George Voinovich: Unsung Moderate Hero of the Senate

Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio Jim Watson / AFP-Getty Images

The pantheon of moderate Republicans beloved by the media is well known, often through the fawning profiles they accrue: Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe. Arlen Specter and John McCain used to get be part of the lovefest, too, until they joined the Democrats and veered right, respectively.

But Sen. George Voinovich, an Ohio Republican, gets sadly neglected. No one will confuse Voinovich for a RINO—he's always been pro-business and staunchly fiscally conservative—but there's no doubting he's a pragmatic, moderate dealmaker, either. And he's proved that again, announcing that he'll support a Democratic proposal for small-business incentives, a move that's expected to allow the Dems to push through a bill before the election. "We don't have time for messaging," Voinovich told The Washington Post. "We don't have time anymore. This country is really hurting."

Part of this is Voinovich recognizing his commitment to the Buckeye State—even if it runs contrary to party orthodoxy. Ohio has been hit hard by the recession. And because Voinovich is a former mayor (of Cleveland), he may have a more intimate sense of the struggles and role of small businesses.

But it's also part of a pattern of bipartisan moves. On the foreign-policy front, he gained attention in 2005 when he gave a tearful speech blasting John Bolton, who had been nominated to be U.N. ambassador. He was also a prominent Republican critic of the conduct of the war in Iraq. In spring 2008, he opposed escalating troop levels on conservative grounds, saying, "We've kind of bankrupted this country....We're in a recession, and God knows how long it's going to last." Domestically, he was one of only five Republicans who voted for the Matthew Shepard Act, a hate-crimes bill (along with Snowe, Collins, recently defeated Alaskan Lisa Murkowski, and fellow moderate Dick Lugar).

Of course, the time to recognize Voinovich is quickly drawing to a close. He'll be retiring in January, and whether former George W. Bush adviser Rob Portman, a Republican, or current Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, a Democrat, wins, it's unlikely either will be as eager to reach across the aisle.

George Voinovich: Unsung Moderate Hero of the Senate | U.S.