In the end, nothing Dennis Kucinich could've done mattered.
Aggressive to the end, he fought back when Marcy Kaptur, his now-former friend, slammed him in radio and TV ads. At the City Club debate, he tagged his defense-friendly opponent as a tool of the war machine. He got Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Russell Simmons, Willie Nelson, and Gore Vidal to come out for him. He declared that the 9th district congressional race was a fight that would define the Democratic Party.
But Kucinich lost to Kaptur by such a wide margin -- 56 percent to 40 percent -- that it looks like the gerrymander was stacked against him from the start.
No one who looks at the creepy-looking lizard-shaped 9th district can deny it: Toledo and Cleveland were fused together unnaturally, just to throw Kucinich and Kaptur together into a cruel, friendship-destroying cage match.
Much will be made of the fact that Kaptur dominated the Toledo vote and snatched some of Cleveland's vote away. She got 94 percent of the vote in Lucas County, while the vote in Cuyahoga County came in at 73 percent Kucinich, 24 percent Kaptur.
Surely if Kucinich hadn't pressed his luck with his hometown voters by running for president twice and meeting with Syria's dictator, Kucinich could've run up the numbers in Cuyahoga County more. Had he stayed closer to home, he also wouldn't have lost a chance for Ed FitzGerald's endorsement -- check out his New York Times quote about how Kaptur's staff has been a better help to the county government than Kucinich's.
But that didn't matter either. Kaptur got 7,633 votes in Cuyahoga County. She won by 12,563 overall. I haven't seen whether Toledoans turned out more than Clevelanders, but we didn't give Kaptur her margin of victory.
Clevelanders who fixate on Kucinich's ego and flaws may try to attribute his defeat to them. Not true. He didn't defeat himself. She beat him because the map was on her side.
Now the question is, what's next for Dennis? Washington state is still theoretically an option. He's got nine more months to use his congressional soapbox to champion lonely causes and warn against war with Iran. And after that?
He'll certainly aim to remain a national figure. He's hinted at a new direction for his "movement" (meaning his national constituency). I've already placed my bet: executive director of a peace nonprofit, traveling activist, or, possibly, MSNBC talk show host. Like the rest of Cleveland, I'll be curious to see for sure.
You can read my 2007 profile of Kucinich, "The Missionary," here. Also check out Cleveland Magazine's 40 year archive of Kucinich coverage, "The Complete Kucinich."