Note: This item went up late Thursday, with a slightly different headline and minor revisions, at Watchdog.org.
An email I received Wednesday evening from the Ohio Liberty Coalition contained a collection of the ratings of 17 of Ohio’s congresspersons by five leading conservative vote-tracking groups. (John Boehner’s record was excluded because as Speaker of the House he sometimes must cast votes for procedural instead of principled reasons.)
The results presented made me wonder why so many people in southwestern Ohio made it their obsessive mission to get rid of Second District Republican Jean Schmidt in this past spring’s primary. They were “successful” — if you want to call ousting the third most conservative member of the Ohio delegation a “success.”
As expected, the voting records of Republicans Jim Jordan and Steve Chabot were the most conservative, earning average ratings of 95.6 percent and 91.0 percent from the five organizations involved: the National Taxpayers Union, American Conservative Union, Club for Growth, Feet to the Fire, and Heritage Action for America. Though a somewhat distant third with an average of 80.6 percent, Schmidt nonetheless edged out Bob Latta (78.2 percent) and Bill Johnson (75.8 percent), two gentlemen who have generally been tea party favorites, while leaving the rest of her Republicans in the dust by anywhere from 11 to 22 points.
It’s true that a congressperson’s voting record doesn’t paint the whole picture. To name just one example, because it never came to a House floor vote, Chabot got no demerits from any of the vote-tracking groups (and deserved them) for his odious sponsorship of the freedom-threatening Stop Online Piracy Act. But there’s no denying that Schmidt’s record bordered on the exceptional. Unfortunately, I had to use the past tense in the previous sentence because she was defeated in Ohio’s March primary by Brad Wenstrup, who somehow became the favorite of local activist and statewide tea party groups, even though has never held elected political office, was handily defeated when he ran for Cincinnati mayor in 2009 and showed alarming support for Planned Parenthood as a member of the Cincinnati Board of Health.
Schmidt’s conservative (or so they claim) political enemies spent nearly seven years stewing over what happened in 2005 when Rob Portman, another conservative darling who doesn’t deserve his status, left his Second District congressional seat to join the Bush administration. Schmidt emerged victorious from a crowded GOP primary field in June of that year after the three other frontrunners turned off voters with intensely negative mudslinging. Two months later, after a very poorly run campaign, and despite being in one of the most conservative districts in the nation, she only narrowly defeated Democrat Paul Hackett thanks to major assists from local bloggers, national talk show host Rush Limbaugh, and much more money than the national Republican Party wanted to spend.
Despite her voting record, which started out pretty good and gradually improved to the near stellar level seen in 2011, Schmidt faced and survived significant primary challenges during her next three reelection efforts, something I daresay very few if any GOP incumbents anywhere in the country had to endure. Her general election victories in 2006 and 2008 were also far narrower than one would have expected.
Schmidt’s enemies finally got their way four months ago. There is strong reason to doubt that her successor’s voting record will be as strongly conservative. I wonder what her detractors will have to say if it indeed isn’t?