Hackett loses, but mark it in the 'win' column
It was a heartbreaking 51.7-to-48.3 percent final tally, with Republican candidate Jean Schmidt squeaking by Democrat challenger and Iraq veteran Paul Hackett.
But that's barely the tip of the story. The write-ups in daily newspapers start to scratch the surface. "In a nationally watched race that she began as a prohibitive favorite, Republican Jean Schmidt narrowly held off a hard-charging Marine to win..." begins a Cincinnati Post write-up of the vote. But, it continues, the race "was much tighter than had been expected in a district that the GOP has dominated for three decades and in which registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by a more than 3-to-1 margin."
The previous representative, Republican Rob Portman, won his last election with fully 70 percent of the vote. The fact that a political unknown could pull off such a strong showing is rightly interpreted as an event with much larger significance. As Markos Moulitsas writes on DailyKos, "...this is probably the only district in Ohio in which Paul would've lost.[...]So the state GOP avoids a "devastating blow", but only by the hair on their chinny chin chin.[...]It's a new day for the Democratic Party, one in which no Republican district is safe."
By running an aggressively anti-war and anti-Bush campaign, Paul Hackett broke new ground in post-9/11 Democratic politics. As John Nichols writes in The Nation,
"Despite the battering from right-wing media, and despite being overwhelmingly outspent, Hackett achieved the best Democratic showing in the region since the Watergate election of 1974. Indeed, on Wednesday morning, the Enquirer referred to the Democrat's showing as 'nothing short of astounding.'"And Hackett did it by pulling no punches in the fight. He called President Bush a "son of a bitch" on the record, said Bush's "bring it on" comment was "the most incredibly stupid comment" made by a President, and rightly labeled conservative war supporters who chose not to serve in the military "chickenhawks."
Hackett's kind of knock-down, drag-out campaigning likely won't fly on the national scene, but since retaking our local political districts is the next order of business for next year's congressional campaigns, I hope the Democratic leadership is paying attention to what Paul wrought.