Ohio 2004: Was it Kerry's fault?

Ohio Democrats say Kerry's strategy was what ultimately lost him the state to Bush.

Published November 6, 2006 10:28PM (EST)

Here in Ohio, with some polls predicting a Democratic sweep tomorrow, state Democrats are barely even able to pretend for the benefit of reporters that they're not beyond excited about their prospects. But a cloud still looms over all: the memory of 2004, when a heralded Republican turnout machine brought John Kerry's presidential hopes to a screeching halt.

State Democrats, though, are saying today that the defeat might have been as much the fault of the Kerry campaign as anything else.

"There were a few of us that really, at certain points, begged the Kerry campaign to look at persuasion efforts both in terms of the media and field operations. That's an area where they completely dropped the ball," says Greg Haas, a longtime Ohio Democratic consultant, who ran Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign here. "They looked at the state as if it were some kind of electoral college and you didn't have to deal with certain parts of the state ... Their approach was almost like, 'You win these 15 counties and you get the 270 electoral votes you need.'"

Chris Redfern, the chair of Ohio's Democratic Party, agrees. He says Kerry's campaign focused only on urban areas, hitting just 17 of Ohio's 88 counties. "That's a recipe for disaster in Ohio," Redfern says. However, he notes that "I don't blame John Kerry for the loss, I blame those miserable consultants who told him to concentrate only on those 17 Ohio counties and leave $15 million in the bank."

Haas and Redfern agree that Ohio was Kerry's to lose -- had Kerry listened to native Ohioans instead of his national political consultants, they say, he might have won.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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