Two Veteran Campaign Strategists Discuss What’s Next For FitzGerald

Aug 11, 2014

Ohio Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald continues to trail incumbent John Kasich in the polls and fundraising. 

FitzGerald has had to say he wasn’t doing anything inappropriate with a woman he was found in a car with on a very early morning in October 2012, and had to apologize for driving without a valid license for a decade in the early 2000s. Two campaign veterans talk about what’s next for the FitzGerald campaign – if anything. Ohio Public Radio's Karen Kasler reports.

Mark Weaver has been an advisor to Republicans from Ronald Reagan to Mike DeWine to Betty Montgomery, and he still runs candidate and issue campaigns. He says the flap involving the woman and the driver’s license are just the latest in a string of problems for the Democratic candidate, and that by this point in the campaign, he has to know it. 

“In his heart, Ed FitzGerald’s going to give up. He won’t suspend his campaign necessarily, he won’t stop moving around the state. But everywhere he goes, it’ll be ‘why aren’t you raising money?’ ‘Why aren’t your poll numbers better?’ ‘How come you didn’t have a driver’s license for ten years?’ Even if he’s not asked about the woman, he’ll get those questions over and over again, and in his heart he’ll say, ‘I can’t win’.”

Greg Haas was a key strategist for Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign and has also run other races, and he’s the former head of the Franklin County Democratic Party. He says the problem isn’t the questions about the controversy – it’s that there’s no strong message that the campaign has that would override them. 
“I haven’t heard or have been able to sort out from the campaign what is the road map to victory. And you need to put that in a package so people understand it and can see it. And if you don’t do that, then people are left to focus on all of these kinds of tactics or these distractions and things like that. You need to really show the public, particularly the opinion makers, this is how you win this thing.”

FitzGerald also sent out a letter to supporters this week, saying that a cancer scare with his son who’s in remission has helped his family learn to focus on what really matters, but that he’s “not looking for sympathy”. Haas says that’s exactly what he means – that this health crisis has given FitzGerald some perspective on the race. 
“I think that they were making clear where their priorities were at and their focus was at. They’re not trying for sympathy anymore than John Kasich being on TV talking about his parents being killed in an auto accident. Is it trying for sympathy when you do things like that?”

Weaver says he doesn’t know enough about the situation to read into the e-mail. 
“Sounds like for whatever reason, Ed FitzGerald wants to spend more time with his family right now, and he’s had a real hard week. And when you’ve had a real tough week, I want to be with my family. So I don’t really understand with that e-mail. I’ve had several reporters say to me they’re not quite sure what it means. It may just mean that he wants to be with his family after a really hard week of some big political problems.”

Ohio Democratic Party chair Chris Redfern says the party wasn’t aware that FitzGerald didn’t have a valid driver’s license, and that FitzGerald apologized profusely and told him that he was a horrible procrastinator. He does have a license now.