SCHMIDT DEFEATS ANGRY BUSH-BASHER: Republican Jean Schmidt defeated Democrat Paul Hackett in the special election for the congressional seat in Ohio's 2nd district. This district is a very conservative district; the former congressman, Rob Portman, never won less than 70% of the vote in his seven election victories. George Bush won two-thirds of the vote in this district in 2000 and 2004. The Cook Partisan Voting Index rated this district as R +15, which speaks volumes when one considers that Bush's own congressional district in Texas is rated nearly the same at R +18. With all this in mind, the fact that Hackett won 48% of the vote will be spun by liberals as bad news for Bush in 2006.

However, keep this in mind:

1) This was a special election, so the turnout is more heavily weighted to the poles of the political spectrum. This skews the vote toward the Democrat candidate in a district where votes in the middle of the district's spectrum probably lean Republican.

2) The Ohio GOP is at its lowest point in years, with Republican Governor Bob Taft the most unpopular governor in the country. Hackett's campaign tied Schmidt to the Taft administration.

3) Ohio's two GOP senators have disenchanted the base this summer. George "Cry me a river" Voinovich opposed John Bolton for the UN, then wailed on the senate floor about it. Mike DeWine joined the Gang of 14, angering some conservatives. In fact, DeWine's participation in the Gang of 14 is widely considered to be the reason Pat DeWine wasn't the Republican nominee for this special election.

4) And most interestingly... Paul Hackett's campaign ads neglected to mention that he's a Democrat! Furthermore, they never mentioned his criticism of the president, whom Hackett told USA Today is a "son of a bitch". Nor did they mention his support of tax hikes. All the ads mentioned was that he is a war veteran. In a general election, Democrat candidates won't be able to hide their party affiliation, nor the albatross of the national Democratic Party.

So conservatives, don't take Schmidt's narrow victory too hard. She had all these four things working against her, yet she still managed to win. Meanwhile, Paul Hackett will have to stick to being the token "Iraq veteran opposed to the Iraq war" guest on Hardball.

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