has been a happily married man for thirty two years. Sodrel defines politics to its lowest common denominator.

Posted by: Rob Deppert | September 20, 2006 9:33 AM | Report abuse

I would hardly characterize District 3 in Kentucky as "poor" and "rural"! Guys, make sure to spend a little time in Louisville - a world-class mid-size city, by all accounts - and get the facts straight before insulting Kentucky natives any further.

Posted by: Andrew Miller | September 20, 2006 9:21 AM | Report abuse

I envision a future "guy road trip" movie - albeit with a wonkish bent. Safe travels.

:-)

Posted by: Gaithersburg, MD | September 20, 2006 9:11 AM | Report abuse

as a member of the minority media here in ohio, i have watched both parties and numerous candidates...as usual, the dems take us for granted (af-ams), including their media, and the republicans ignored us...except in this election...it seems that the dems promised a lot, have delivered little, while the republicans, especially the campaign of gubernator candidate ken blackwell, are actually engaging minority media, cultivating it and buying it...phooey on the dems, again...it appears that they are treating their af-am operatives the same way, and that usually means they are treating the af-am voter with the same disdain...maybe our tv cameras will catch up to the 3 of you and do a story on you doing a story...

Posted by: ron p. | September 20, 2006 9:09 AM | Report abuse

I presume we'll get several propaganda articles from Chris in the next few days, like how Republican corruption isn't a factor in the fall elections. It's a fine preamble for the crooked elections that Ohio is famous for. Opinion polls keep showing deep disatisfaction with the direction the country has gone since 2000, but the Republicans keep winning. The people who are fighting and losing the battle for fair, accurate, and verifiable elections know why.

Posted by: Nick E. | September 20, 2006 8:45 AM | Report abuse

You're going upriver - not down.

Posted by: Kevin | September 20, 2006 8:15 AM | Report abuse

Must not forget Macaca--funny how the media treats Dems and Repugs differently, isn't it Chris? I hadn't seen a reference to Allen's campaign agaist women in VMI, which happened not 30 years ago, but in the last decade. Hmmm...

'On September 13, the Allen campaign organized a press conference in which female Naval Academy graduates criticized Webb for his article titled "Women Can't Fight," which appeared in the November 1979 issue of Washingtonian magazine. In the article, Webb asserted, "There is a place for women in the military, but not in combat."

The Webb campaign responded by noting that Allen had during the 1990s opposed the admission of female cadets into the Virginia Military Institute (VMI). Indeed, during a 1995 interview with The American Enterprise, Allen argued that "if VMI admitted women, it wouldn't be the VMI that we've known for 154 years. You just don't treat women the way you treat fellow cadets. If you did, it would be ungentlemanly, it'd be improper." And in 2000, Allen repeatedly stated his opposition to women serving in combat, as Media Matters documented:

A candidate guide published by the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot on November 3, 2000, reported that "Allen is insistent that women should not be involved in direct combat."

According to an October 9, 2000, Washington Post article, Allen said women "should not be in foxholes," adding that the "purpose of the armed services is not to be a social experiment."

Posted by: drindl | September 20, 2006 7:53 AM | Report abuse

Welcome to my home state of Ohio Chris, If somebody doesn't treat you well, just let us know and we will handle it. After leaving Ohio, you will see why I was never concerned about losing the House.

Posted by: bhoomes | September 20, 2006 6:50 AM | Report abuse

This trip down the Ohio river isn't, by chance, a canoe trip, is it? I hope y'all come back safely.

Posted by: Vince | September 20, 2006 5:41 AM | Report abuse

I notice that on your "Ohio River Ramble",
you will be hard-pressed to avoid going thru Ohio Cong. dist. 2, which runs from Cincinnati to roughly Parkersburg, and borders the river.
While you are there, it might be informative for you to check out the race between the incumbent, Jean Schmidt, and the challenger, Dr. Victoria Wulsin. If you can find 10 voters who say they will vote for Schmidt, I would be surprised.
Schmidt is hugely unpopular,even with Republicans, and Wulsin is a solid, credible candidate who connects with everyone she meets. Nov. 7 will be a big surprise!

Posted by: Shirley | September 20, 2006 12:21 AM | Report abuse

As a resident of OH-2, I've been hoping for more publicity of this developing race. Wulsin does not seem like an empty shirt or just the anti-Jean Schmidt, she sounds like a legit candidate. It isn't part of this itinerary, but I hope to see more coverage of what I think might be an emerging race in this contentious election.

Posted by: James | September 20, 2006 12:03 AM | Report abuse

I hope to hear the polls in Ohio with the Joy Padgett in District 18. Is it a strong Republican area and how did it vote for Bush in 2000 and 2004? The likelihood of keeping that District in the GOP will be a big factor for keeping the House.

Also, I am interested in the 2 open seats of Ohio-6 and Ohio-13. Any state polls on those races? Plus the Governors and the Senate races. So let's see the data and the mood of the people from Ohio.

Posted by: Shirley | September 19, 2006 11:52 PM | Report abuse

Looking forward to your reports from these districts Chris. You definitely picked "bellweather" territory.

http://intrepidliberaljournal.blogspot.com

Posted by: Intrepid Liberal Journal | September 19, 2006 11:02 PM | Report abuse

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