After Ken Blackwell graduated from college, he did a short stint with the Dallas Cowboys, but soon decided playing professional football was not his destiny. Now some longtime Republican activists are seeking to draft Blackwell, Ohio's former secretary of state, into the race for national Republican Party chairman. They believe it is his destiny to lead the GOP.
Blackwell is seriously considering running for the position.
"You could not find a person better suited to the job," said one of the activists who spoke to me on background.
First, these activists argue, Blackwell knows how to win elections. He started his political career back in the 1970s in his hometown of Cincinnati, where he was initially elected a city council member and then mayor. (He later served under the senior President Bush as under secretary of housing and urban development and as ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Commission.)
More recently, Blackwell was elected to statewide office three straight times, once as state treasurer and twice as a secretary of state. In 2006, he won the Republican gubernatorial nomination, but lost the general election in what was a very tough year for the GOP.
Second, Blackwell's long record of political success did not come in just any state, but in the ultimate swing state of American politics. It is a cliche, but a factual one, that Republicans cannot win the White House without winning Ohio. Blackwell knows how to win Ohio.
Third, Blackwell is a battle-tested, rock-solid Reagan Republican, sharing the conservative values of the party's grass roots on both economic and social issues.
He has long been an advocate of both lower taxes and limited government.
In 1995, Blackwell served on the National Commission on Economic Growth and Tax Reform, chaired by Jack Kemp. The commission, with Blackwell's support, recommended a flat tax. In 2000, he was national chairman for the presidential campaign of flat-tax champion Steve Forbes.
When Blackwell was running for governor of Ohio in 2006, I asked him what he believed to be the core principles the Republican Party must defend. "First, that the individual is at the center of our political system, not the state, not government," he said. "I believe in limited government. I actually believe that free men and free women and free markets can overcome any kind of economic challenge."
"I trust in people to make good decisions," he added. "I understand there are things, but only a limited number of things, that government can do that individuals and communities of individuals cannot do by themselves."
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