As the Republican Party flails around trying to regain its bearings, party operatives should take a close look at Ken Blackwell, who just won the Republican primary in the governor's race in Ohio.
Blackwell decisively defeated Jim Petro, Ohio's attorney general, garnering 56 percent of the vote, and now has a shot at becoming the first black Republican governor in the nation's history. Initial polling shows him trailing his Democratic opponent Congressman Ted Strickland. However, it's early in the game and Blackwell, a former Xavier University football star, is both a competitor and a winner.
Blackwell also is a man of principle and is that rare and unusual politician who is clear, upfront and uncompromising about those principles. He serves up his agenda, a combination of limited government, fiscal conservatism and traditional values, in a straightforward way that makes typical political gurus and consultants wince. But, like Ronald Reagan, Blackwell knows that Americans respond to honesty and he also knows that he is right.
Conventional wisdom is that he's too conservative. There is also concern that Ohio is in such bad shape, and that the current scandal ridden Republican governor is so unpopular, that the door is wide open for a change in party.
But, in fact, Blackwell's clear and honest conservatism is the answer to the concerns about the state's economic problems and the problems with government corruption.
The point is that corruption is the product of big, undisciplined government, and this is exactly what Ohioans have gotten from their current regime. It is a joke to think that the way to solve corruption is to throw out a big government Republican and replace him with a big government Democrat.
The Cato Institute issues a bi-annual fiscal policy report card of the nation's governors. They grade governors, A to F, on their spending and tax policies. Not only did Ohio's Governor Taft receive an F, but his overall rating was dead last of all governors. Under his leadership, real annual per capita spending, according to Cato, has increased a whopping 5 percent per year. Over the last 10 years, total government spending in Ohio has risen 20 percent faster than personal incomes.
If corruption is the symptom of big government, economic performance is the victim. The Ohio economy has been sputtering. It is 47th out of the 50 states in job creation and has one of the nation's lowest growth rates. According to The New York Times, the state "has lost 175,000 manufacturing jobs in the last 10 years and ... an average of 65 people ages 25-39 leave the state every day."