Senator Paul Hackett? You’re all probably familiar with Paul Hackett, the anti-war Iraq veteran who recently made a stunningly strong showing in a special House election in a blood-red Republican district near Cincinnati. I saw the closing days of Hackett’s campaign first-hand, and, while he wasn’t always the smoothest candidate, it was amazing to watch how the one-liner “Just Back from Iraq” stopped people in their tracks and made them listen.
It now looks increasingly likely that Hackett will run for Senate next year, against the vulnerable Republican incumbent Mike DeWine. This Cincinnati Post article has current details, including the decision by one top Ohio Democrat to skip the race and the signal from another that he probably won’t run — developments which appear to make Hackett the Dems’ de facto candidate.
That’s got to terrify DeWine. Although a statewide campaign could test Hackett’s raw political skills, he’d be an instant celebrity candidate on par with, say, Barak Obama. And given that Hackett, who thrilled liberals by calling Bush a chicken hawk and an S.O.B., raised around half a million dollars online for his House special election, imagine what he could do in a marquee Senate battle.
But a Hackett Senate bid would channel the same intraparty tensions discussed below. Many Democrats feel Hackett was too anti-Bush for his own good, that his blazing rhetoric may have scared off some war-weary Republicans who nevertheless respect the president. Needless to say, Hackett’s liberal champions don’t buy that. So if party consultants convince Hackett to hold back on the Bush-bashing in a Senate race, his liberal-blog-fueled fundraising could dry up fast. But Hackett’s a cocksure, shoot-from-the-hip kind of guy — he even lapsed into a Robert De Niro “Are you talkin’ to me?” imitation during his House concession speech — and it’s not clear anyone can tell him what to say in the first place.
The Cincy Post says Hackett may soon visit Washington to meet with party leaders about the race. If so, I assume this would be a key topic of conversation.