“The 2020 election may or may not turn out to be Rep. Steve Chabot’s last hurrah in Ohio’s 1st Congressional District, after nearly a quarter of a century in office.
But there are signs that, win or lose, this could be Chabot’s toughest election yet – against a first-time Democratic candidate from Clifton named Kate Schroder.
Make of this what you will:
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) recently did a poll of 455 likely voters in which they gave brief descriptions of the candidates. Chabot was described as an advocate for fiscal responsibility and lower taxes; Schroder as a public health care expert who survived cancer herself.
The descriptions were fair, balanced representations of the two candidates.
The result was a statistical dead heat: 48% for Chabot, 47% for Schroder. And a finding that, in Ohio-1, Joe Biden had a four-percentage point lead over Donald Trump.
“I think this is a competitive race,” Schroder said. “I think it can be won. I think voters are looking for someone who is in touch with the district and who has the fire in the belly to do the job.”
Chabot has faced better-known opponents in the past; people who have been in elected offices and have records to defend.
Rightly or wrongly, the modus operandi of past Chabot re-election campaigns is that his campaign strategists comb his opponents’ past looking for any kind of chink in their armor.
His campaign strategists have not been above making mountains out of mole hills with attack ads, while good ol’ Steve stays above the fray and makes the rounds glad-handing at church festivals, passing out his famous plastic campaign cups.
The continuing uncertainty over the coronavirus pandemic – social distancing, ban on large gatherings and the like – might mean that neither Chabot nor Schroder will be doing much old-fashioned one-on-one campaigning. If conditions don’t change, it could turn into a cyber campaign.
One problem the Chabot campaign faces with Schroder is that there doesn’t seem to be anything in her past to chew on. According to all who know her, she is a genuinely nice person.
Chabot’s opponent two years ago, Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval, was a nice guy too, but he and his campaign staff repeatedly made serious mistakes and walked straight into the bear traps the Chabot campaign had left scattered over the Ohio-1 landscape.
Schroder and her friends at the DCCC, which has targeted Ohio-1 as a winnable race, know the traps now and will do what it takes to avoid them.
The short form of her resume:
A fifth-generation Cincinnatian, she spent 12 years working for the Clinton Global Health Initiative. She lived in Zambia for two years and traveled extensively around Africa, working on improving health care for children.
She is a cancer survivor. Three years ago, she lost her father, Dr. Lou Schroder, a well-known Cincinnati oncologist, who passed away after a three-month battle with glioblastoma.
She and her husband, John Juech, an assistant Cincinnati city manager, have two young children – a six-year-old daughter and a four-year-old son. She says the kids are climbing the walls at being stuck inside most of the time.
Early on, the Republicans took a swipe at Schroder for working for a health initiative funded by Bill and Hillary Clinton’s foundation. But, really, who cares? It’s her experience with global health issues that counts.
What kind of negative ads could they possibly come up with?”
By WXVU columnist Howard Wilkinson. Sign up for his newsletter, Counterpoints, at the following link: https://www.wvxu.org/subscribe