In today's WSJ.com Opinion Journal, in a column entitled "A Tale of Two GOPs," Kimberly A. Strassel examines the differing fates of two GOP gubernatorial campaigns: Florida, where Republican candidate Charlie Crist is leading by double digits and should succeed Jeb Bush and preserve his State House for the Republican Party, and Ohio, where Ken Blackwell is trailing by double digits, and the Democrats are likely to replace a Republican incumbent.
Strassel argues that the difference between Florida and Ohio is not the candidates, but rather the policies pursued by each State's Republican Party. In Florida, the GOP has remained true to its principles and has followed through on its campaign promises, cutting taxes and keeping spending in check. In contrast, a series of Republican Governors in Ohio have allowed State spending to rise sharply and have gone along with tax increases to balance the budget. The lesson that Strassel draws is that the GOP wins by governing according to conservative principles and keeping its promises. Ken Blackwell, who has championed tax cuts, fiscal responsibility and broad government reform, is the victim of his State party's failure to govern based on that platform in successive Republican Administrations.
I assume that Strassel would view my State of California as the exception that proves the rule. Here, in a State where the Democrats enjoy an overwhelming majority in voter registration, and have dominated Statewide politics, Governor Schwarzenegger is winning re-election by running to the Left. Even so, he also campaigns that he has controlled the runaway spending of the Gray Davis Administration and has brought fiscal responsibility back to California, restoring its standing in the bond markets without resorting to tax increases. Conservatives may grumble, but as against Phil Angelides there really is no question that Ahnuld is the conservative's preferred alternative.
However, there is another element to the difference between the Florida and Ohio races that must at least be considered. Ken Blackwell is an African-American. Just as Tom Bradley, an excellent Mayor of Los Angeles, could not win a statewide gubernatorial election in an overwhelmingly Democratic State, it is possible that Blackwell's campaign suffers from at least unspoken racial discrimination. He will not get the majority of African American votes in Ohio, because he is a conservative Republican. And at least part of the GOP base may find themselves unable to cast a ballot for an African American candidate, even if they agree with his policies. I would love to see evidence that I am wrong from Hedgehog readers; indeed I deplore the possibility that I am correct. Nonetheless, that is how I see it. And Mr. Strassel weakens his analysis by not answering this obvious objection.