If Democratic hopes of taking back control of the Senate hinge on Ohio, they’d better start looking for Plan B. Former governor Ted Strickland, the Democratic nominee challenging Rob Portman, demonstrated the political skills Monday that made him a one-termer. While claiming that he wished no one “any ill,” Strickland told an AFL-CIO audience that Justice Antonin Scalia sure picked a propitious time for the Left to shuffle off this mortal coil.
The audience, by the way, seemed pretty enthusiastic about Scalia’s death too:
“A lot of average citizens out there don’t understand the importance of that court. I mean, the death of Scalia saved labor from a terrible decision,” Strickland said at the Monday event.
“And I don’t wish anyone ill, but it happened at a good time, because once that decision had been made, it would have been tough to reverse it.”
The Supreme Court handed a victory to labor unions earlier this year when it split in a 4-4 decision in a case after Scalia’s death. Scalia had been expected to cast the deciding vote rolling back state laws requiring some public-sector workers to pay union fees.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee, in a release about the audio, said Strickland “celebrates” Scalia’s death and that he is getting “all-out desperate.”
So how will the media report this? Will they frame it as Strickland’s attempt to organize voters to move the Supreme Court in a friendly direction, or as a death wish on conservative justices? Don’t hold your breath waiting for the latter interpretation, nor should it come. Strickland didn’t say that conservative justices should die — he just suggested he’s happy to see it when it happens. Aren’t those the media rules this week?
Don’t expect this to have too much impact on the Senate race, either. Strickland is already struggling, with an RCP average deficit of almost six points against Portman. Two recent ties have already been eclipsed by Portman leads from the same pollsters (Marist and Quinnipiac). Even Democratic pollster PPP has Portman up five points in its latest survey of Ohio.
Strickland will have to spend the next few days living down those comments before he can find a way to work up to Portman’s level of support — and given his political track record in the Buckeye State, it’s at least doubtful he’ll manage it.
Addendum: Strickland apologized for the remark today, two days later. Will the AFL-CIO apologize for the reaction of its members, too?