Jon Husted maintains an erect posture and carries himself with a slight, self-confident swagger that reflects his one-time status as an All-American defensive back for the University of Dayton’s 1989 national championship football team.
That’s why it must have surprised Husted during last year’s campaign to find his work ethic and physical stamina matched by a man slight of stature, old enough to be his father. The man shuffles along speedily, and his glasses always seem to slide off his face. There’s the hint of the nerd about Mike DeWine, 64, who’s never mistaken for a defensive back.
“I tell you, I was so impressed with his and (wife) Fran’s work ethic,” Husted, 43, said. They were willing to “do all they could to be successful,” he added.
Husted and DeWine, both Republicans, did not know each other well before the 2010 campaign but the odd couple forged a bond strong enough so that today they plan a joint reception at the Statehouse after they’re sworn in to new statewide offices. Husted, of Kettering, takes over as secretary of state while DeWine, from Cedarville in Greene County, will be attorney general.
While Husted and DeWine presently share the GOP spotlight, they find themselves at different points in their careers.
With George Voinovich’s retirement from the U.S. Senate, nobody can match DeWine as the GOP marathon man. He won election as Greene County prosecutor in 1976 and since then has been elected to the Ohio Senate, the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate and as lieutenant governor.
He also lost a 1992 challenge to Democratic U.S. Sen. John Glenn. Then in 2006, Democrat Sherrod Brown bounced him from the U.S Senate in a failed attempt to win a third term.
“Anybody who gets in politics, and I advise younger people, you better be prepared to lose. Eventually, if you keep going and keep running, you’re going to lose at some point,” DeWine said.
He insists he won’t run for the U.S. Senate in 2012 in a rematch with Brown. When asked what he hopes to be doing in five years, DeWine responds: “I would hope to be serving a second term as attorney general.”
Husted has won four terms in the Ohio House, including two in which he served as speaker, and one in the state Senate, in GOP-friendly districts. Husted supporters have been talking him up as a candidate for governor almost since he arrived in Columbus.
If Husted has a liability, it might be the same one that dogged DeWine in recent years. DeWine, critics charge, went to Washington and became a RINO — Republican in name only — guilty of cooperating with the occasional Democrat.
The RINO case against Husted isn’t as strong, but he may never live down the hug he shared with Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland in 2007 when they celebrated the bipartisan passage of a budget.
Hard work, of course, overcomes many things, as Husted learned from a man who’s mastered the campaign trail shuffle.
Contact this reporter at (614) 224-1608 or whershey@CoxOhio.com.