The process of replacing retiring Congressman David Hobson, R-Springfield, has an assembly-line quality to it.
Steve Austria has been seen as the anointed successor since roughly the beginning of time. His wife worked for Rep. Hobson.
But he had to be assembled.
First, he got the title "state representative." That happened when, with his Hobson connections, he ran against a Republican incumbent who got in ethics trouble. Nature took its course.
Then, moving on down the assembly line in only two years — helped when term limits eliminated a Republican senator — Mr. Austria was stamped "state senator."
Now, having now been in the Senate for two terms, he has, besides the name-recognition, the resume to claim the necessary experience to advance. As a result, in the March 4 primary, he has the necessary money and endorsements.
So far, the assembly process has been free of glitches. Sen. Austria has offended no important person or constituency.
Nor, unfortunately, has he impressed many observers as a future major force in Congress. He has no compelling record.
He's no Dave Hobson or Mike Turner. He doesn't have Rep. Hobson's tough independence of mind and political incisiveness. He doesn't have Rep. Turner's record of building a political career from scratch in a hotbed of the opposing political party.
A Congressman Austria is not likely to crash and burn in Washington, any more than he did in Columbus. In fact, what he's most likely to do is settle into a long, long career of keeping people back home happy, while remaining on the congressional back benches.
And yet, given the primary field, he is the best pick.
Dan Harkins, an attorney, has done 10 years as chairman of the Clark County Republican Party. His tenure was marked by bad relations with Rep. Hobson, state Rep. Merle Kearns and other officeholders. That's a strange situation.
Mr. Harkins would apparently be more conservative than the Hobson-Kearns faction. He is critical of Sen. Austria for, among other things, supporting a state sales tax hike. (It was necessary at the time.)
At any rate, he has not had the opportunity to build a public record on which voters might base a vote for him.
Even more conservative, judging from the record, is Ron Hood, who has served in the legislature from two different parts of the state. His claim to fame in Columbus was his bill to ban adoption by gay families, an idea squelched by Speaker Jon Husted.
Rep. Hood also pushed for gun-safety training in high schools. He was known as one of the legislature's most flaming conservatives.
Also running is John Mitchel, a retired Air Force officer. He's been on the political scene for a decade without being elected. He once ran for governor on the Ross Perot party ticket. His views are more Perot-like than Republican. He is critical of trade treaties, and he supports the "fair tax," a national sales tax designed to eliminate the income tax.
A search for credentials and reasonableness does lead back to Sen. Austria.
Unfortunately, he would jettison Rep. Hobson's relative moderation — support for abortion rights, for example, and for an occasional increase in the minimum wage — in favor of a more regular and rigid form of Republicanism. But at least he doesn't seem like one of those people who would be constantly trying to pull Republicans to the right.
It is too much to say that Rep. Hobson dictated the course of events. But the state Senate seat — once held by Rep. Hobson himself — is a great jumping off point for a congressional candidate. And with Rep. Hobson's ability to raise money, the politicians have generally accepted the inevitability of Steve Austria.
In his departing role, Rep. Hobson did not serve his district well.
The assembly of a Republican congressional nominee — in a good Republican district — has gone just as planned.
The assembly of a good record in Congress will not be so easy.