One State, Two State, Red State, Blue State

One of the candidates who came to Columbus for last night’s spirited Democratic candidate’s debate made some news when he announced that, in his view, Ohio can no longer claim to be a “swing state.”

411c7uuosfl._sx425_The candidate, Tom Steyer, is a billionaire who used to run a hedge fund but now is running for the Democratic nomination in 2020.  According to a news story in the Columbus Dispatch, this week on his visit to town Steyer told a group of 15 young Democrats:  “You guys live in a red state. I know people call it purple, but it’s pretty darn red.”  Steyer apparently noted that President Donald Trump won Ohio by 8 points in 2016 and that Republicans dominated statewide elections in 2018.  Steyer then said, however, that if Trump loses in Ohio and the rest of the country in 2020, it will represent a shift that will leave Republicans losing “forever.”

I don’t know much about Tom Steyer, but I do know this:  he’s off base in his views about Ohio.  The Buckeye State is a classic “swing state,” as the results of presidential elections over the past few cycles will confirm.  Before going for President Trump in 2016, Ohio had voted for President Obama twice, President George Bush twice, and President Clinton twice.  In short, in the last seven presidential elections Ohio has voted for the Democratic candidate four times and the Republican candidate three times.  Equally important, in none of those races did the winning candidate get more than 52 percent of the vote in Ohio.  That record sounds like the very definition of a “swing state.”

But there’s even more that’s wrong in what Steyer is saying.  He’s apparently one of those “classifying” people who like to put people into buckets.  To him, you’re a red state or a blue state, and if you change that change will be for “forever.”  That’s not my experience with Ohioans, at least.  In Ohio, as in any state, there are groups that are solidly for one party or another — but the key to Ohio is the group in the middle who will look carefully at the competing candidates and make their best judgment about who deserves their vote.  Their votes can change because their views, informed by experience and current events, can and do change.  Anyone who thinks Ohio is moving “forever” into one category or another is going to be proven wrong in the not-too-distant future.

Many of us, myself included, were astonished to see President Trump win Ohio by such a significant margin in 2016.  Rather than concluding that the 2016 results mean that Ohio is now a “red state,” candidates like Tom Steyer would be better served by looking carefully at why the middle group of Ohioans voted as they did in the last presidential election and thinking carefully about how they can appeal to that group to change their direction when the 2020 vote rolls around.  If you want Ohio to swing your way in the next election, that’s what you need to do.

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Stuart Smalley Sign

Our anonymous Third Street Bridge sign artist has struck again.  When I walked by yesterday morning, I saw that the latest hand-lettered sign channels an inner Stuart Smalley, the fictional character played by Al Franken on Saturday Night Live years ago.  You may recall that the mild-mannered, sweater-wearing Stuart gave a Daily Affirmation with a positive message that always concluded:  “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”

I’d say that “You are worthy” falls squarely into the Stuart Smalley mindset.  (Those of us who don’t share Stuart Smalley’s hopeful and constructive world view might ask, in response, “Worthy of what?”  But never mind that.)

It’s nice to know that some unknown person cares enough about the well-being of their fellow Columbusites to create inspirational messages to help us feel good about ourselves and spur us forward on our days.  I’m looking forward to the next sign that helps to put a spring in my step on the way to work.

The Random Restaurant Tour — XXX

We just got some significant restaurant news in Columbus — the long-empty space that once was occupied by the Deepwood restaurant, directly across from the Columbus Convention Center, is going to become a huge new Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.

8-oz-strip-steak_medWhat’s the big deal, you ask?  After all, there are Ruth’s Chris Steakhouses spread across the land.  So who cares if one comes to Columbus?

The answer is this:  with the addition of this new steakhouse, there will be four premium steakhouses in the core downtown Columbus area — Mitchell’s, the Hyde Park Grille, Jeff Ruby’s, and now Ruth’s Chris, all within easy walking distance of each other.  And if your taste runs to Brazilian-style steakhouses, there’s one of those in the core downtown area, too.

The better question is why Columbus seems to have such an appetite for steakhouses.  Do Midwesterners just crave a good steak as a matter of course?  Or, as I suspect, does it have something to do with the hotel and convention and business traveler activity in downtown Columbus, and the notion that travelers looking for a place to have dinner figure a top-end steakhouse is a good, safe option — especially if they are traveling on an expense account?  If Ruth’s Chris is coming to an area that already is well-served with steakhouses, they must think there is a demand for even more dry-aged beef.

As a steak lover, I’m all for steakhouse options, but four seems like too many.  Whatever the reason for the steakhouse overload, I’d like to see some new restaurants that give us a bit of a wider range in the downtown dining options — like a really good Chinese place, or an Ethiopian joint.  Steak is great, but diversity is even better.

Mixology 101

Last night we took a “cocktail class” with a group of friends at Denmark, one of the high-end cocktail lounges in town.  Our friendly instructor walked us through the tools of the trade, some standard recipes and proportions that are the building blocks of many cocktails, and the basics of when to shake and when to stir — and then added that, of course, all rules are made to be broken, especially when it comes to cocktail creation.

