Ever since Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine put on his reelection campaign game face, he’s been drifting across the masses like a UFO with the best wishes of a forgiving press and a looming Republican year at the polls.
Now you see him, now you don’t. He prefers to cast his attention to his other interests that gives him a Deep South spiritual coating as a social conservative – nay, as a blessed Medievalist opposed to abortion, same-sex marriage, raising the minimum wage, defending Hobby Lobby, opposing gun control and above all, the Affordable Care Act. On that point, he has long made his rounds outside the state to wherever he could pitch in to help defeat ObamaCare.
Of late, he has taken up the cause of restricting Ohio’s new voter system, the one that a right-wing Supreme Court just delayed after two lower federal courts had ruled it unconstitutional. The Supremes would have overruled the lower courts 5-4 anyway if DeWine had gone fishing. Or spent a little more time facing his opponent, David Pepper,a Cincinnati Democrat, in at least a debate or two.
Pepper put the debate issue in the right context when he spoke at the Akron Press Club this week. As a lawyer himself, Pepper gamely questioned DeWine’s rejection of any debate, including the invitation from the Cleveland City Club. Some newspapers gently questioned the UFO’s decision, too, but for too many voters, debates are best left to molecular physicists.
Pepper, however, squarely defined DeWine’s posture as unbecoming of a guy who must serve as the people’s lawyer and be never fearful of airing differences with opponents in courts or anywhere else. “If you’re afraid to debate as the attorney general,” Pepper declared, “something must be wrong.”
Indeed, it is. And that should include the many reports of how DeWine has converted his office into a pay-to-play cash cow, hauling in campaign cash from those who stand to sweeten their own pots in return. In one recent exposed case, DeWine replaced a company that had ably served several different governors in debt collections, giving the lucrative contract to a pal of Summit County Republican Chairman Alex Arshinkoff, despite the recipient’s admission that he had little experience in that line of work. (Over the years, Alex has smelled money like a shark attracted to blood. He was once on DeWine’s payroll as the AG’s liaison in northern Ohio. )
Still there is strong feeling that Mike DeWine towers so high in ballot strength that he is unbeatable. That hasn’t always been true. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a liberal Democrat, no less, thumped DeWine out of the. U.S. Senate in 2006 with room to spare. (56 pct. landslide.) On that occasion DeWine had no more than an approval rating in the 30s, putting him just above Rick Santorum as the most unpopular senator on Capitol Hill.
But DeWine has the ability to hover in politics. In 2012 he was a Santorum supporter in the presidential. He then startled the experts with a mid-campaign switch to Mitt Romney when it became increasingly clear that the Rev. Rick wouldn’t win the Ohio Republican primary. Call his retreat from Santorum a “course correction”.
Four more years for this mercurial UFO? You decide.
P.S. Pepper did speak to the Cleveland City Club luncheon this week, sans DeWine