You know a candidate's in trouble when he resorts to a slogan that tries to turn being boring into a virtue.
Such is the case with "He's not flashy, but Senator DeWine gets things done," the grasping-at-straws mantra of Senator Mike DeWine's campaign.
But last week brought the worst setback yet for Mr. Uncharisma.
U.S. News & World Report revealed that a DeWine TV commercial contained doctored images of the World Trade Center burning. (The campaign later claimed it was an artistic interpretation.)
The creative license was an attempt to juice up DeWine's message that opponent Sherrod Brown was soft on terror.
But Mr. Tough on Terror recently signed off on an agreement to turn our port ownership over to Arabs.
Last month, DeWine voted to pass the Oman Free Trade Agreement, which will permit companies from foreign countries such as Dubai to buy U.S. ports and other domestic assets vital to national security.
"The free-trade agreement with Oman makes America less secure," says Brown's spokeswoman, Joanna Kuebler. "Mike DeWine remained silent on the Dubai Ports World deal, and he remained silent on this matter of national security."
DeWine spokesman Brian Seitchik offers this defense: "This was about lowering barriers and expanding markets for American products."
Which is almost as bad a slogan as "He's not flashy, but . . ."
Communism in Lakewood?
For many Americans, McCarthy's Ale House is a great institution. The self-styled "home of cheap-ass beer" offers dive-bar prices in an upscale-but-not-intimidating setting. (It even has TVs above the urinals.)
But Lakewood police and the city's law department see a menace to public safety.
Since October, police have been called to McCarthy's almost 50 times, mostly to break up fights. So when the pub was sold last fall, Lakewood's police and law department recommended blocking the transfer of McCarthy's liquor license, which would effectively shut the place down.
Last week, new owner John Ashworth met with residents to ease their concerns. He offered to add a second door to cut down on noise, hire two off-duty cops for weekend security (more than any other bar in Lakewood), and assign a staffer to patrol the neighborhood around closing time.
The residents seemed contented by Ashworth's offer, but Lakewood Council wasn't buying: The next day, it voted 5-1 to block the license transfer.
A ruling from Ohio's Division of Liquor Control is expected soon; until then, the fate of Northeast Ohio's largest shots hangs in the balance.
"I'm disappointed, because I don't think anyone from the city actually went to McCarthy's and tried to work anything out," says Kevin Butler, who cast the lone dissenting vote in council. Ashworth declined to comment, perhaps out of fear that Punch was trolling for free beers.
Booze news you can use
Pssst. If you're going to the Dave Matthews concert, expect to encounter DUI checkpoints on the way out.
And it's all thanks to 19 Action News.
This time last year, Hudson Police Sergeant John Lowman had what he thought was a clever idea: Instead of having a real DUI checkpoint en route to the Dave Matthews Band concert -- costing fans precious time, possible arrests, and their favorite glass bongs -- why not set up a fake checkpoint instead?
Sure, it was an obvious scam to skip out on work, but we figured it was in the fans' best interest, so Punch let it pass.
Action News, however, cried foul.
Channel 19 reporter Scott Taylor went to Hudson to criticize Lowman's tactics. "Come on, Sergeant Lowman," Taylor whined on camera. "You don't have to lie to the media!"
Taylor also blamed the fake checkpoint for the heavy traffic, even though street-design experts agree that the route to Blossom is "like, totally fucked up, man."
Now, a year later, Lowman has a new, Action News-proof plan.
"There will be a checkpoint," he tells Punch in an e-mail. "A real one -- promise."
If you're a closeted gay Republican trying to suppress the black vote, you're gonna need legislation. And the best way to get that is to find some complete aberration and make it sound like a threat to Democracy As We Know It.
Take, for example, the case of the Summit County Republican Party chairman, Alex Arshinkoff, and 10-year-old Quardaris Reading.
It all started when young Quardaris was called up for jury duty in Summit County this month.
His mother, Sharon, was slightly confused. Not only was her son of the age to play with Tonka trucks; they also live in Alabama. (Memo to Summit County Court: Dudes in other states aren't gonna handle your jury duty, so stop asking.)
So she called Summit County Court of Common Pleas. The court told her that little Quardaris had been a registered Summit County voter since 2003.
The leading theory is that a relative registered him accidentally, during a time when the Readings were living with family in Akron.
But Arshinkoff wasn't gonna let the little tyke off so easily. He demanded that the 10-year-old's case be investigated, even though Board of Elections records show no one had ever voted under Quardaris' name.
Arshinkoff is also using Quardaris as the poster child for why Ohio needs voter ID cards.
After all, it's a well-known fact that 10-year-olds always vote Democrat.
It takes a special brand of corporate callousness to sue people who don't drive cars or use electricity. No wonder a Solon mortgage company has lost its stomach for the fight.
Earlier this month, World Home Lending Corp. dropped its case against a Middlefield man, farmer Levi Miller, who started warning his neighbors last spring about World Home's questionable lending practices. Several local families had already been duped into loans they didn't understand, when Miller put a warning about the company into the local church bulletin.
Robert Ohly, a Middlefield lawyer, put a similar notice into the community advertiser.
So World Home went nuclear on the Amish. In June 2005, it sued Miller and Ohly for slander, libel, and $750,000 in damages ("Broken Trust," November 2, 2005).
The case wound its way through Geauga County Court for a year, until July 13, when it was quietly dismissed.
Miller's lawyer, Paul Newman, says both sides wanted to end it.
"I guess everybody got tired of litigating it," he says.
Score one for the bearded guys.