P.G. Sittenfeld’s poll numbers are technically somehow worse than when he entered the race seven months ago. His campaign manager quit six months ago and has never been replaced. Despite earlier denials to the contrary, his campaign finance reports shows his fundraising is drying up. His campaign has, for some reason, decided to pick a fight with organized labor and decry its influence in the Ohio Democratic Party. And he seems to do as many actual campaign events going out speaking with Ohio voters in a month than Ted Strickland is doing in a day.
So what exactly is P.G. Sittenfeld doing in the race? Apparently, his campaign is banking on a strategy of just straight out trolling the Strickland campaign constantly in the hopes it gets picked up by the media and Portman’s conservative allies who’d like to weaken Strickland before the general election.
Here’s what Sittenfeld campaign communication consultant Dale Butland said recently:
Dale Butland, the veteran Democratic political operative who is spokesman for Sittenfeld’s campaign, said the fact that a story about his swipe at Strickland landed in the Columbus Dispatch (a story that’s also about Portman’s campaign banging on Strickland over the pipeline), is the kind of “earned media” that will help Sittenfeld with his name recognition problem.
“Will that show up in the polls tomorrow?,” Butland said. “No, it won’t. But the cumulative effect of this kind of stuff will have an impact.”
The problem with that strategy is that media does not view it their jobs to subsidize a struggling campaign, especially one where the candidate seems to be little to no actual campaigning and has no traction in public polling. With the number of political reporters in Ohio is very limited, Sittenfeld’s lack of traction and obvious desperate pleas for attention cannot compete with reporters who are tasked with also covering Kasich’s presidential campaign and actual news in state and federal government. And that’s why many of Sittenfeld’s plea for attention have largely been ignored by the media, but not by Rob Portman’s allies who are happy to try to carry water for Sittenfeld.
Just a few weeks ago, the Associated Press reported that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is considering getting involved in Democratic Senate primaries in order to weaken the eventual Democratic nominee in the hopes of helping Republican incumbents and keeping the Senate under GOP control. Ohio was one of the races the Chamber’s memo mentioned as potential targets. And sure enough, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last week swooped in and co-opted Sittenfeld’s attack about the Keystone Pipeline, which doesn’t run anywhere near Ohio, has (at best, and this is very generous) little to no connection to the issue of global warming, and more importantly will be settled well before either Portman or Strickland will take the oath of office in January 2017.
The Keystone attack backfired on Sittenfeld as even his hometown Cincinnati Enquirer reported it as nothing more than an attempt to address recent bad polling the story referenced on three separate occasions (it also noted only four reporters bothered to even cover Sittenfeld’s press conference). Other outlets let pro-pipeline advocates Rob Portman and the Chamber overshadow Sittenfeld almost entirely, if they bothered to cover the dust up at all.
Sittenfeld, who has no known endorsements after seven months campaigning, just yesterday attempted to troll Hillary Clinton’s public endorsement of Ted Strickland a few days ago in Cleveland.
What was Sittenfeld’s brilliant point of attacking Strickland on? Sittenfeld’s campaign tried attacking Strickland on guns. Although Strickland is pro-Second Amendment and has been endorsed by the NRA in the past, he has voted in support of backgrounds checks in the past (including making them instant, which is what would almost have to be required to close the so-called “gun show” loophole). Sittenfeld, who initially declared himself pro-gun control (but then later added that he, too, is also pro-Second Amendment) has not fully spelled out what limits on gun regulations he would or would not support as an U.S. Senator. With no record to run on, it’s really hard to see whether Sittenfeld truly is different from Strickland on guns at all given Sittenfeld’s vague pronouncements on the issue.
The only known “gun” vote I can find in Sittenfeld’s record is when he joined a majority of City Council in waiving enforcement of city ordinances so that a gun show operator could operate a live BB gun range and raffle off firearms within the city limits at a gun show. In other words, the one time Sittenfeld could demonstrate he would not bow at the knees of the NRA (as he likes to put it), he, well, did just that. Sittenfeld has ZERO actual record showing he’s pro-gun control. He’s never used his position on city council to go to Columbus and testify against bills loosening up Ohio’s gun laws. Never mentioned it in any earlier campaign, one of his Huffington Post pieces, letter to the editor, media interviews, press releases, nothing. While he has decried gun violence in his city, Sittenfeld has actually not done anything specifically about guns to address it.
We already know that Sittenfeld was the highest rated Democrat (second overall) among the members of the Cincinnati City Council by the regional chamber of commerce. And his city council campaigns have relied on some of the very large donations from the conservative Cincinnati business community that are donating heavily towards Portman’s re-elections, as well. And never mind that prior to this year, P.G. Sittenfeld has never lent his name or apparently otherwise been involved in any of the protests or other calls of actions done in the Cincinnati area in opposition to the Keystone Pipeline.
It begs the question: is Sittenfeld running to help the party or Rob Portman?