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Government and Politics

Political consultants dish out predictions, advice
A Democrat and a Republican talk campaigning and Ohio's role in national politics at the Akron Press Club
This story is part of a special series.

Mark Urycki
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In The Region:

Two veteran political consultants say the presidential race is going to be close in Ohio. And Democrat Gerald Austin and Republican Mark Weaver told an audience of the Akron Press Club today that the U.S. senator’s race is Sherrod Brown’s to lose.

But he could still lose it.

WKSU’s Mark Urycki has more on the political guesswork.

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This presidential election year is like an Olympic year for campaign consultants, because for them, politics is sport.

Democrat Gerald Austin calls it the longest running reality show, and the Republican primary battle, a “situation comedy.”

"Republicans are having one of the greatest races for those of us who like to watch this shenanigans anybody’s witnessed in a long time. You can’t make this stuff up. I don’t know how else to say it.”  

Austin is hoping for a brokered convention, just for its entertainment value. But Republican Mark Weaver points out that exactly four years ago, Democrats seemed in disarray after Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton in the South Carolina primary.

 “Hillary and Barack Obama went on to fight each other tooth-and-nail until June of 2008," Weaver said. "But that Democratic Party cared so much about taking back the White House that they got behind the candidate, not withstanding very hard feelings on the part of Clinton supporters.”
Countered Austin, "As Mark said, Hillary and Barack Obama went at each other for a lot of months. I don’t remember the vitriol being like this. To suggest that this type of infighting is not going to have some kind of effect in the long run is probably not true.”   

Third party spoiler?
The two consultants disagree on whether a third-party candidate will emerge this year.

Weaver says Republican Ron Paul likely won’t be able to try it because Ohio and several other states have so-called sore-loser laws that forbid losing candidates from running the same year under as independents or under a different party.

But Austin predicts former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer will run for the web-based group Americans Elect, which is trying to get on the ballot in all 50 states.  

Weaver is working for the Romney campaign in Ohio but he was asked to give advice to Barack Obama. He says the Democrat will have to convince people that he has made the country better.  

“He’s saying things are better and people are saying -- you saw the [poll] numbers -- ‘No they’re not.’ That creates what people who study the human brain call cognitive dissonance.”

And Democrat Austin offered advice to Mitt Romney: Listen.

 “'You don’t listen to anybody; you think you’re the smartest person that walks in every single room. … I don’t think the Mitt Romney you have seen up to now can win this election. If Mark was there every day with him and he listened to him he’d win the election. It ain’t gonna happen.”     

The U.S. Senate race in Ohio
In the U.S. Senate race in Ohio, polls give incumbent Sherrod Brown a 15-point lead over Republican challenger and state Treasurer Josh Mandel. Austin says Brown will win, unless Mr. Obama loses Ohio big.   Weaver agrees that it’s Brown’s race to lose, but says anti-incumbent fever and big campaign money for Mandel could fuel an upset. 

Weaver says appealing to voters’ emotion can be huge for any candidate. Austin adds so can a simple slip-up.

“Campaigns are like life. It’s a series of mistakes.   Whoever makes the least mistakes is happy and whoever makes the least mistakes wins. There’s a lot of mistakes could be made in this campaign .”  

Coming to your Facebook page
One way to get around candidate mistakes is to reach voters directly, in their homes. Mark Weaver expects Facebook will be the platform that campaigns increasingly use.

“I did a statewide ballot issue not too long ago where we were able to connect directly with voters in their Facebook pages by simply scanning what they said about themselves when they set up their profile ... and making sure our ad appeared on those pages of people we knew were supporters of ours. Getting them to like our page and accept our updates. We never licked a stamp; we (never) printed a piece of mail;we never sent an email that had to get through a spam filter. It all happened on Facebook. “

Mark Weaver and Gerald Austin agree that the choice for the Republican nominee will still be up in the air when Ohio holds its March 6th primary, and that the state will once again be important in November.

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