We then proceeded to use our table of jiggers, bottles, bar spoons, strainers, and other implements to measure, shake, stir, strain, and pour three cocktails with autumnal themes.  I’m not a cocktail drinker, but I really liked two of them.  The first was a “Fall 75,” which was a variation on a French 75.  Here’s the recipe:

Fall 75

1.5 oz. apple cinnamon vodka

.75 oz. lemon juice

.75 oz. simple syrup

Add ice, shake well, then strain and pour into a coupe cocktail glass and top with champagne and grated nutmeg.  This cocktail had a nice balance of flavors, and the grated nutmeg gave a hint of the holiday flavors we’ll be enjoying in the not-too-distant future.

The second cocktail was a pear and rosemary mojito.  Here’s the recipe:

Pear & Rosemary Mojito

Add rosemary and mint to your cocktail shaker

1 oz. light rum

.5 oz. pear cordial

.5 oz. pear nectar

.25 oz. lemon juice

.75 simple syrup

Add ice, shake well, then strain and pour into a highball glass with ice, and top with club soda.  This cocktail was on the sweet side, but was very refreshing.

Cocktails are fun to make.  They’re also fun to drink.  That’s why I typically stick with wine.

The Random Restaurant Tour — XXIX

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While Kish and I were up in Maine, I got some unfortunate news from Columbus:  the Scotsman shared a Columbus Underground article announcing that Jack’s Diner would be serving its last meal on Thursday or Friday.  That meant I’ve missed the chance to grab the double cheeseburger special — with crinkle-cut fries and a chocolate milkshake, made with real milk and real ice cream, pictured above — for one last time.

Jack’s, located in Lynn Alley only a block from the Ohio Statehouse, has been a downtown dining staple since 1942.  It’s been a fixture in the lunch rotation for me and many other Vorys lawyers ever since I started at the firm in the ’80s.  You always saw the same regulars perched on the counter stools and in the booths at Jack’s, and everyone seemed to have their own favorite order from the unchanging menu and daily specials that offered classic American diner fare.  Some of the wait staff had worked there for years, and they would remember your face and your order.  It was a special place that always made you feel like home.

According to the Columbus Underground article, the demise of Jack’s was caused by the ever-ongoing construction around the Rhodes Tower, with its dark, looming scaffolding that has interrupted vehicle and pedestrian traffic.  If that is the real cause, it’s a ridiculously high price to pay for an ugly, featureless modern office tower.  Joints like Jack’s don’t come around every day.

Sunday Centennial

The NFL is making a big deal this year about celebrating its 100th anniversary.  Given the momentous occasion, it’s worth pointing out that Columbus played a significant role in the early days of The League.

The NFL started out as the American Professional Football Association, in Canton.  In 1922 it changed its name to the National Football League and moved its headquarters to Columbus.  After several years of the league offices being housed in Columbus homes, the NFL and its Commissioner, the legendary Joe Carr, moved to a proper office building in downtown Columbus, at 18 East Broad Street — an office building I pass by regularly.  In fact, the building is being refurbished, and one of the placeholder signs on the front the building, pictured with this post, commemorates its role in the NFL’s history.  During that Jim Thorpe and Red Grange era, the League struggled financially, with franchises starting up and folding regularly, but it always had a strong Ohio connection.  In 1927, there were NFL teams in Cleveland (the Bulldogs, not the Browns) and Dayton (the Triangles) and other small towns, like Duluth, Frankford, and Pottsville, so having the headquarters in Columbus made sense.  The headquarters remained here until 1941, when they were moved to Chicago.

I suppose if you get to 100 you’ve got to celebrate the occasion, but as I watch some of the promotional materials the NFL has produced I wonder:  is the League going to be around for another 100 years?  With the players growing bigger and faster all the time, and serious injuries becoming more and more the norm — so much so that every year the League rolls out new rules and penalties to try to stem the tide of crippling concussions and devastating hits — how long can the NFL last?  In years to come, a radically different NFL might look back very fondly on its innocent early years, when it found its home in Columbus.

 

Keep Going

This sizable, hand-lettered sign appeared yesterday on the Third Street bridge that links German Village to downtown Columbus.  At first I thought the sign might be referring to the typically snarled traffic on the bridge — because bad traffic sure can seem like hell — then figured it was just some general encouragement for anybody who might be facing a tough patch in their lives.  Since I was heading into work bright and early on a beautiful Sunday morning, the sign had some resonance for me.

What would motivate someone to create a sign like that, and post it on a fence on a public thoroughfare?  I can only guess, but I thought it was nice to know that somebody cared enough about their fellow humans to fashion and display a generally applicable message that might give complete strangers a boost.

The quote on the sign is often attributed to Winston Churchill, but there’s serious question about whether he ever said it.  Regardless of its source, it’s a useful thought to keep in mind when the super-busy or difficult times roll around.  I was grateful to the anonymous sign creator as I walked on to work.