The Ohio Democratic Party held a conference call for media today that featured national broadcaster Ed Schultz and Party Engagement Chair Nina Turner. The duo discussed how the shutdown politics of the GOP are impacting the U.S. Senate race in Ohio.

Turner, a former state senator, pegged the cost of the last shutdown of the federal government by Republicans at about $24 billion. That cost, she said, showed the GOP doesn’t really care about the citizens they are supposed to represent. She knocked Ohio’s junior senator in Washington, Rob Portman, who is running for a second next year after being elected in 2010 when Republicans across the board swept Democrats out of statewide offices, as not being helpful in this looming shutdown just as he wasn’t helpful on the last one.

As a partisan, Sen. Turner said Portman is on the wrong side of the current dustup over federal funding for Planned Parenthood and said former Gov. Ted Strickland would be a better partner with Sherrod Brown, Ohio’s senior senator, because they will both focus first on Ohioans and creating jobs.

Ed Schultz, a nationally known force in broadcast journalism whose reputation of fighting for working families and union members is not in doubt, said Ohio is a microcosm of what’s happening around the country. Scheduled to speak at the annual dinner of the AFL-CIO, Mr. Schultz said the GOP and its candidates are focusing not on jobs but on Washington politics. He criticized Sen. Portman for “walking in lock step with Ted Cruz,” arguing Republicans have done nothing to create jobs. “It’s totally abhorrent that the GOP is focused on attacking women’s rights and job security,” he said Wednesday morning. “The shutdown is just Washington politics.”

Asked what Ohio Democrats are going to do to have next year look like 2012, when President Obama seemed a guaranteed loser but ended up winning a second term, she said there is no such thing as an off-year election. She and Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper, who lost last year in a bid for Attorney General, are out to educate and inspire voters to get out the vote. She emphasized that ODP is starting its march to drive voters to the pools next year, and that she and her allies are interested in local races. “There’s an election every single year,” she said, adding that ODP is working with the state’s 88 county party chairmen. “Voters have the last say no matter what the situation looks like,” she said. “We will remind voters they have final say.”

Mr. Schultz said Democrats have a record to run on, ticking off issues like the stimulus, the auto industry recovery and others. He cited Sen. Portman, and by extension Gov. John Kasich who is among the dwindling pool of GOP White House hopefuls, as officials who were against it. He noted that Sen. Portman is for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an effort he said will “gut more American jobs,” which would only put more pressure on Ohio workers. An emerging market, he said, is one where a worker will work for nearly nothing. “I think this is a winner for democrats in Ohio…Portman is a free trader but has no problem allowing China or South Korea subsidize their steel industry,” he told reporters on the call. As for TPP, Schultz said of it, “It’s nothing but a Wall Street deal …He [Portman] is on the wrong side for workers…It’s a winner for Democrats.” He forecast a “big social networking effort and boots on ground from wage earners” going forward.

The two call hosts were asked about their thoughts on whether it would be a good idea for Cincinnati City Councilman and Portman challenger, P.G. Sittenfeld. to run for the seat soon to be vacated by retiring Ohio Congressman and current Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, John Boehner? Boehner’s seat is in Mr. Sittenfeld’s backyard, so to speak, given its close proximity to Cincinnati.

Sen. Turner said Democrats are looking for someone to run for Mr. Boehenr’s seat, and that Connie Pillich, who had the best showing among Democrats last year despite her loss for State Treasurer to Josh Mandel, has declined to run. “He [Sittenfeld] should have more than fighting chance to win,” she said, adding, “If he’s not interest4ed, I have to respect that.” Ed Schultz wasn’t familiar with Mr. Sittenfeld, whose entry into the senate race has flummoxed Democratic officials who have already endorsed Ted Strickland. Sittenfeld has little money, and reports say his fundraising is low to nil these days. Sittenfeld indicated he would drop out of the race if Strickland got it, but that has yet to happen.

On the topic of Republicans defunding Planned Parenthood to shutdown the federal government, Sen. Turner said the doctored videos from an avowed enemy of abortion rights caught Planned Parenthood off guard. “It was a hammer to hit Democrats over the head with,” she said, adding that Roe V. Wade, the Constitutional right for a woman to have an abortion, has been chipped away at for a long time by pro-life forces. She advised Democrats to be “unapologetic for standing up for this organization that has done good.” She laughed at the irony of people who want to cut funding to Planned Parenthood as the same people who also want to cut funding for education and local governments. “Planned Parenthood polls well among all Americans not just Ohioans,” she said. “It’s covering up for their [Re publican’s] lack of ability to govern. Planned Parenthood is nothing but a scapegoat.”

Schultz chimed in that national Democrats and the progressive movement were caught “flat-footed” and haven’t come up with a narrative yet. Schultz said he saw it as similar to what happened in 2004, when “gays, guns and god” became an issue that drove Republican voters to the polls, electing George W. Bush again over John Kerry. “Republicans say they are morally committed…this is a ‘2016 dog whistle’ to rile up their base, to present their case that they are morally connected,” he said.

Schultz took a swing at President Obama, criticizing him for bad messaging and a “level of arrogance.” According to Mr. Schultz, “This White House doesn’t have a close relationships on the Hill…a profound example of all of this is his cool relationship with the Congressional Black Caucus…he’s the first African-American president, and Black Lives Matter…he’s [President Obama] let them down,” he said. Schultz agreed that President Obama’s first term was great, considering the big challenges facing him and the dedicated opposition to him and his agenda Republicans on the Hill prosecuted against him. “His second term has been totally off-center on different issues…He beat Romney by talking about the middle class, but what has Obama done for middle class?”

Schultz accused the president of focusing on his legacy more than getting things done, despite all the filibustering from a dysfunctional congress. “He still has a bully pulpit.”

When it came to presidential politics, both Turner and Schultz were in agreement: John Kasich is a trump card for Republicans. “He does have experience other candidates don’t have, he spent time in Washington, he’s governed Ohio and he has an incredible amount of media savvy,” Schultz noted. “It’s a big dilemma for Democrats, you have to win Ohio, you can’t get to the White House without it,” he said. Gov. Kasich knows he’s well positioned, they said, and needs to avoid stumbles. “You have to deliver the Electoral College, and Ohio and Florida are major players,” Schultz said via telephone today. On the bright side, Democrats will do well in other states no matter who the nominee is, he said. “I’m a Bernie [Sanders] guy for the next president…he’s spot on on the issues.”

Schultz believes John Kasich is a “huge player and asset to the ticket.” Sen. Turner was also wary of Mr. Kasich. “Where ever the governor is position, he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with.”

 

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