Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
When Ted Strickland sought the Ohio governorship in 2006, one of his big talking points against his Republican opponent, Ken Blackwell, was that Blackwell wanted to require everyone to buy health insurance.
For example, Strickland included this dialogue in one of his ads, as recorded by the Columbus Dispatch:
(Female): And while Ted Strickland has a plan to control the cost of health care --
(Male, as an image of Republican gubernatorial nominee J. Kenneth Blackwell comes into view): Ken Blackwell would force everyone to buy health insurance. That could cost an average Ohio family without coverage over $4,800 a year.
(Female): We can't afford much more of Ken Blackwell.
Today, Barack Obama is criticizing Hillary Clinton's health care plan, which includes a mandate on individuals, in very similar language to Strickland's ad. Here's what Obama's controversial mailer -- the one that prompted Clinton's "shame on you" speech -- says:
Hillary's health care plan forces everyone to buy insurance, even if you can't afford it. Is that the best we can do for families struggling with high health care costs?
Hillary's health care plan forces everyone to buy insurance, even if you can't afford it... and you pay a penalty if you don't.
So who was standing behind Hillary as she called the attacks misleading, awkwardly nodding along?
That would be Ted Strickland.
My purpose in pointing this out isn't to accuse Strickland of hypocrisy (and it certainly isn't to accuse Obama of plagiarism). Clinton's plan seems to be a lot more generous than Blackwell's in providing help to the uninsured, so it's not intellectually inconsistent to support the former and have opposed the latter. Plus, there are a thousand reasons Strickland might favor Clinton, even if he disagrees with her on health mandates.
What strikes me, though, is that even if Strickland did disagree with Clinton on health mandates, he couldn't possibly say it. It doesn't matter that Strickland is the popular governor of a state with 11.5 million people -- the presidential campaign process turns everyone other than the candidates into glorified PR people or, worse still, props.
Jon Stewart, by the way, had a laugh at Strickland's expense for his excessive nodding (at the one minute mark of this clip):
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