It is not a big surprise given the circumstances, and his lack of political experience, but Tom Ganley is clearly planning on running a populist anti-Washington campaign for the US Senate seat open thanks to George Voinovich’s retirement. His announcement speech today in Brecksville was not particularly polished but its message was that politicians in DC are threatening the American way of life and it takes a honest citizen to make things right.
His speech didn’t give any indication that specific issues will be the focus of this campaign (he denigrated the bailout, run away deficits, cap and trade, and vaguely hinted at unfair trade policies). He didn’t say anything that most Republicans would have a problem with necessarily. The speech certainly had a populist edge, however, and it seems clear that he will attack – if that is the right word – Portman for being a career politician with all that that supposedly entails.
But the question that, in my opinion, will come to define this campaign is why is he perpared to run for the US Senate let alone win both the priamry and the general election and serve in such a capacity. One doesn’t have to be an elistist to wonder if a person’s very first political campaign should be the US Senate.
It is also worth noting that the bring a businessman’s attitude to government would seem to work better for an executive position. Let’s face it, the Senate is a unique place and you would be hard pressed to argue that it has anything to do with running a business or that those skills are apt to make you successful. How does building the largest auto dealer network in the state indicate that you can make an impact on a tradition bound deliberative body like the Senate?
And likewise, why should Republicans across the state of Ohio trust Ganley with their vote given his complete lack of elective experience. What track record should they judge him by? Are all successful businessmen qualified candidates for high office? Does running a largely self-funded campaign mean you are confident and committed or mean you lack the tradition support needed?
These are the questions Ganely will be forced to answer as the campaign plays out. It seems pretty clear that the GOP establishment, and a chunk of the rank file, our nervous about a harmful primary when they already have an experienced and well funded candidate in Rob Portman.
The question is whether Ganley can stoke enough populist outrage – or play on what already exists – to make a difference. And how much of his own money he is willing to spend trying?