Many Republicans and conservative activists in Ohio consider DeWine the most likely candidate to win the June 14 special election for the GOP nomination in the Cincinnati-area 2nd District. DeWine’s leading rivals in the 11-person Republican primary are former U.S. Rep. Bob McEwen and former state Rep. Jean Schmidt, local Republican officials say.
While McEwen gave no indication yesterday that he would make an issue out of DeWine’s father or his support for a pact that has angered many conservatives, a spokeswoman for state Rep. Tom Brinkman, also a candidate, suggested Brinkman plans to run with it.
Schmidt did not return phone calls yesterday. But one of her key backers, Jana Morford Widmeyer, the director of Ohio Right to Life’s political action committee, said Sen. DeWine’s support for the filibuster agreement would undoubtedly factor into the race.
“All I can tell is people are very upset,” Widmeyer said. “I just spoke to my friend in Mike DeWine’s office who said the phones are ringing off the hook.”
Widmeyer, like other Republicans interviewed, added that Pat DeWine’s name recognition, which had been his greatest asset heading into the primary, is also his greatest liability.
“Pat’s going to be tainted with it,” Widmeyer said, referring to the filibuster agreement. “Either because people realize it’s his dad, and they’re going to want to know where he stands on it, or they’re not going to know the difference between the two.”
Pat DeWine’s campaign manager, Shannon Jones, did not return calls yesterday seeking comment about the House candidate’s thoughts about the filibuster agreement or how it might influence the outcome of his race.
Other Republicans who are officially unaligned with any of the House campaigns said they didn’t expect the filibuster debate to have much impact on the race, adding that voters regard Pat DeWine as his own man.
Brent Sanders, executive director of the Hamilton County Republican Party, observed that the senator, who faces the voters himself in 2006, has pledged to fight for President Bush’s judicial nominees should Democrats break their word on the deal.
“Senator DeWine made clear his intention of voting for the constitutional option if the compromise did not work,” Sanders said of the so-called “nuclear option” to squash the filibuster. Hamilton County encompasses more than 25 percent of the voters in the 2nd District, Sanders said.
Mike DeWine was one of 14 senators, Democrats and Republicans, who reached an agreement Monday that effectively sidestepped the nuclear option for now by permitting confirmation votes on three of the president’s judicial nominees and sinking two.
DeWine appeared late Monday at a press conference with several Democrats and Republicans who helped forge the agreement.
Conservative leaders across the country called the GOP senators’ support for the agreement a betrayal.
David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union and a columnist for The Hill, speculated that Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) role in forging an agreement had sunk his presidential ambitions and that if Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), who also took part, sought another term he would lose.
“I think that is going to create very bad feelings within the party,” Keene said.
Other conservatives said the filibuster agreement would likely have ripple effects in Senate races in Nebraska and West Virginia. Having taken part in the negotiations, Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) have shielded themselves, to some extent, from Republican attacks that Democrats are “obstructing” the president’s nominees, these conservatives said.
Nelson and Byrd are up for reelection next year and are considered prime GOP targets.
One conservative lobbyist called the compromise “bad policy and politics for Republicans,” saying, “This agreement does undercut Republican efforts to expose Senate Democrats as obstructionists and helps get [Sen. Mary] Landrieu [D-La.], Ben Nelson, [Sen. Mark] Pryor [D-Ark.] and [Sen. Ken] Salazar [D-Colo.] off the hook on this issue. This sabotage by McCain should kill his prospect for success for his presidential ambitions on the Republican side.”
As for Ohio’s 2nd District, Denise Mackura, Ohio Right to Life’s executive director, said an endorsement vote this week by the Cincinnati chapter of her group will be more significant than the filibuster debate in shaping the House race.
Mackura said she expects Right to Life to endorse more than one candidate in the race, including one or more of the three leading contenders, DeWine, McEwen and Schmidt.