By Kevin Kelley
What does former Los Angeles Dodges manager Tommy Lasorda have to do with Ohio politics?
A lot, said Nick Martin, executive director of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party. Martin was the guest speaker at an Aug. 1 meeting of the Fairview Park Democratic Club, held in the community room of City Hall.
Martin cited this quote by Lasorda: “No matter how good you are, you’re going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are you’re going to win one-third of your games. It’s the other third that makes the difference.”
Looking forward to the 2014 midterm elections, which includes a race for Ohio governor, Martin said the party must make sure it “wins” the votes of hardcore Democrats. The party’s base, he said, represents the third of the games that must be won.
A decade ago, the Democratic Party focused on voter turnout in the state’s large urban areas, like Cuyahoga County and the Toledo area. Although the party easily carried those traditionally Democratic regions, it lost the state in the close 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, Martin noted.
By the 2010 midterm elections, the party had decided to target Democrats with get-out-the-vote campaigns not just in traditional party strongholds but all across the state, Martin said. The party reached its goals in voter turnout but failed to do as well as Republicans throughout the state, he explained.
Democrats will continue this strategy in 2014 with volunteer-led campaigns to urge party faithful to not only vote but take advantage of voting by mail, Martin said.
The one-third of baseball games even a good team loses represents, from Martin’s perspective, the votes that will be cast by die-hard Republicans. The one-third of games Lasorda described as up for grabs, the party director said, are independent voters and swing districts.
Martin displayed a baseball standings table to show teams that win one-run games will win overall. Winning one-run games, just like winning the votes of independent voters, is difficult to do but necessary for victory, he said.
In the 2012 presidential race, President Barack Obama won even though economic conditions were not favorable to him, Martin said. The party succeeded, he explained, because it was able to define GOP challenger Mitt Romney to persuadable voters.
Looking forward to 2014, Martin said the GOP will likely outspend his party in Ohio.
“We’re very good at being outmatched financially,” he told his audience.
Democrats will counter, Martin said, by playing “Moneyball,” a reference to a book and 2011 film by that name. “Moneyball” refers to a statistical analysis small-market teams can use to successfully battle wealthier teams, such as the New York Yankees.
For Democrats, “Moneyball” means investing in undervalued campaign assets and techniques, Martin said. One such approach is the digital strategy the Obama campaign used to raise money and communicate with supporters over the Internet.
Another, Martin said, using new technology involving set-top boxes in which TV campaign ads can be targeted to specific types of voters, such as independents.
“That’s creepy,” one woman in the audience said after Martin explained that telecom providers have accumulated so much demographic information about cable and satellite customers that such targeting is possible.
One Democrat asked if the party’s stance on issues has given way to technical and statistical analysis. Martin replied that the party has different constituencies, with each placing more importance on certain issues. The “Moneyball” approach can be used to convey the party’s policies on a given issue to a specific group, he said.
A June poll by Quinnipiac University showed Republican Gov. John Kasich leading Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald by 14 points, 47 to 33 percent. But Martin said the Cuyahoga County executive challenger has time to close the gap.
“Ed FitzGerald was in the same position John Kasich was four years ago,” Martin said, referring to the Republican’s successful campaign to oust Ted Strickland from the governor’s office.
COUNTY EXECUTIVE RACE: The three announced Democratic candidates for the county executive job now held by FitzGerald also spoke at the Aug. 1 Fairview Park Democratic Club meeting. Current Ohio Rep. Armond Budish said as long as Republicans control the state legislature, Cuyahoga County would be on its own and need to develop its own policies and programs for economic development. Former county sheriff Bob Reid emphasized his administrative experience as mayor and city manager of Bedford while taking over a troubled sheriff’s department following the resignation of Gerald McFaul. State Sen. Shirley Smith acknowledged her familiarity with the west end of the county was limited but observed all of Cuyahoga County has experienced similar problems.