Cleveland rocks!

To me, it was good news from the RNC: the 2016 GOP convention is slated for Cleveland. For those of us on the East Coast, it’s a city within driving distance and in my case I would have a ready-made place to stay because part of my family lives there. The “mistake on the lake” could achieve the daily double as well, since the Democrats also have their eye on Cleveland for their convention – if so, it will be the first time in 44 years both parties have held their convention in the same city, with Miami being the site of both 1972 conventions. Cleveland last hosted a national convention in 1936, when Republicans picked Alf Landon to face Franklin Roosevelt. (They also hosted the 1924 GOP convention, which nominated President Calvin Coolidge for a full term.)

But to me it’s a milestone of a city going through the pains of revitalization, A few weeks ago, on my Sausage Grinder blog, I wrote a piece reviewing a study done in Cleveland about how the city is attracting more and more young workers. Frustrated by high real estate prices on the coasts and finding good jobs in the “eds and meds” fields, Cleveland is becoming a destination of choice around the region. Yes, that Cleveland.

If the GOP wants to send a message about their vision for America, they should focus on the process Cleveland is using for its rebirth. The city is a laboratory to study mistakes made and methods which work, as it serves as a microcosm of sorts for the country at large. Built up in an era when brains and brawn were needed in equal supply to create the goods which helped a young America prosper and witness to an exodus to both its suburbs and more favorable regions which all but killed the city, Cleveland can still be a survivor. As I wrote in my piece, Cleveland is a place “where manufacturing is in the blood.” I think making things in America again is the key to a national renaissance.

Certainly Dallas and Kansas City, Cleveland’s two main opponents in the fight to be convention host, have their own stories to tell. But there’s a political factor to consider: Texas and Missouri have been fairly safe Republican territory over the last several elections, but Ohio has gone with the winning Presidential candidate a remarkable 13 elections in a row – so any Republican advantage there can be vital. On a state level, the GOP has been dominant for much of the last quarter-century, albeit with less-than-conservative politicians occupying the governor’s chair – George Voinovich, Bob Taft, and John Kasich have left a lot to be desired insofar as the conservative movement is concerned. But if Kasich secures re-election this year, he will be the fourth two-term Republican governor in a row stretching back to the days of James Rhodes, who served four non-consecutive terms beginning in 1963.

So if I’m blessed enough to get an opportunity to cover the proceedings – or even be a delegate or alternate – I think it would be fun to give the perspective of a transplanted Ohioan. It’s something I can scratch off my bucket list in fairly familiar surroundings.

The declaration of (courting) independents

It doesn’t seem like this issue will ever die.

You might recall that after our Maryland GOP Spring Convention earlier this year I posted a piece critiquing the thoughts of Don Murphy, a former Delegate and longtime party activist who has been fighting a crusade for many years to open up the Republican primary to unaffiliated voters, perhaps with the idea of welcoming them to the party eventually. His reasoning seemed sound: a number of like-minded Northeastern states open their primaries because they have a plurality of unaffiliated voters.

But the MDGOP appears to be interested in revisiting the process, as Erin Cox writes in the Baltimore Sun, and it may set us up for yet another contentious convention this fall in Annapolis. And while Brian Griffiths uses the evidence of past election results in his post on Red Maryland today, I honestly believe that’s a little bit of a red herring argument.

In Maryland today, the registration numbers lay out as follows (from the June report):

  • Democrats: 2,073,619 (55.6%)
  • Republicans: 959,120 (25.7%)
  • minor parties – Libertarian, Green, Americans Elect, and other unrecognized: 59,644 (1.6%)
  • unaffiliated: 636,716 (17.1%)

Four years ago at the same point in the cycle, the percentages weren’t a lot different. There are now 300,000 more voters in Maryland, but numerically they line up similarly:

  • Democrats: 1,942,336 (56.9%)
  • Republicans: 909,848 (26.7%)
  • minor parties and other unrecognized: 80,034 (2.3%)
  • unaffiliated: 478,817 (14.0%)

A number of the unaffiliated are likely former Independents, which is no longer a separate category.

And I’m sure some fret that eventually the unaffiliated will catch up to the Republicans – a 3% gain every four years coupled with a 1% loss in Republicans would put that date sometime early next decade. My contention, however, is that there are a significant proportion of Democrats who are so because their primary is the only race they can vote on.

But opening up the GOP primary to unaffiliated voters isn’t going to be enough of a draw for voters who have no local Republican candidates on the ballot for whom to vote. For example, in Prince George’s County’s 2010 primary – perhaps the most unbalanced in the state – once you departed the federal and statewide races there were exactly zero contested GOP races at the legislative level and just two local races (both for Central Committee seats) where the GOP had more contenders than winners. I admire the Prince George’s GOP for their efforts (my “partner in crime” Heather Olsen hails from there) but what would help them more than anything are candidates willing to stand up and hoist the GOP banner. Allowing unaffiliated voters into the GOP primary wouldn’t change the game.

