"Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you”


Saturday, June 16, 2007

GOP Redefining 2006 Election, Pt 1 - The Myth of the Bitter Divide

This week's National Journal cover story, "Open-Field Politics" is written by Michael Barone, long-time author of The Almanac of American Politics. It is a lengthy article that merits considerable discussion and analysis among politically active Americans. He makes some broad observations about recent election results, the current presidential campaign, and the new political playing field that may have emerged from the 2006 midterm results.

Barone is a member of the DC punditocracy and in recent years his analysis has become increasingly biased toward conservative partisan views. He is a semi-regular Fox News talking head and he posts over at Townhall.com. This fact makes it all the more important to review his article, as it reveals how the conservative "thinkers" are hard at work framing the current political climate.

The article should be viewed as part of the ongoing effort to redefine conservatism, reposition the Republican Party, and distance both the movement and party from the failures of the Bush presidency. Glenn Greenwald has discussed the GOP's efforts to repudiate George W. Bush as a real movement conservative.

This is the prism through which Barone's article should be viewed: How is Barone working to frame the midterm defeat and new political realities in a manner that does not doom the Republican Party to minority status?

This analysis will be divided into three posts:

Part I: The Myth of the Bitter Divide, 1995-2005
Part II: The 2006 Midterms - A New Majority?
Part III: A Look to the Future

Part I: The Myth of the Bitter Divide, 1995-2005

When Barone reviews the period between 1995-2005 he engages in a subtle yet thorough revision of recent history. The primary tool he uses is the omission of vital events. He disarms and engages the reader in a manner that should be familiar to any of us who have watched the conservatives manipulate the MSM and pulic opinion in recent years.

He sets a rather disarming tone from the outset. The first two paragraphs of the article begin with the same phrase, "we seem to be entering a new period." Why does he choose this "weak" phrasing? This is rather uncharacteristic, particularly in this bombastic era of the 24-hour cable channels. Is it meant to show less confidence in Barone's analysis? Or, is it an effort to disarm the reader, who after years of screaming talking heads declaring, expects declarative, argumentative statements in our political dialogue?

We seem to be entering a new period in American politics. We have come through a
period of trench warfare, in which two armies of approximately equal size faced each other across the battlefield and tried to rally their sides to achieve the incremental gains that would make the difference between victory or defeat. There were few defections from either army in this culture war, and almost no one crossing the lines. Like the trench warfare of World War I, our politics in this period, which stretched from 1995 to 2005, was a conflict of many bitter battles and no final victories.

Now we seem to be entering a new period, a period of open-field politics. It seems to be a time when there are no permanent alliances, when new leaders arise with new strategies and tactics, when the voters, instead of forming themselves into two coherent and cohesive armies, wander about the field, attaching themselves to one band and then another, with no clear lines of battle and no landmarks to rally beside.

The "weak" opening sentences contrast starkly with the martial metaphor Barone chooses to use in describing the political climate of the past decade. Also, notice the year this "trench warfare" begins. The government shutdown marks the start of this stalemate. While the terrorist attacks of September 11th occurred shortly past the midpoint of this period of stalemate, Barone fails to mention this event.

Barone makes no mention of the fact that Americans of all political persuasions rallied to the support of the president. This seems peculiar and outrageous. He neglects to mention that one side in this "bitter battle" was silent, laid down their arms and failed to engage the other side for more than a year. The GOP entered the 2002 midterms full steam ahead, fully engaged against an adversary that actually believed "9/11 changed everything."

It is disingenuous to talk of the trench warfare arising from the culture wars without acknowledging the terrorist attacks. This is pure revisionist history at work. One could argue that without 9/11, the Democrats would have retained control of the Senate, and possibly gained the House in the 2002 midterms. And, it is very likely Bush would have followed in his father's footsteps as a one-term president. Ah, but maybe he'll address this later in the article. Wanna put money on it? In fact, Barone will only mention 9/11 twice:

1) He references the 2006 Democratic platform promise to enact the 9/11 commission report's suggestions into law
2)Reinforces the Rudy as strong leader meme in acknowledging Giuliani's viability in 2008 is a result of his high-profile performance in the days after the attack

We should also note what Barone determines as the cause for this stalemate: the "culture wars" are to blame. He does not mention tax policy, jobs, or the economy. Nor does he identify foreign policy, military intervention, education or health care. The parties have clearly divergent views on many - if not all - of these important questions. But, he singles out the "culture wars" precisely because these are the wedge issues the Republicans have used against Democrats to win close elections. A coincidence? I think not. He is subtly shifting blame for the stalemate toward the Democrats, at least in the minds of the "values voters."

It is also noteworthy to recognize the dates and events that bracket the decade of division. In 1995, the government shutdown marked the beginning of the bitter battles between the two parties. According to Barone, this period did not end until the devastation of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. He does not attach any responsibility for either event to a particular party. Simply another harmless omission?

Barone reviews the percentage each party received in the House elections between 1996-2004, repeats the "culture war" argument and then says, "Elections became less a matter of persuading movble voters in the center and more a matter of turning out the party faithful on Election Day." Now, wasn't it Karl Rove that articulated and implemented this "divide and conquer/50% plus 1" strategy? Barone fails to mention this. He wants Americans to assign blame equally between the two parties.

