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 Exhibit A in the power of the Democratic Party’s “netroots.” He almost won last year’s special election in a district where no one thought Democrats could be competitive.

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.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Brian says:

    I question how angry the netroots is going to be. Notice that Atrios actually said he took no position on the candidates. He just thought a primary should be held. Representative Brown is a solid progressive, and something tells me the netroots will be just fine with him.

  2. mary says:

    As a member of the democratic party for 42 years, the so-called “powers that be” should butt out of the state races and not put pressure on anyone to leave a race…it should up to the voters to have a choice…not hand picked candidates…

  3. McGehee says:

    Mary, speaking as a Republican for 26 years, I agree — and not in my usual snarky way. 😉

  4. Anderson says:

    What was wrong with letting the Democratic voters decide in the primary? I’m just too naive for politics on the ground ….

  5. Brian says:

    While I agree that a primary wouldn’t have hurt, Mr. Hackett would have lost. With a 10-1 spending advantage and being an incumbent Congressman, Rep. Brown would have coasted to victory. The “powers that be” were telling him that he was going to lose, and suggesting that he enter the House race, which he might be able to win. This is the kind of recruiting the Dems must do if they are to make significant gains in the ’06 elections.

  6. DC Loser says:

    This really does smack of machine politics. I agree they should have left it up to the Democratic voters in the primary.

  7. G A PHILLIPS says:

    If you have not yet realized the Dem’s will do anything to gain back their power, even eating their young, you need to pay more attention. oh, and please tell me when the Dem’s started caring about what the voters want, even after they have voted for it?

  8. Christopher says:

    The dems shooting themselves in the foot again! Maybe they should go hunting with Cheney.

  9. jimbo says:

    If Brown was such a sure winner, why the pressure to avoid a primary? A primary would have generated lots of free publicity for Brown. As a sure winner Brown could have run DeWine-bashing ads that would give him momentum into the general. I think they were afraid that Hackett is somewhat of a loose cannon and might have had a Dean Scream moment that would have discredited the party. This fear also goes for the netroots folks. The Dems nightmare would be an aggressive campaign by MoveOn.Org accusing Brown of being a hack.

  10. Brian says:

    I really think the Dems just wanted Hackett to run for the House. In a Democratic tide, that seat could turn. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal except that Hackett got angry. The pressure wasn’t to avoid a primary. It was to recruit a strong candidate for another race.

  11. Herb says:

    This proves what I have always thought, You cannot trust a Democrat, Hell, Now, the Democrats don’t trust Democrats