For quite some time now, the sluggish economy in Ohio has made Democrats nervous about the re-election chances of Gov. Ted Strickland. Unemployment is close to 11 percent and factories are closing. For him to become the first Buckeye Democratic governor to win re-election since 1986, the numbers have got to turn around.
Of course, Republican ineptness might help.
Yesterday, Yvette Brown, Strickland's running mate for lt. gov., delivered a speech that focused on urban issues. That was followed by this statement from Rob Nichols, the press secretary for Strickland's GOP opponent, former Congressman John Kasich:
Not until Ted Strickland feared needing their votes did he give urban Ohioans a second thought. Having grown up in a chicken shack on Duck Run, he has all but ignored our cities' economies and their workers. It's a disgraceful record whose pain for urban Ohioans can't be swept under the rug with a bunch of pretty speeches.
Nichols was referring to Strickland's often-told story about how he once lived in a chicken shack during his childhood.
Cleveland Plain Dealer's Sabrina Eaton reported that Democrats said the remark "shows Kasich is a Wall Street snob who disdains rural Ohioans of modest means." Democratic National Committee chair Tim Kaine, in Cleveland today, replied, "Maybe that's the way the world looks from the perspective of a Lehman Brothers consultant." And Strickland communications director Lis Smith had this response via e-mail, as per the Plain Dealer:
Only the Congressman from Wall Street would be so out of touch as to insult Ted's humble upbringing. While Congressman Kasich may have spent a lot of time in boardrooms at Lehman Brothers and rubbing elbows with lobbyists at cocktail parties in Washington, Ohioans are looking for a Governor who will represent their values-and clearly that is not John Kasich.
Eaton's report includes the news that Kasich was "dismayed" by Nichols' remarks and let him know it.
But the chicken shack comment may be the least of Kasich's worries. Rick Chandler, writing in NBC Sports' Out of Bounds blog, notes that Kasich was asked on Alan Colmes' Fox Radio show last week if he would be joining "the chorus" to keep NBA star LeBron James in Cleveland. (There has long been speculation that James, whose contract is up, might want to leave the Cavaliers.)
"I'm not singing in any chorus for LeBron James," Kasich responded.
Kasich: "No, I'm not. Look, he's a great basketball player, he's a great guy. There's a lot of great people in Ohio."
Before that, Colmes asked Kasich if he were governor, what he would do to help persuade James to stay in Ohio.
"Alan, we've lost 400,000 jobs out here and the last guy I worry about is LeBron James. You know I mean, we all hope he'll stay in Cleveland. We think we've got a great guy there that can turn everything around, but we got some serious problems," Kasich said.
The Strickland campaign quickly created a "Ohioans Against LeBron" web site, which it claimed Kasich was its only member. NBC's Chandler credited Kasich for "not being a pandering sch****" regarding LeBron, but the comments "were tactically short-sighted," a "bone-headed play for someone claiming he's sharp enough to take the state's top elected office."
I don't know much about Chandler's political acumen, but he does add this:
The election isn't until November. But in a race where poll numbers show the two in a virtual tie, and only 8 percent of the electorate still undecided, fallout from his issue actually could decide things.
He may have a point.
And let the record show that one can make the case that the "chicken shack" gaffe and the LeBron comment could be linked. After all, who is LeBron's teammate on the Cavs? You guessed it: Shaq.