2006.10.31: October 31, 2006: Headlines: Figures: COS - Tanzania: Politics: State Government: Kansas City Star: Taft, the Republican great-grandson of President William Howard Taft, grandson and son of U.S. senators, is now the most unpopular governor in Ohio history

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Tanzania: Special Report: Ohio Governor Bob Taft, RPCV Tanzania: February 9, 2005: Index: PCOL Exclusive: RPCV Bob Taft (Tanzania) : 2006.10.31: October 31, 2006: Headlines: Figures: COS - Tanzania: Politics: State Government: Kansas City Star: Taft, the Republican great-grandson of President William Howard Taft, grandson and son of U.S. senators, is now the most unpopular governor in Ohio history

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Taft, the Republican great-grandson of President William Howard Taft, grandson and son of U.S. senators, is now the most unpopular governor in Ohio history

Taft, the Republican great-grandson of President William Howard Taft, grandson and son of U.S. senators, is now the most unpopular governor in Ohio history

"It's obviously not a pleasant experience for me to go through," he said. "Maybe it's somewhat remarkable but we've been able to get a lot of things done in spite of all the challenges." Ohio Governor Robert Taft served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tanzania in the 1960's.

Taft, the Republican great-grandson of President William Howard Taft, grandson and son of U.S. senators, is now the most unpopular governor in Ohio history

Governor with once-charmed name reviled, ridiculed
Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio - It's a chilly October morning and Gov. Bob Taft is cheering on thousands of marathon runners as the athletes pass his official residence.

It's an annual ritual Taft skipped last year after his historic no contest plea on ethics violations. Despite bottom barrel approval ratings and having his name dragged through campaign mud by both parties, he was back this year shouting encouragement and high-fiving runners.

It was a brave move: Taft, the Republican great-grandson of President William Howard Taft, grandson and son of U.S. senators, is now the most unpopular governor in Ohio history.

Leaving office in January after eight years because of term limits, he's soldiering on through a final political trial that has sunk his charmed family name to new lows.

Nevermind that Taft hasn't bothered to campaign for fellow Republicans, a smart move considering his last voter approval rating stood at 11 percent.

In an unprecedented display of ill will toward a governor, Democrats and Republicans at all levels of government are using Taft to bash their opponents.

In Taft's hometown of Cincinnati, a Democrat running for county commissioner accuses the GOP incumbent of "Bob Taft-style government."

In eastern Ohio, a congressional candidate runs ads bumping together the photos of his Republican rival, a Taft appointee, and the governor.

Republican Mary Taylor blasts her Democratic opponent in the state's normally sleepy auditor's race for voting for a sales tax increase proposed by Taft.

"I opposed Bob Taft's tax increase," Taylor says of her own party's standard bearer.

Ken Blackwell, Republican candidate for governor, drew parallels between Taft and his Democratic rival, Ted Strickland, during debates.

Even comedian Jon Stewart had a go, explaining why "The Daily Show," filming in Columbus this week, decided not to invite Taft. "We realized that his approval ratings actually make Cheney seem likable," Stewart quipped.

The result: while Taft is busier than ever, making numerous appearances around the state, he is practically invisible on the political radar. Only one reporter showed up Monday at an event the governor of the country's seventh-largest state held one block from his Statehouse office.

Taft's approval numbers, never stellar, sank to records depths beginning last year when he pleaded no contest to failing to report golf outings and other gifts. He was fined $4,000 and ordered to apologize to the state.

It was an ironic fall given that Taft has consistently preached ethics since taking office and in fact pointed out the lapse to investigators. None of that mattered to voters.

"Given the prestige the Taft name carries in Ohio, imagine where his job approval rating would be if his name was Smith," said Peter Brown, who directs Ohio polling for the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Taft got a taste of what was to come two months after his plea, when he and his wife, Hope, were watching a play in Columbus about Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower.

"The Taft name stands for integrity," went one line, drawing laughs.

Yet somehow Taft has gone on. Five months after his court appearance he announced a plan to boost requirements for high school graduation that lawmakers will likely approve in a post-election lame duck session.

He's taken dozens of Ohio businesspeople to trade missions in Germany and Mexico and travels frequently around the state opening new schools, promoting new companies and stumping for his wife's anti-substance abuse campaigns.

An Associated Press review of his schedule since his plea identified 237 public events, a quarter of them related to education. That's no surprise given Taft's landmark $10 billion initiative to rebuild schools throughout Ohio.

And this fall, though he isn't backing any candidates, he is supporting one ballot issue, a statewide smoking ban. He says he didn't worry about his liability to the campaign, calling it a personal issue because his mother died of lung cancer at 51.

Taft moved comfortably through a small crowd at a recent anti-smoking news conference in the eastern Ohio city of Newark, introducing himself and shaking hands. He said he can still accomplish things regardless of the beating he's taking.

"It's obviously not a pleasant experience for me to go through," he said. "Maybe it's somewhat remarkable but we've been able to get a lot of things done in spite of all the challenges."

Some Newark residents didn't know who Taft was, some disliked him strongly and some, like Democrat Janet Holliday, thought he'd done a good job as governor and was just the victim of bad press.

But John Healy, a snack food salesman, said he couldn't say what Taft had done, good or bad, in eight years in office.

"You'd kind of like to think of a politician or leader doing something impactful in some area of government," said Healy, 40, a lifelong Ohio resident.

When this story was posted in November 2006, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Kansas City Star

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