It’s been nearly a year since Jon Husted officially ended his campaign for Governor, agreeing instead to become Mike DeWine’s running mate. This was a marriage made in a political consultant’s laboratory and not a coming together of political allies. And now, astute observers have to wonder – did Republicans get it backward?
Do not misunderstand. As Speaker of the House and as Secretary of State, Husted has been responsible for enacting dangerous and harmful policies. He oversaw a reworking of Ohio’s tax code that led to the starvation of local governments and schools over the last decade. He’s almost single-handedly responsible for letting the ECOT fraud last as long as it did. Nothing in this article should be construed as an endorsement.
But Husted is a far superior candidate to Mike DeWine in a whole host of ways.
He’s a better fundraiser. In the first filing period after each declared their candidacy, Husted reported raising over $2 million compared to around $1.2 milion from DeWine – a number that included $1 million that DeWine loaned himself.
Husted, a former jock twenty years DeWine’s junior, is more youtful, vital and telegenic than 71-year old DeWine. This one needs no explanation.
Importantly, Husted doesn’t have DeWine’s 42 years of baggage. DeWine has developed a reputation as a staunch social conservative, leading the effort to defend Ohio’s gay marriage ban while Husted has come out for gay adoption. DeWine took Planned Parenthood to court and joined a lawsuit to allow bosses to deny women the ability to get contraception on the company healthcare plan. He has even exchanged endorsements with Rick Santorum who, in 2012, actually ran on a platform of banning amniocentesis.
During those 42 years, DeWine has also taken positions that upset his conservative flank. He spent the primary trying to sharpen his conservative credentials on immigration and guns, given his squishy history as a sometimes collaborationist. All you need to do is hit the Facebook comments (or Breitbart) to know that conservative Republicans–if they vote for him at all–will do so while holding their noses.
Husted is more well-versed on policy than DeWine. (For fun, watch his performance in a press conference about his misguided Planned Parenthood investigation to see him fumble for basic facts about his own office’s work). Husted spent years in the state legislature, exposing him to topics beyond DeWine’s limited repertoire of crime and punishment. There’s a rumor circulating in Columbus that Team DeWine has been demanding Husted join him at campaign events where there is an expectation to speak to policy issues because Husted does such a better job. We saw this play out at a Chamber of Commerce event in Dayton where Husted did the majority of the talking for the Republicans, while Rich Cordray confidently spoke to his own policies without a surrogate. As the Dayton Daily News put it, “DeWine ceded much of his microphone time to his running mate, Jon Husted,” and there’s video to prove it.
But 42 years in elected office means statewide name recognition. And, unfortunately for Jon Husted, he could never surpass Mike DeWine in polling, so, seeing the writing on the wall, a deal was struck.
At the end of the day, Husted would have been a stronger candidate. And Republican party officials must be wondering now if they could have made a better choice.
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