Nan Whaley

The time for niceties is over.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Whaley’s campaign has gone nowhere since the primary more than four months ago.

She was 15% behind in a reputable poll immediately after the primary and she has remained 15% behind in other recent reputable polls.

Nan must fire her campaign manager and advisers immediately and find a new set who can put her on the right path. I am not convinced that Nan’s own campaign judgment is all that stellar either, but she can’t fire herself.

Her opponent Gov. Mike DeWine has outfoxed her at every turn

First, he stayed quiet and tried to rebuild the Republican coalition, 52% of which abandoned him in the primary. Republicans are better at forgiving and forgetting after disputes. DeWine offered them some extremist anti-abortion red meat to smooth the process. His latest coup was getting the endorsement from former President Trump that makes it more likely that the Trumpers who passed on DeWine in the primary will come home.

Second, DeWine wanted to see if Nan would come after him with a sharp TV advertising campaign, such as U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan started doing to promote himself immediately after he was nominated to run for Senate in the primary. Somebody forgot to tell Nan that she would need a hunk of money to introduce herself to voters and go after the incumbent. She ran no TV ads for several weeks because the big feminist funders who thought it would be cool to have a female governor in Ohio did not open their checkbooks. Whaley did make the rounds with media events and social media posts to make herself better known among Democrats.

Third, about seven weeks ago, after raising some money, and in the face of criticism by Democratic insiders who saw her campaign stagnating, Nan did begin a modest series of 15-second TV ads that sought to introduce her as a pillar of working-class values in contrast to DeWine, described by her as a “millionaire.” It was modest class warfare.

Meanwhile, Ryan’s TV ads pounding the socks off of his Republican opponent, J.D. Vance, the former Ohio hillbilly author turned San Francisco-based venture capitalist aka carpet bagger pretending to give a crap about his native state so he can go to D.C. and be a really big deal.

Fourth, DeWine waited until Nan made some inroads into his lead and his backers responded with TV ads denigrating her, paid for by the Republican Governor’s Association. Nan was portrayed as a bad mayor (of Dayton), a big spender, a big taxer and maybe a little shady. A second version suggested Nan was “dangerously expensive” and ran unflattering pictures of her with a triple chin. Similar ads were used by the Republicans to successfully defeat Ted Strickland and Richard Cordray in previous gubernatorial races. Republicans never change a winning game. These ads started in early August and cleverly attacked her strength, 8 years as mayor of Dayton.

Fifth, Whaley, so far, has made the same mistake as Strickland and Cordray by not directly responding to and correcting the ads through her own TV ads. Whaley has a noteworthy record as mayor. Instituting pre-school for children and responding to a massacre of Daytonians gave Whaley stars of valor. DeWine’s allies are using clever ads to turn her strength into weakness in the eyes of voters and have succeeded in driving up her negative mentions on social networks. By not directly responding, Whaley is letting them get away with it. This is a gigantic campaign mistake. Heads need to roll.

Sixth, Whaley is betting the ranch on women’s issues. A recent survey said that 68% of Ohio voters oppose the anti-abortion court ruling while others put it in the 50%-60% range, yet DeWine has many pro-choice women supporting him. Whaley is launching a TV ad campaign against DeWine, trying to turn women against him and injecting gender into the campaign. It is unlikely to succeed because people vote for lots of reasons and often support a candidate who differs with them on one or more issues.

Seventh, Whaley and company do not know what they are doing and are likely to get clobbered on election day and drag the other statewide Democrats down with them, especially the other four statewide administrative office candidates. The three Democrats running for Ohio Supreme Court Justices, who are running neck and neck in their races in a recent poll, could also be hurt because, for the first time in decades, justices are running with their political party next to their names.

Eighth, Whaley needs to start running ads introducing herself and telling of her successes as mayor to the 11 million Ohioans who live outside the Dayton metropolitan area. What most Ohioans know about Whaley right now is that she was a bad mayor and is all for higher taxes, because of the negative ads being run against her.

Ninth, once Whaley has been introduced to the public, a series of ads contrasting her accomplishments with DeWine’s many failures, such as the corrupt deal with First Energy, the Larry Householder alleged wrongdoing, millions wasted on charter schools, the horrible gerrymandering to try to save Republican legislative control, and the extremist positions of DeWine against women’s rights, LGBTQ+ children, and banning books from public schools.

Tenth, Whaley has stated more than once that male leaders have run the state into the ground. She must ultimately make the case that DeWine is one of the bad guys.

Eleventh, Whaley needs to reach out to Tim Ryan and ask for his help in crafting her ads. Ryan’s brilliant Senate campaign has confounded the Republicans and forced them to commit $30 million toward ads in a desperate attempt to prop up their “Yale-billy” candidate J.D. Vance. Ryan’s current TV ad is political gold. It shows the former star high school quarterback tossing footballs that shatter TV screens with jibes he wishes to debunk and ends with a screen featuring Vance’s smiling face pummeled by a Ryan football pass. Ryan and his advisers understand his audience and project Ryan’s humanity, sense of humor, and likeability while Whaley’s do not. Ryan might well agree to do ads with Whaley and the rest of the ticket because Ryan knows that a weak ticket could pull him down.

Twelfth, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown is Whaley’s “man in waiting.” He went all out for her in the primary including doing high quality TV commercials endorsing her. One insider backing the unsuccessful primary candidate John Cranley said that it appeared that Cranley was running against Brown, not Whaley. However, since the primary, Brown largely has turned his attention to his re-election campaign of 2024. He told chief political reporter Andrew Tobias that “yes” he would be running for re-election in 2024. Unfortunately, Tobias did not ask Brown how deeply he was going to be involved in Whaley’s general election campaign and if he would do TV ads for her like he did in the primary. Brown could go on TV today on behalf of Whaley and begin to reverse her fortunes. His political savvy would help get her campaign on the right track and guide her toward employing advisers that give better advice. Will Nan ask? How will Sherrod respond? Time’s a wasting.


-Keep your eyes on Jeff Crossman, the Democratic candidate for attorney general. He says that Ohioans have a right to be angry at its government. The state representative from Parma is giving up his seat to give Ohioans a chance to replace the moribund extremist who currently holds the office, whose name escapes me. More on the dynamic Crossman in my next column.

-Ryan and Vance will be spending millions filleting each other on TV. It’s a good time to subscribe to a streaming service to avoid the ads.

-Democrat Tamie Wilson continues to gain ground in U.S. House District 4 as her opponent, the notorious Gymmy Jordan, decided to attend the Trump rally in Youngstown on Sept. 17 rather than campaign in the newly drawn district that contains 50% new territory for him.

(Please send your comments and suggestions for future columns to John K. Hartman,  

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