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Ohio’s pillow fight in the race for governor is officially over: Phillip Morris

September 16, 2018

Ohio’s pillow fight in the race for governor is officially over: Phillip Morris

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- With seven weeks remaining in the nationally watched race for Ohio governor, we’re bearing witness to an increasingly hostile fight between two combatants generally presumed to be in the same weight class. It’s not working out quite that way. At least, not yet.

Mike DeWine, the Republican nominee, is hammering Democrat Richard Cordray with brass knuckles. Meanwhile, Cordray is behaving too much like a shadow boxer, content to play by the Queensbury Rules of political pugilism. I don’t have a horse in this race, but I think Cordray needs to hit harder.

Ohio deserves a bruised but thoroughly vetted governor-elect come November 7th – a candidate presumably elected on the promises of creating a better economy, working to lower the catastrophic cost of health care, and striking a blow against rampant opioid addiction.

Perhaps, the nature of the contest will change this Tuesday, when Cordray and DeWine square off at the University of Dayton for the first of three debates. The two are scheduled for a final debate at Cleveland State University on October 8th.

Either man is capable of serving with distinction. However, Ohio’s next governor would do well to take notes from outgoing Gov. John Kasich, who is viewed nearly as favorably among democrats as he is by republicans and independents. He projects strength and is unafraid to speak his mind. One knows exactly where Kasich stands.

That brand of leadership is vital to a state that continues to hemorrhage manufacturing jobs and population. The next governor of Ohio can’t simply have a vision for the state. He must have the ability to fight like hell to advance that vision in a wounded state that remains politically potent but economically squeezed.

To that end, Cordray released a series of online ads last month highlighting his success as champion on the TV trivia show Jeopardy in 1987. The ads are useful enough. They gently mock his wonkiness and reveal a razor-thin sense of humor.

In one of the ads, Cordray plays a version of sidewalk Jeopardy with a clueless woman he pretends to encounter in the street. She is asked to name the official state vegetable of Ohio. When she appears stumped Cordray provides the answer: “It’s the tomato, although that’s actually a fruit.”

The ad’s puny punchline which follows his answer would probably shame a flyweight: “There is only one candidate for governor who won the real Jeopardy!”

Meanwhile, DeWine is running a brutal advertisement across Ohio’s television markets that accuses Cordray of not protecting sex-crime victims during the two years that Cordray served as Ohio Attorney General. Fairly or not, DeWine’s relentless attack on Cordray for not testing a backlog of more than 12,000 rape kits that accumulated in Ohio while Cordray served as attorney general is punishing.

“Cordray’s failure left serial rapists free to strike again,” a narrator intones.

Another potentially damaging TV advertisement sponsored by the Republican Governors Association accuses Cordray of doing nothing to address claims of racial and gender discrimination while he served as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under President Barack Obama.

These advertisements are far from cuddly Jeopardy parodies. The ads could serve to dampen the enthusiasm of minorities or women inclined to vote for Cordray. They are stinging body blows that reveal the GOP’s rabid determination to hold onto the Ohio governor’s seat in what is expected to prove the costliest gubernatorial race in state history.

When pressed to respond to DeWine’s claims that he’s soft on violent criminals, Cordray offered this less than blistering counter-punch:

“For [DeWine] to mislead Ohioans by mounting a blatantly political attack on me on an issue as serious as rape crime evidence is callous and it’s beneath the dignity of the office we are both seeking,” Cordray said.

Perhaps. However, this isn’t a game of Jeopardy. The race for Ohio governor is high-stakes prizefighting, and DeWine is throwing punches with bad intentions. He knows there’s no prize for second place.

Here’s a question that Cordray might consider adding to his online sidewalk Jeopardy ads: What’s another name for knuckle dusters?

Clue: Abraham Lincoln’s bodyguards used to wrap them around their fists.

Perhaps, Cordray will bring a set to the debates. We already know DeWine will.

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