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Hackett Switch Could Boost Ohio Democrats

UPDATE: Hackett made it official this morning -- he's dropping out of the Senate race. And from his statement below, he won't be challenging Rep. Schmidt in the 2nd District.

Here's Hackett's official statement:

"Today I am announcing that I am withdrawing from the race for United States Senate. I made this decision reluctantly, only after repeated requests by party leaders, as well as behind the scenes machinations, that were intended to hurt my campaign.

"But there was no quid pro quo. I will not be running in the Second Congressional District nor for any other elective office. This decision is final, and not subject to reconsideration.

"I told the voters from the beginning that I am not a career politician and never aspired to be--that I was about leadership, service and commitment.

"Similarly, I told party officials that I had given my word to other good Democrats, who will take the fight to the Second District, that I would not run. In reliance on my word they entered the race. I said it. I meant it. I stand by it. At the end of the day, my word is my bond and I will take it to my grave.

"Thus ends my 11 month political career. Although it is an overused political cliche, I really will be spending more time with my family, something I wasn't able to do because my service to country in the political realm continued after my return from Iraq. Perhaps my wonderful wife Suzi said it best after we made this decision when she said 'Honey, welcome home.' I really did marry up.

"To my friends and supporters, I pledge that I will continue to fight and to speak out on the issues I believe in. As long as I have the microphone, I will serve as your voice.

"It is with my deepest respect and humility that I thank each and every one of you for the support you extended to our campaign to take back America, and personally to me and my family. Together we made a difference. We changed the debate on the Iraq War, we inspired countless veterans to continue their service by running for office as Democrats and we made people believe again. We must continue to believe.

"Remember, we must retool our party. We must do more than simply aspire to deliver greatness; we must have the commitment and will to fight for what is great about our party and our country; Peace, prosperity and the freedoms that define our democracy.

"Rock on.

"Paul Hackett."

Monday's Fix Post on Hackett:

With Ohio's filing deadline less than 72 hours away, talk is rampant that Iraq War veteran Paul Hackett (D) may drop out of the Senate race and instead run against Rep. Jean Schmidt (R) in the 2nd District.

Over the weekend, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel told the Associated Press that he was "petitioning" Hackett to switch races. "This isn't talking behind the scenes; I'm saying it publicly," Emanuel told the AP.

Aides at the DCCC would not comment Monday on whether Hackett has been asked by the party to switch races, but it's unlikely Emanuel would make such a bold public statement if he didn't have some indication from Hackett's political world the candidate was open to such a change.

Adding to the confusion was a press release this morning from Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory commending Hackett for his "difficult decision to step out of the race for the U.S. Senate and to step into the race for the 2nd Congressional District." Whoops! Thirty minutes later, Mallory re-issued the release, this time "urging" Hackett to swap races. (Kudos to the Cincinnati Enquirer's political blog for breaking the news today.)

Hackett's campaign office did not return a call or several e-mails seeking comment.

Hackett's Senate bid has struggled since Rep. Sherrod Brown (D) reversed course and decided to enter the race after initially demurring. Brown transferred a huge chunk of cash from his House campaign account and ended 2005 with $2.4 million in the bank. Hackett closed 2005 with just $230,000 in the bank, a major problem given that the Democratic primary is set for May 2.

While $230,000 is a meager budget for a statewide bid, it could be a nice jumpstart to a House race. Should Hackett decide to run for the suburban Cincinnati 2nd District, he'll be facing off against a known opponent. Rep. Schmidt, after all, narrowly bested Hackett in an August 2005 special election -- a race that made waves in political circles because Hackett nearly won in a heavily Republican district where President Bush won with 64 percent in 2004.

Schmidt, who drew considerable negative press attention when she seemed to refer to Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) as a "coward" on the House floor, is facing a serious primary challenge of her own from former Rep. Bob McEwen. McEwen took 26 percent in the GOP special election primary last year -- second only to Schmidt's 31 percent.

Should Hackett switch races, it would be a win for both House and Senate Democrats. On the House side, another seat would be put in play that otherwise was not expected to be competitive in the fall. On the Senate side of the equation, Brown would avoid a nasty and potentially costly primary, allowing him to husband resources for the November race against Sen. Mike DeWine (R).

By Chris Cillizza  |  February 14, 2006; 9:49 AM ET
Categories:  House , Senate  
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