Paul Hackett Quits Ohio Senate Race
Paul Hackett, the Iraq War veteran who was recently the darling of the Left, has dropped his bid for the U.S. Senate seat held by Mike DeWine under pressure from Democratic leaders including Harry Reid and Charles Schumer.
Paul Hackett, an Iraq war veteran and popular Democratic candidate in Ohio’s closely watched Senate contest, said yesterday that he was dropping out of the race and leaving politics altogether as a result of pressure from party leaders. Mr. Hackett said Senators Charles E. Schumer of New York and Harry Reid of Nevada, the same party leaders who he said persuaded him last August to enter the Senate race, had pushed him to step aside so that Representative Sherrod Brown, a longtime member of Congress, could take on Senator Mike DeWine, the Republican incumbent.
Mr. Hackett staged a surprisingly strong Congressional run last year in an overwhelmingly Republican district and gained national prominence for his scathing criticism of the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq War. It was his performance in the Congressional race that led party leaders to recruit him for the Senate race. But for the last two weeks, he said, state and national Democratic Party leaders have urged him to drop his Senate campaign and again run for Congress. “This is an extremely disappointing decision that I feel has been forced on me,” said Mr. Hackett, whose announcement comes two days before the state’s filing deadline for candidates. He said he was outraged to learn that party leaders were calling his donors and asking them to stop giving and said he would not enter the Second District Congressional race. “For me, this is a second betrayal,” Mr. Hackett said. “First, my government misused and mismanaged the military in Iraq, and now my own party is afraid to support candidates like me.”
Mr. Hackett was the first Iraq war veteran to seek national office, and the decision to steer him away from the Senate race has surprised those who see him as a symbol for Democrats who oppose the war but want to appear strong on national security. “Alienating Hackett is not just a bad idea for the party, but it also sends a chill through the rest of the 56 or so veterans that we’ve worked to run for Congress,” said Mike Lyon, executive director for the Band of Brothers, a group dedicated to electing Democratic veterans to national office. “Now is a time for Democrats to be courting, not blocking, veterans who want to run.”
But Democratic leaders say Representative Brown, a seven-term incumbent from Avon, has a far better chance of toppling Senator DeWine. “It boils down to who we think can pull the most votes in November against DeWine,” said Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party. “And in Ohio, Brown’s name is golden. It’s just that simple.” Mr. Fern added that Mr. Brown’s fund-raising abilities made him the better Senate candidate. By the end of last year, Mr. Brown had already amassed $2.37 million, 10 times what Mr. Hackett had raised.
I suspect Redfern and others are right. Hackett is not a Senate-ready candidate and an incumbent Congressman with a strong support base is simply a better bet to unseat a lukewarm incumbent.
Interesting, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, whose natural instinct is to support the most base-friendly candidate, agrees:
To be clear — Hackett didn’t stand a chance. He had a tenth of Brown’s money, and that was before party people allegedly tried to stop Hackett’s donors from giving. His field operation in the special election was literally put together and implemented by Dan Lucas. Who is Dan Lucas? Sherrod Brown’s campaign manager. Hackett’s netroots effort in the special election was put together by Tim Tagaris. And while Tim is now at the DNC, he helped put together Brown’s netroots operation.
Digby, though, is disappointed. “That man has the shinin’ and we have precious little of that in Democratic circles. I have to think that the powers that be may have failed to comprehend that some people have to be dealt with differently than your average pol.”
Dan Drezner thinks this a defeat for the so-called netroots.
Hackett was also relying on the netroots in his nascent primary run — this week he was TPM Cafe’s Table for One (though it should be pointed out that Brown blogged last week for TPM). The netroots ain’t happy, either — MyDD says, “This is ugly.” Atrios concurs.
More likely, though, this just shows the limitations of the netroots. The bottom line is that, while professional organizers for both parties need to pay attention to what’s being said in their friendly blogosphere as an early warning sign of discontent they have to look at the bigger picture, too. Candidates that truly excite the rabid base often alienate general election voters.