This new period, which Barone describes as "open-field politics" is fluid, with no permanent alliances. The voters are less attached and have no real "landmarks" - or issues - to rally around. Now, does that sound like America today? Perhaps someone should remind Mr. Barone about Iraq. His description of this new period is more applicable to the current state of the Republican Party, not the nation at large. But, it is simply too dangerous for conservatives to acknowledge the schisms are limited to within the GOP.

These serious, pervasive and obvious omissions invalidate much of Barone's analysis. But, to dismiss this writing would be foolish and irresponsible.

The Republicans are in the process of convincing the public and media the following:
1) America has been bitterly and evenly divided between two parties
2) The conflict is rooted in the culture wars (guns, gays and abortion)
3) Neither party is clearly to blame, although if the MSM and public believe the issues of guns, gays and abortion, then Democrats are more likely to be viewed as responsible

All of this must become part of the conventional wisdom for the GOP to remain competitive in upcoming elections.

America has gone through periods of open-field politics in the past, most recently during 1990-1995, Barone states. These periods are marked by unpredictability. Again, this is vital for the GOP to sustain the hopes of their grassroots and financial backers to remain viable.

Cross-posted at Daily Kos and MyDD.

Could the Democrats Lose the White House (again) in 2008?

Conventional wisdom predicts a Democratic jaunt to the White House next year. With a disastrous war and incompetent administration, the GOP brand is in disarray. The Democratic base is energized. Democratic primary voters tell pollsters they are satisfied with the talented and diverse field of candidates currently competing for the party nomination.

Why then, is Camille Paglia writing in her Salon.com column "Don't run, Al. Don't!" about what she sees "as Republican momentum toward next year's national election?" (Yup, it looks like she's been back at Salon since Valentine's Day. I'm surprised it took me that long to notice. Perhaps the Salon editors were looking for something to counterbalance the rational, thoughtful and insightful musings of Glenn Greenwald.)

I have to admit to a morbid fascination with Paglia's commentary. She plays the part of agent provocateur perfectly: a pseudo-feminist, democratic libertarian, martial hedonist who relishes her ability to stir things up, never endearing herself to the left or the right. Her style is one I would never choose for myself. More often than not, I do not agree with her. But I have to admit, I'm almost always entertained and challenged.

I saw the headline and clicked, wondering, "What's Camille got to say about Al?"

Apparently, a lot. But, she's got even more to say about Hillary. It turns out the story is not primarily about whether or not Gore should launch a bid. It's actually about what the "Draft Al" movement reveals about the Democratic nomination battle. She uses the "Draft Al" movement as evidence the Democratic base is NOT satisfied with current choices, stating "the Gore boomlet betrays subterranean tremors of doubt."

Oh, so that's it. We're going to read about the dismal state of the Democratic Party nomination battle. Well, at least I'm going to be challenged this time. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be entertained.

Although Paglia certainly tries. She launches into her typical commentary, jumping disjointedly from one thought to the next. Not surprisingly, she holds no punches. The current crop of candidates has failed to impress her in the opening debates. "Wait, I wonder, is she now arguing there's a place for Gore in this campaign?" I check the headline again. Hmmm...

She savages Hillary (and makes sure to hit Bill, too, for old times sake). She belittles Edwards and Obama. With the possible exception of Kucinich, the Democrats are a bunch of "girly-men." OK, she doesn't use the governator's term, but she's essentially delivering the same message. She observes:

After two major televised debates by both parties, only a Pollyanna on helium would believe that any of the top-tier Democrats will definitely be able to defeat a leading Republican like Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani.
I think it's far too early in the campaign to draw conclusions regarding general election matchups. I do, however, recognize there are quite a few Pollyannas running around these days, particularly among the denizens of the progressive blogosphere. "Too many Democrats seem to believe that their party will simply sail into the White House in 2008," Paglia writes. On this point, I couldn't agree more. This overconfidence is worrisome. I'm not sure there is much we can do about it, but we all need to understand that winning the White House in 2008 is not a done deal.

But, does the "Draft Al" movement reveal a sense of dissatisfaction within the Democratic Party? I'm not so sure. Paglia simply throws the comment out with "shudders of deja vu." She provides little else to support her claim. She ignores the vast amounts of money the leading Democrats raised in the first quarter. She conveniently overlooks the vastly larger audiences watching the Democratic debates. All of this must be unimportant.

She expends quite a bit of energy beating up the leading candidates - while offering minimal advice to the current candidates and failing to offer any viable alternatives.

Paglia fails to entertain AND challenge this time.

I have my opinion about Gore's 20008 plans and chances. He should run IF he wants to, the odds for him winning the White House are better than anyone else out there, BUT he needs to be in the race before the end of September. I would consider supporting him, but I lean towards John Edwards. I myself believe a diverse primary contest strengthens the eventual nominee, in most cases. I state these opinions simply to let the reader know where I stand; I believe they are irrelevant to this post's central topics.

