TEL deal? What TEL deal?

By now we’ve all heard about the deal between Ken Blackwell and the Republican leaders in the statehouse, in which the proposed TEL amendment is to be replaced by (supposedly) equivalent legislation. But that deal’s now in some jeopardy because somebody forgot to scratch the governor’s back. Bob Taft won’t play ball:

Taft’s fellow Republicans in the Legislature agreed earlier in the week to put limits on spending into state law so that GOP governor candidate Kenneth Blackwell can pull his unpopular Tax & Expenditure Limitation Amendment proposal from November’s ballot
In exchange, Blackwell pledged to contact Citizens for Tax Reform, the committee that brought the issue, and encourage it to withdraw the proposal.
Taft’s office said that’s not good enough.
“We are not going to offer our feedback or have further discussions until the governor receives a letter committing to take this off the ballot, signed by every member of the petitioning committee,” said Jon Allison, Taft’s chief of staff.

The original deal was “legislation first, TEL withdrawal second.” Now Bob Tax Taft wants that order reversed. Naturally that leaves Blackwell twisting in the wind, with no choice but to trust in the good faith of the party leaders who’ve spent years trying to undermine him. Would you trust those land sharks? Yeah, I thought not.
So here’s the situation:

  • Taft’s approval ratings are atrocious, so normally his veto would be easy to override. But his career is over and his legacy is permanently soiled. By now he has no reason to care if his veto upsets people.
  • The Democrats in the statehouse wouldn’t come to Blackwell’s aid even if he bathed in lighter fluid, bear-hugged Hillary Clinton and set himself ablaze.
  • Blackwell’s fellow Republicans don’t like him, either. These folks won’t lift a finger to override a Taft veto unless Blackwell makes more concessions.
  • The only weapon Blackwell can use to force the legislators to do his bidding is the TEL amendment, which they hate and fear. But if he gets it taken off the ballot before the “TEL Lite” legislation gets passed, he’s got nothing left in his quiver with which to threaten the GOP pigs-at-the-trough.
  • Apparently there’s some doubt in Blackwell’s mind that the TEL amendment will pass. Otherwise, why bargain it away the first time ’round?
  • No matter how influential Blackwell is among his CTR friends, their committee won’t remove the TEL amendment from the ballot as long as there’s a real risk that Blackwell’s original deal will fall through and leave them without even “TEL Lite.”

As I see it, Blackwell has two options:

  1. Find out what Taft wants in return for a promise not to veto the TEL legislation … other than scrapping the TEL amendment. Perhaps there’s something else the governor wants, because he knows Blackwell can’t afford to blink first in the TEL vs. “TEL Lite” staredown.
  2. Go back to Square One and push the TEL amendment. Blame Taft for ruining the deal, and resume the mantle of the Anti-Taft.

I’d choose door number two, because doing a deal with Bob Taft would instantly undermine Blackwell’s central appeal as a Reaganite conservative outsider. The Democrats will gleefully squeal “flip flop!”, but there’s no better option available. Time to trust the voters. Time to rally the base and preach turnout, turnout, turnout.
This is gonna be one heck of a ride!

Cross-posted at The SOB Alliance

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