The media wrecking crew that first destroyed, then seemingly doomed Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald’s hopes of unseating Ohio’s little loved and royally flawed Republican governor, John Kasich, has moved on to other jobs and new vistas. One of the crew’s foremen, Cleveland Plain Dealer political reporter Henry Gomez, clearly thinks FitzGerald is such a foregone loser that he’s set his on future races.
Last week, Mr. Gomez sent five questions to his “best Democratic sources” for non-attributable responses. Those questions were used as the basis for his “What’s Next?” story, published in the PD last week; a story whose sole purpose was to show that Democrats are abandoning FitzGerald (albeit anonymously and non-attributably). It seems clear these questions, focused on future races, are a sign that his beat blueprint will focus on informing voters that Democrats have weak candidates and Republicans will win by default.
Gomez will argue that Democrats don’t have what it takes to be competitive in a state that has been all red Republican for 16 of the last 18 years. With the exception of four short years from 2006-2010, when Democrats controlled four of Ohio’s statewide offices, they have been down and out of power. Also recall that for 18 of those 20 years, the General Assembly was likewise controlled by Republicans. The Gomez-led wrecking crew has let virtually all of John Kasich’s elephant-sized issues slow-walk by them unnoticed. But they earned their bones by zeroing in on the minutia of details that involved FitzGerald’s driving license snafu and his innocent, but awkward scene involving an Irish trade delegation member who was not his wife. They never proved anything torrid or scandalous actually occurred, but the suspicions — the hint that sex was involved — left FitzGerald to twist in the wind as Team Kasich smiled that their hounds from another kennel were on the hunt.
Already tilling his fields in order to plant speculative seeds of poison for the Ohio Democratic Party and its future candidates, Gomez sent these five questions to those people he called “my best Democratic sources.” Muddying minds is a disservice reporters deliver to their readers. It looks like there will be more unhelpful, confusing “horse race” coverage without knowing any details of the track, who owns it and who else is in the race, and whether weather conditions favor mudders or not.
Not every horse is a winner, of course, but to hobble a horse so it can’t run is not the job of newspaper reporters – that’s the job of political operatives. Gomez hit FitzGerald, to the delight of Kasich, by creating a field only Kasich could play on without fear of being tackled or sacked. Putting Democrats on the defensive, as his questions do, by default presents Republicans as winners because Democrats won’t be able to compete in a house built by and for Republicans.
In his email to Democratic insiders, Gomez points out that “a few national observers — the Washington Post, in particular — have remarked that the troubles with Ed FitzGerald’s campaign signify a weak Democratic bench in Ohio. There has been speculation that this situation — especially if no down-ballot Democrat pulls through this fall — could hurt the party in the 2016 Senate election and 2018 race for governor.”
He then asks a series of questions to his “best Democratic sources, on background and not for attribution.” We’ve included those questions below, along with some suggestions for questions a less biased reporter might have asked…
1. Who’s the Democratic frontrunner for the U.S. Senate race in 2016?
Few voters have paid attention to the races this year, and Labor Day has come and gone. You don’t know what’s going to happen next week, so isn’t it totally silly totally premature to engage in wild speculation about “what ifs” two years out?
How about this question instead: “What will John Kasich say and what will Ohio do when JobsOhio is found to be unconstitutional,” as it will be if it ever reaches the Supreme Court of Ohio?”
2. Which other Democrats could be strong contenders for this race?
How about this question instead: “Why was it OK for John Kasich to overthrow a legitimate and tested Republican Party Leader like Kevin Dewine and replace him with a convicted influence peddler like Matt Borges?
3. Who’s the Democratic frontrunner for governor in 2018?
How about this question instead: “Why did John Kasich leverage Ohio assets to the hilt like Lehman Brothers leveraged itself, leading to its downfall and extinction when the housing bubble burst? Did Kasich learn nothing about what triggered the Great Recession?”
4. Which other Democrats could be strong contenders for this race?
How about this question instead” “Who paid for Kasich’s trip to Davos, Switzerland, to hob nob with the rich and famous?” Recall, The Dispatch sent Joe Vardon to cover the the Great Deregulartor in action.
5. What do you see as Ed FitzGerald’s next move?
How about this question instead: “How would the Dispatch’s credibility be affected if the public knew that it contributed to Kasich and has invested in Drive Capital, Kasich’s Silicon Valley buddy Mark Kvamme’s venture capital investment group?”