Now I’m sure those who favor the idea will argue I used the most extreme example. Yet even if every single voter not connected with the Democratic Party decided to become a Republican, AND we could attract the 10 percent or so of Democrats statewide who are affiliated that way because their daddy was a Democrat but vote straight-ticket Republican – we’re still a minority. Barely, but still looking at a deficit and up against the hardcore elements of a power-drunk party.

Personally, though, I think the idea seems to come up when the Republicans are threatening to run conservative candidates for office. When I was living in Ohio, their Republican Party always seemed to anoint the most moderate candidate and overtly try and eliminate any more conservative primary competition for that person. And what did we get? Sixteen years of ruining the Republican brand with tax-and-spend governors, particularly Bob Taft. (Unfortunately, John Kasich isn’t doing much better now that he’s been spooked by the unions.)

Here in Maryland, the talk of opening up the primary died down when Bob Ehrlich won and through the three cycles where he was the all-but-endorsed choice of the Maryland GOP apparatus there was no chatter about adding unaffiliated voters to the mix. But now that we have a more spirited competition between several good candidates, the powers-that-be are presumably trying to make sure the most moderate, “electable” candidate prevails. As a conservative, pro-liberty Marylander who would like to see a governor tell the Democrats it’s his way or the highway, I would like a leader and not someone who sticks his finger up to see which way the wind is blowing. Mitt Romney and John McCain were supposed to be “electable” in a way that Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, et. al. were not.

If unaffiliated voters want to vote in a primary, it’s very easy to change your registration to Republican. Get good candidates worth voting for and they will come.

Update: A non-scientific poll by Jackie Wellfonder at Raging Against the Rhetoric found that support was perfectly mixed: 44% for, 44% against, and 12% undecided out of 75 who responded.

The varied reaction to MOM

Obviously I have my differences with our governor, but when he misinterprets the state of the state of my birth, Ohio, well, that’s not going to stand.

For those of you who don’t know this – and I wager that’s most of you, because your backgrounds are in Maryland – Ohio was doing so-so for awhile under a pair of moderate Republican governors, George Voinovich (who went on to become a U.S. Senator) and Bob Taft. (We won’t count the 11 days Lt. Gov. Nancy Hollister was a caretaker between terms.) Unfortunately, Governor Taft was sort of like Ohio’s answer to Martin O’Malley and poisoned the well for a far superior Republican (Ken Blackwell) to succeed him in 2006. (Blackwell should have succeeded Voinovich in 1998, but the Ohio GOP is smarter than the voters, or so they seem to think. They convinced Ken it wasn’t his turn yet.)

Anyway, the upshots were these: the economy in Ohio got so bad that I moved to Maryland 8 years ago, and that 2006 wasn’t just a bad year for the GOP in Maryland but they also lost the gubernatorial election in Ohio as well, ending a 16-year GOP run. Ted Strickland became governor and promptly was even more of a disaster than Taft, which says a lot. In 2010, Strickland became the first Ohio governor to lose his re-election bid since fellow Democrat John Gilligan did in 1974.

(Trivia: John Gilligan is the father of former Kansas governor and now-HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.)

Yet Martin O’Malley deigned to criticize current Ohio Governor John Kasich, a Republican elected in 2010, in remarks made to the Ohio delegation to the Democratic National Convention. “If there’s one place to find buyer’s remorse, it’s Ohio,” O’Malley commented.

Of course, that “ultimate thorn in O’Malley’s side” (h/t Jackie Wellfonder) known as Change Maryland did a little digging into Ohio’s job creation record and found out that Kasich’s state had created three times more jobs than Maryland did since Kasich took office (122,500 vs. 37,300) and while Ohio’s cost of doing business has plummeted from 29th to 6th best in the country, Maryland continues to rank in the bottom 10.

While Ohio has roughly twice the population of Maryland, that doesn’t cover the fact it’s creating three times the number of jobs as Maryland is – not to mention Maryland has the advantage of nearby Washington, D.C. Like certain portions of Maryland off the I-95 corridor, Ohio has to work to use its own assets and not sponge off the government.

Change Maryland also took potshots at O’Malley’s record here at home, creating a “top 10” list of O’Malley’s economic fallacies. I could go through that as well but, to be quite honest, in that battle of wits the Governor is coming up far short like that hapless mouse in the corner. I do have to quote Change Maryland head Larry Hogan’s reaction to MOM’s speech before the national Democrats:

Governor O’Malley talks a lot about ‘moving forward’ but here in Maryland his policies have slammed us into reverse and have us stuck in a ditch.


