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0000017a-3b40-d913-abfe-bf44a4f90000Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU news team as the politics reporter and columnist in April 2012 , after 30 years of covering local, state and national politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. On this page, you will find his weekly column, Politically Speaking; the Monday morning political chats with News Director Maryanne Zeleznik and other news coverage by Wilkinson. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio gubernatorial race since 1974, as well as 16 presidential nominating conventions. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots, the Lucasville prison riot in 1993, the Air Canada plane crash at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983, and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. And, given his passion for baseball, you might even find some stories about the Cincinnati Reds here from time to time.

Commentary: The Real Reason Parties Want You To Vote Early (And Why You Should, Anyway)

John Minchillo
A voter casts their ballot on the first day of early voting at the Hamilton County Board of Elections, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, in Cincinnati.

Yes, there are a whole lot of candidates – and both major political parties – who really want you to take advantage of early voting in Ohio.

After all, there is a lot at stake – which party controls Congress; whether the Democrats, shut out of statewide offices for the last two election cycles, can bounce back and take control of at least some of the statewide offices. Especially the governor's office.

There are many candidate campaigns wanting you to cast your ballot while you are still feeling kindly – or at least not hostile – toward their candidates.

Get those votes in the system before anybody can change his or her mind and take it back.

There are things happening out there in this election cycle that range from the ludicrous to outright dishonesty.

In this steel-cage death match between Republican incumbent Steve Chabot and Democratic challenger Aftab Pureval in Ohio's 1st Congressional District, there are some campaign pitches that are hurtling toward rock bottom.

Thousands of voters – most of them in heavily Democratic areas – have been reaching into their mailboxes and pulling out the most bizarre campaign mail piece I have ever seen.

It has a photo of Chabot (the most unflattering photo possible) attached to the head and body of a chicken. Yes, a chicken.

steven chabot chicken
A 2018 midterm election year mailer by the Ohio Democratic Party depicting Steve Chabot's head on the body of a chicken.

When it’s time to hold Trump accountable, so-called deficit hawks like Steve Chabot turn into a bunch of chickens, says the ad company, paid for by the Ohio Democratic Party.

And there is a whole raft of ads paid for by House Speaker Paul Ryan's Congressional Leadership Fund. Most of them have Pureval photo-shopped into pictures with Hillary Clinton and/or Nancy Pelosi. One tries to connect him to the Libyan terrorists responsible for bombing an airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, killing all 259 on board.

Pureval was six years old at the time.

aftab pureval attack ad
Credit CLF Super PAC, YouTube / Screen grab
A screen shot from an ad produced by House Speaker Paul Ryan's Congressional Leadership Fund. It tries to connect Aftab Pureval to the Libyan terrorists responsible for bombing an airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, killing all 259 on board.

Another Paul Ryan photo-shopping special has a glum looking Pureval in jail, behind bars, saying he faces prison because of an Ohio Elections Commission investigation into whether he illegally spent $30,000 out of his clerk of courts campaign fund on his congressional campaign.

There is no more chance of Pureval going to jail for that than there is for you to end up in the slammer for that unpaid parking ticket.

Congressmen with chicken heads. Candidates who were six-year-old terrorists.

Who on Earth could be influenced by this junk?

Yep, there are cooler heads in both parties who would like to see you vote right now before you turn against the anthropomorphic chicken or the little kid sitting in Beavercreek, Ohio, eating Froot Loops and watching Scooby Doo while he plots terrorist attacks.

They want you to get your votes in now, because even now, with only 13 days to go until Election Day, a lot of "soft" voters could change their minds on congressional, statewide or local candidates a half a dozen times.

The trick for the campaigns and for the political parties is to identify their likely voters and aim their early voting efforts at them.

In Southwest Ohio, Republicans almost always have more requests for mail-in ballots than the Democrats and fewer walk-in voters at the boards of elections than the Democrats.

The Republican Party in Hamilton County is putting more effort into early voting this year than we have seen from them in recent years.

Alex Triantafilou, chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party, said it comes from learning the hard way in the two elections – 2008 and 2012 – when Barack Obama was on the ballot.

"We got our clocks cleaned by the Democrats back then,'' Triantafilou said.

The early-vote effort and the Election Day get-out-the-vote (GOTV) are more intense on the GOP side this year, Triantafilou said, "in the sense that Republicans are starting to understand it more. We've learned a lot about how to reach our voters and get them out.

"We like our GOTV ground game,'' Triantafilou said, "It helps to be the party in power. It helps to have the state organization backing us up."

The Republicans said this year they will have their best GOTV effort – both before and on Election Day since 2004, when GOP turnout pulled out an electoral vote victory for George W. Bush that was the difference between Bush and John Kerry winning the White House.

While most Democrats are still optimistic about winning control of the House, you don't hear as much talk about a "blue wave" election as we did prior to the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh.

"It's not at all clear which party will come out on top because of the divide over Kavanaugh," said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato's Crystal Ball, a weekly politics newsletter published at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.

"Will it fire up the women voters who believe the Senate Republicans blew off the allegations of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh and increase the Democrats' chance of winning back Congress?" Kondik said. "Or does it fire up the Trump voters to come out in bigger numbers and save the GOP a lot of seats? That's the unknown factor."

Former Hamilton County Democratic Party chairman Tim Burke said he believes his party still has "a decent shot" at a "blue wave" election, mainly because of women voters.

"I'm not as confident of a big Democratic wave after Kavanaugh because that got the other side all wound up,'' Burke said. "But the good news is it got our people all wound up, too."

David Niven, assistant professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati, told WVXU that whether there is a "blue wave" or not, the Ohio Democratic Party appears to be making progress.

"It might be a little wave, not a big tropical storm surge,'' Niven said. "But they are in a very competitive race for governor, competitive races in two congressional districts and possibly some of the down-ticket state races. They're progressing."

Gwen McFarlin, co-chairwoman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, believes the Kavanaugh hearings and a statement last week by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that cuts in Social Security and Medicare might be necessary to plug a growing federal deficit "could stir up a hornet's nest."

"That's why we are out there personally contacting every voter we can to get them to the polls,'' said McFarlin, who is in charge of the party's GOTV efforts. "Everybody knows this is a critical election. Our message to our people is 'Don't complain; vote.' "

Chances are that if you are a registered voter in Ohio, you will hear from one or both of the major political parties – not once, not twice, but multiple times.

These are desperate times and there are some desperate candidates and campaigns out there.

Have a listen to what they say. Vote early if you want.

But if someone comes at you with mail pieces that look like Bazooka bubble gum cartoons, feel free to tune them out.

politically speaking bio
Credit Jim Nolan / WVXU

  Read more "Politically Speaking" here.