This, in a nutshell, is Ted Strickland's brilliant plan to solve Ohio's job crisis.
When the Governor announced Ohio's winning bid for $400 million in taxpayer dollars to pay for a slow-speed train system from Cleveland to Cincinnati, he was giving voters an opportunity to view his vision in a microcosm.
If, of course, a microcosm can be micro at $400 million bucks.
And most important from a political perspective, he claimed total and complete ownership of the idea.
Now, going back to last Spring 3BP has been yelling at the top of its blogolicious lungs about the lunacy behind the 3-C project. So, this post isn't about how dumb it is. Instead, it's about how it may affect the Governor's race in November.
Before the grant was announced at the end of January, and with relatively little discussion about the 3-C idea in newspapers across the state, a conglomerate of Ohio newspapers released a poll that stated Ohio voters disagreed with the project by 11 points.
That in itself is very telling, but you start to see how much potential trouble Strickland may find himself when you look a little closer at the numbers.
Below is a table broken down by age group. The columns include voter interest(gaugued by total percentage who said they were "extremely" or "very" interested in voting in the fall), support or opposition to the 3-C plan, and choice for Governor.
So, looking at these numbers, what do we learn?
First off, and most important, those who are most supportive of both 3-C and Ted Strickland are also the age group least likely to vote in the Fall.
All three other age groups oppose the 3-C project, two of them significantly so. And on average, these same three age groups support Kasich by a significant 9 point margin.
And most importantly, they are actually going to vote.
Now what's interesting about these numbers is that they came out before the announcement was even made and before a massive attack by newspapers and their columnists on the plan.
Outside of Democratic leaders, criticism was virtually universal.
Here's a sampling:
High-speed rail remains an enticing idea for Ohio. But this is a state where political expediency almost always trumps what's best for the taxpayers. So the rail plan rolled out by Strickland will be such a colossal failure that when the time is ripe for Ohio to consider a rail idea that is clean, fast and thoughtful, voters will still be so furious over the debacle of 2010 that they'll probably reject it." - Brent Larkin, Cleveland Plain DealerNot to mention, how will voters feel in Toledo and SE Ohio when they're fully informed about how much of their tax dollars will go to fund a project they won't ever use?
Never mind, if you can, the money. The federal government doesn't have the $400 million. More than likely, our children and theirs will end up paying back the Chinese for the loan. And Ohio, with an impending $7 billion hole in the next two-year budget, can hardly afford the $17 million annual subsidy to operate the rail system. - Joe Hallet, Columbus Dispatch
The challenge facing 3C planners is to create a system that provides convenience at a reasonable price to encourage ridership. I hope they succeed, but I’m not sure enough Ohioans will find the proposed rail system either fast or frequent enough to be worthwhile. - Michael Gorman, Dayton Daily News
...the only way huge investments like this make sense is that if they change the equation. If we can put business folks in these other cities in a fraction of the time it takes them to drive, and at a competitive price, trains might make sense. - Brian Tucker, Crain's Cleveland Business
Clearly, the media has been and will continue to perpetuate the conception of how idiotic an idea the 3-C project really is for the State of Ohio.
It would be in John Kasich's best interest to highlight this boondoggle as a perfect example of Ted Strickland's poor leadership and inability to understand what truly is best for Ohioans. Remember, the Rasmussen poll released earlier this week on the Ohio Senate race included a very important question - do you believe cutting taxes or increased spending will create jobs? By 54-17 Ohioans preferred cutting taxes.
Well, what could be a better example of misguided spending than $400 million for a train nobody will use?
Amazingly enough, other Democrats are jumping on board the Choo-Choo to financial ruin. Mary Jo Kilroy couldn't stop hugging Ted Strickland at the announcement.
Ultimately, and if properly utilized by Republicans, the 3-C slow-speed rail project could very well provide the exact kind of silver bullet Republicans can use in the fall.