Under Martin O’Malley, Maryland lags behind our region in attracting jobs, businesses and those who pay taxes.  Make no mistake, modern investments in a modern economy is just code language for more tax-and-spend governing like we have had here in Maryland.

Not to be outdone, 2014 candidate David Craig felt compelled to criticize his would-be predecessor’s DNC performance as well:

This past Sunday, Governor Martin O’Malley, in a brief moment of candor, set aside his usual smoke and mirrors to admit that we are not better off today then we were four years ago. In a statement, which he immediately attempted to spin and retract, Governor O’Malley admitted what the people of Maryland have known as fact for years: both President Obama and Governor O’Malley have failed to curb record unemployment and revive a depressed economy. Most importantly, we know that we cannot survive 4 more years of these failed policies, which have led us down a path of endless tax hikes, ever-increasing deficits, and countless unfunded mandates.

After realizing his political mistake, Governor O’Malley proved once again that he is out of touch with the average Marylander. Governor O’Malley went on to say “…but that’s not the question of this election.”


O’Malley, a frequent surrogate for President Obama, said Tuesday evening that the President’s policies “have moved America forward.” Can Marylanders honestly trust the Governor’s opinion of the past four years, after he raised taxes on the middle class and shifted millions of dollars in unfunded mandates to local government? The reality is Maryland has suffered a double dose of failed policies under the leadership of Governor O’Malley and President Obama.

Craig is definitely in a position to know about those unfunded mandates as a County Executive.

But more importantly, the economic disaster of the last four-plus years IS the question of this election. We have had three “recovery summers” without recovery, “shovel-ready jobs” which neither needed a shovel nor were ready – because they were never created – and, despite the fact it was “all about that three-letter word: J-O-B-S,” it seems it was really all about making as many people as possible dependent on a government check.

Fellow gubernatorial hopeful Blaine Young was more succinct (and humorous):

Martin O’Malley traveled to North Carolina to ‘tell the Barack Obama story’. Naturally Governor O’Malley wouldn’t want to tell the Maryland story because as Governor, he dumped $2.4 billion in tax increases on the residents of Maryland.

With a record like that I’d want to run away and not tell the Martin O’Malley story too.

Maryland is facing unprecedented challenges, from budget issues, to unfunded pension liabilities, to increased mandates on local governments and increased regulations on businesses, and Martin O’Malley is acting like an absentee landlord – draining Maryland taxpayer resources while in North Carolina focused on his own political gains.

It’s interesting to note that O’Malley has addressed pretty much everyone else in the country except for Marylanders. I’m not interested in seeing him on the television daily from a different location in the state, but once in awhile would be nice. I’m sure Mrs. O’Malley would like to see him home on occasion too.

I’m not sure where this came from, but I’m in possession of a series of talking points presumably put out by the O’Malley administration. The very first one states “Maryland has recovered over two-thirds of the jobs lost in the Bush recession – the 11th fastest rate in the nation.” Must be nice having a thriving Washington, D.C. next door.

But read that sentence again. We have been out of the recession since sometime in 2009, but we’ve only made up 2/3 of the ground in three years (after a recession which lasted less than two years, and actually began once Democrats took over Congress.) Obviously I have no context as to which states are ahead of or behind us, but that’s not something really worth bragging about.

These talking points also claim that Maryland has the third-lowest state and local tax burden as a percentage of income and the ninth lowest state and local taxes in the country. But there’s no need to keep shooting for number one! Nor does this distinguish between fees and taxes, even though we all know “a fee is a tax.” For example, does the $60 a year “flush tax” get included in that tax burden study?

Even Dan Bongino got into the act, neatly tying his opponent Ben Cardin into O’Malley’s statement:

As Maryland continues to hemorrhage businesses and jobs, Governor Martin O’Malley finally admits, on behalf of the administration, that we are not collectively better off than we were four years ago.

Senator Ben Cardin’s blind support of the current administration’s economic policies has severely damaged our nation’s economic well-being and, as a result, too many Marylanders are struggling to survive in this brutal economic condition. Mr. Cardin’s support of the Obama administration’s — and that of the Annapolis machine’s — irresponsible fiscal policies have made it extremely difficult for businesses to thrive in our state.

And if businesses don’t thrive, jobs aren’t created, and economic prosperity is impossible to come by. Seems like a logical progression to me.

Martin O’Malley actually told the truth for once, but you’ll notice he spun away from his statement just as fast as his little words would carry him.