Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Coleman Stakes Claim to the Political Center

Demonstrating how he was able to become the first Democratic mayor in Columbus in 28 years, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Michael Coleman attempted to stake his claim on the political center.

Coleman, addressing 200 supporters in the back yard of his East Side home, issued a Reaganesque call for "growing a bigger economy, not a bigger government."

He mimicked President Bush’s 2000 pledge to be a uniter, saying: "Republicans, Democrats and independents alike . . . we must all pull together to make Ohio great again."

The mayor, in an interview, harkened back to the "work harder and smarter and do more with less" mantra of 1990 gubernatorial candidate George V. Voinovich, now a U.S. senator.

Coleman quoted from a Dec. 6 speech in which Sen. Mike DeWine warned that Ohio had become "an undereducated, underemployed, underpaid state, with a tax structure that is reflective of the past, not the future."

He even echoed Gov. Bob Taft’s frequent lament about Ohio’s "anti-business tax structure."

In a state where Republicans have made hay by successfully painting Democratic gubernatorial and presidential nominees as out-oftouch liberals, Coleman rhetorically strode toward the sensible center, defining himself as the pragmatic manager and fiscal conservative needed to rescue a state in crisis.

Republicans will have a hard time portraying Coleman as an extremist. He's not. Robert Bennett tried, but I don't think it's going to stick.
That didn’t deter Ohio GOP Chairman Robert T. Bennett from returning to the well: "(Coleman’s) political views on the death penalty, gay marriage, taxes and gun control might be in sync with John Kerry, but they’re out of touch with mainstream Ohioans."
Coleman has been successful in Columbus because he is a moderate. He has been a very successful fund raiser as mayor, getting a strong support from the Republican leaning Columbus business community.

"As mayor, he has made a claim as a moderate Democrat, somebody who’s able to build bridges to different voters, whether community groups or business leaders," said Herb Asher, an Ohio State University political scientist and Democratic activist.

"He is a candidate who happens to be black but is not a black politician in the classic sense. He’s been a candidate who wins office in a heavily white majority constituency, so he really does know how to reach out to all voters."

Coleman's personal story will also appeal to Republicans. He and his wife have three children, two sons and one daughter. One son is currently in the Columbus Police academy and the other is a Marine, about to be deployed to Iraq.

Coleman's biggest challenge will be gaining statewide name recognition.

Many Ohio Democrats have been hoping that Jerry Springer runs in the primary. Not so he would win, but because of the attention he would bring to the other candidates in the race. Springer would also have the effect of making the other candidates look more moderate.

If Coleman can win the Democratic primary and get the statewide name recognition that he needs, he would be a very serious candidate in 2006.