Blackwell-Strickland Debate Has a Few Human Moments

Last night’s Ken Blackwell-Ted Strickland debate was fascinating political theater but offered little insight into who’d be the better governor of Ohio. As is customary in these sorts of events, each candidate patiently listened to questions from a panel of journalists, thanked them for their thoughtful questions and then gave 60- or 90-second speeches that rarely qualified as “answers.”

I sat in the back row in the middle section of CCM’s Patricia Corbett Theatre, which strangely was only half full. On the one far wing of the theater were Strickland’s supporters, which included City Council Members Laketa Cole, David Crowley and Cecil Thomas, former Mayor Charlie Luken, former Vice Mayor Alicia Reece and others. On the other wing were Blackwell’s supporters, though I didn’t see any Republican officeholders.

Overall, I thought Blackwell came across better in person than Strickland, showing occasional bursts of emotion. He liked to hold his hand up to the audience to start his answers, saying, “Look, we have to do this…” Blackwell also was more negative, sticking Strickland every chance he could.

Strickland was calm and assured, rarely raising his voice or even altering his cadence. He tried to project the image of the guy who’s winning this race and who’s a statesman who tries to stay positive and above the fray. He seemed to want to paint Blackwell as the guy trailing, the guy who has to go negative, the guy who’s desperate. I think Strickland succeeded.

A couple of interesting tidbits: Numerous times Blackwell mockingly called Strickland a psychologist, which he is by training, and noted that Ohio’s economy couldn’t afford to wait while Strickland “put Ohio on the couch” to analyze its problems. I’m not sure how being a psychologist is seen as a negative by voters, but clearly Blackwell thinks it can win him points.

Blackwell also mocked Strickland’s campaign story of growing up poor in southern Ohio, noting that cowboy singer, movie star and restaurant franchiser Roy Rogers grew up in the same town as Strickland and then saying to his opponent, “I knew Roy Rogers, and you’re no Roy Rogers.” I’m still baffled as to what the hell that means.

And twice Blackwell warned the audience that electing another Democrat would put Ohio on the road to ruin, just like it did when John Gilligan was governor. First of all, Dick Celeste was the state’s more recent Democratic governor — Gilligan served one term way back in the early 1970s. That’s a pretty far reach to suggest a pattern of incompetence or whatever Blackwell was trying to say, especially (as Strickland pointed out several times) Blackwell has been part of the Republicans’ current 16-year stretch of controlling Ohio government.

Secondly, Blackwell didn’t provide any context for his Gilligan mentions, like saying Gilligan was and still is a Cincinnatian and the debate (broadcast live statewide) was being held in Cincinnati.

Gilligan currently serves on the Cincinnati Board of Education, which supervises Cincinnati Public School Superintendent Rosa Blackwell, the candidate’s wife. Gilligan has often clashed with her. I’ve been wondering since last night if the digs at Gilligan were related to that at all.

— John Fox

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3 Comments on “Blackwell-Strickland Debate Has a Few Human Moments”

  1. Kyle Jacobs Says:

    The best debate was between Libertarian economist Bill Peirce and Green Party rabble-rouser Bob Fitrakis (and the write-in Lundeen who looked like a scared deer in the headlights). I was there in person I think it was by far the more informative of these debates on actual issues.

    I think they’re supposed to be releasing the whole thing to the public domain in a few days and will pop up on Google Video.

  2. Not the Mamma Cass! Says:

    Would that be the far left wing of the theater, AKA House Left?

    I’m here through Wednesday- thank you!

  3. anon Says:

    Great all the people responsible for the decline of Cincinnati sat on Stricklands side. How appropriate

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