Springer could not separate from show

By JOHN McCARTHY, Associated Press Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Jerry Springer's trashy talk show brought him the fame that drew attention to his bid to return to politics, and in the end, it was the show that kept him from running.

"The show is what it is. I know some people hate it. You can see them quivering when they're talking about it. Some people love it. ... Who would be here if I hadn't done that show?" Springer said at a news conference Wednesday before dozens of reporters and photographers.

Springer, a former Cincinnati mayor, spent seven months and about $1 million of his own money, crisscrossing Ohio to speak to fellow Democrats and research his chances in a campaign against Republican U.S. Sen. George Voinovich.

He found that people agreed with a lot of his views and liked him personally but could not vote for the host of "The Jerry Springer Show," he said.

"I do recognize the reality. The reality is, 'We will listen to you. We believe your sincerity. We even like some of your answers and we're ready to sign up. But you can't be doing the show while this is all going on,'" Springer said as he announced the end of his exploratory campaign.

"I'm making no decisions now about my future," he said. "I do know if I ever wanted to be a candidate in the future, I'd have to do it when I'm not doing the show."

It was the second time Springer (pictured, above) has walked away from a Senate race in the last four years. In 1999, he briefly considered a race against Republican Mike DeWine but did not pursue it.

Tim Burke, chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party and Springer's friend for 30 years, said voters might be wary of a third attempt.

"I think if he were ever going to do it again, he's got to come in and say I'm going to be a candidate, and do it," Burke said.

Springer, 59, had said he would run if he could "break through the clutter of the show," and be a formidable candidate. Burke said that might be impossible.

"Even if he walks away from the show, those show issues are still going to be there," Burke said. "There are how many years worth of show videos?"

An Ohio Poll conducted by the University of Cincinnati in February found 71 percent of those surveyed had an unfavorable opinion of Springer, the highest such number since the poll began tracking that information in 1989.

"The Jerry Springer Show" began in 1991 when talk shows flooded the airwaves. Its ratings increased as topics and guests became more raunchy. Its lineup of pimps, prostitutes, skinheads, homewreckers and too-friendly relatives is accompanied by a bleep-filled soundtrack that drowns out the obscenities.

Some Democrats saw Springer as an embarrassment, while others said he could have provided a boost to a party that has lost every statewide nonjudicial election since 1992.

For three weeks, Springer has been raising money through a Web site. He said all contributions would be returned, but he did not know how much his campaign had raised.

Two other Democrats have said they will seek the party's nomination in the 2004 race. Polls this spring placed state Sen. Eric Fingerhut, a former congressman from Cleveland, well ahead of Springer among Democratic voters.

Fingerhut said Springer's flirtation with the Senate run cost his campaign three months of attracting attention to issues he is promoting.

"I've made clear throughout the last few months that I thought his candidacy was bad for Ohio," Fingerhut said in his office across the street from the downtown hotel where Springer held his news conference.

Former Cleveland City Council member Norbert Dennerll of Elyria also said he will run.

No other Democrats have indicated a desire to take on the popular Voinovich, who has dominated Ohio politics for the last 13 years. He served two terms as governor before winning his first Senate term. He also was mayor of heavily Democratic Cleveland for 10 years.

James Thurber, a political science professor at Washington's American University, said Springer's decision is good news for Democrats.

"The party needs quality candidates and they don't need amateurs with high negatives that have a great deal of visibility," said Thurber, who specializes in Congress. "The fewer flakes that are running, the better off that is for the party."

In his speeches, Springer has advocated eliminating the payroll tax for people earning less than $20,000 and reducing tax cuts for the wealthy. He also has promoted health insurance coverage for the poor.

He entered politics in his adopted hometown of Cincinnati in the 1970s, serving on the City Council before becoming mayor in 1978.

The spiciest episode of his political career came when he paid a prostitute with a check while on the council.

After he finished third in the 1982 Democratic primary for governor, Springer quit politics and joined a Cincinnati television station as a news anchor and commentator before starting his talk show.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)