I'm wondering two things:

1) Is the Democratic Party overconfident going into 2008?
2) Does the "Draft Al" movement reveal dissatisfaction in the Democratic ranks?

Cross posted at My Left Wing.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Wildlife Group Declares Open Season on 5 GOP Lawmakers

Fresh off of their victorious campaign to oust conservative lawmaker Rep. Richard Pombo (CA-11) in the 2006 midterms, the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund has placed targets on the back of five more Western Members of Congress, citing their positions on global warming.

According to the AP, the organization has launched a radio and internet ad campaign this week targeting Rep. John Doolittle (CA-04), Ken Calvert, (CA-44), Steve Pearce (NM-02), Rick Renzi (AZ-01) and Dean Heller (NV-02).

"We're looking to send a clear message that the American people won't tolerate representatives who continue to favor big polluters and their special interests," Defenders action fund president Rodger Schlickeisen said.

If the wildlife group replicates its 2006 results, all five should be placed on the "Endangered Species List."

In addition to the high-profile and coordinated campaign against Pombo, "America's #1 Wildlife Villain," the Action Fund targeted 19 more races in the midterm elections as part of their Conservation Majority Project. They won in 14 of the 20 races, helping defeat previously entrenched incumbents in every region of the country.

So, these Western lawmakers should be afraid. Very afraid.

Renzi and Doolittle are targets of ethical and legal investigations; the added muscle of a coordinated green effort may be the momentum to push them from office.

While the AP report was unclear as to whether the internet ads would contain video, if they do, I'll update the post once I locate. In the meantime, here's one of the ads from the series attacking Pombo during last year's campaign:

To check out the two recent "Global Warming" PSAs created by Defenders of Wildlife, click here.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

CA-41 - Rumors of an Open Seat in the Desert

Cross-posted at Daily Kos and An Enduring Democratic Majority


Let's Convince the Congressman It's Time to Go

Last week, conservative columnist Robert Novak reported that sixteen-term Republican Congressman Jerry Lewis is likely to retire at the end of the current term. In recent years, Lewis has been no stranger to controversy and has been one of the most ethically-challenged members of the GOP caucus. What is it with GOP members of the House Appropriations Committee (Lewis is currently the ranking member)? It seems you can't let them too close to the taxpayers' money, as they apparently can't control themselves. Before you know it, they're pigging out on pork. For a thorough and very lengthy listing of Lewis' questionable ethics, CREW has gathered this information (pdf).

In an April strategy memo, DCCC Chair Chris van Hollen (D-MD) listed Lewis as one of three CA GOP incumbents the committee would be targeting in the 2008 cycle. The DCCC might want to add newly-appointed Appropriations Committee member Ken Calvert (CA-44) to their list of California targets.

Staff and advisers to the San Bernadino Congressman denied the veracity of Novak's reporting- saying Lewis had not made any decisions regarding his future.

This is a GOP-leaning district, to be sure (Cook PVI = R+9) and will be a tough challenge, but CQ Politics believes the ethical questions bring this seat into play, and presents a "Pombo-like" opportunity for a Democratic steal. Currently, there is one declared candidate, lawyer Tim Prince. CQ's analysis of Prince (and Democratic Party) chances in 2008 concludes with:

"Prince described the district as “a bit of a challenge under ordinary circumstances,” but argues that these circumstances are not ordinary. “The news of Mr. Lewis’ ethical quandaries has caused Democrats to become quite serious about the seat,” Prince said.

-- snip --

But Prince or any other Democrat would have to really wow campaign donors to be able to compete financially with Lewis, whose fundraising clout is abetted by his senior position on Appropriations. Lewis, according to his most recent FEC report, began April with $937,000 on hand — after spending nearly $2 million during the 2005-06 campaign cycle, $520,000 of that total in donations aimed at assisting other Republican candidates, according to CQ’s Political MoneyLine"

Let's continue "draining the swamp" by evicting Lewis from the House. Now is the time to help convince Lewis to leave - by investing in our currently declared candidate (Prince) and making sure we have a strong candidate to run in November 2008.

Donate to the eventual CA-41 nominee at Act Blue.

Race Tracker Wiki: CA-41

Cross-posted at Enduring Democratic Majority

The Ethically Challenged AK GOP - Can State Become Dem's "Next Frontier?"

Cross-posted at An Enduring Democratic Majority and Daily Kos.

Apparently Republican corruption isn't limited to the Lower 48. Two long-time Alaska politicians, Senator Ted "Tubes" Stevens and At-Large Rep. Don "Bridge to Nowhere" Young, have suddenly become the cause celebre over at the New York Times. What motivated the writers over at the Gray Lady to awaken from their early summer slumber?

FBI investigations, whispers of oil money used as bribes and a ten million dollar earmark for an unwanted road in Florida merits inclusion in "all the news that's fit to print."

Are Alaska Dems positioned to defeat these champion porkers?

At 83-years old, you might expect Stevens, currently the longest serving GOP Senator, to be preparing for retirement, but you'd be wrong. Despite making threats (I'd call them promises) during temper tantrums on the Senate floor when his backdoor maneuver to allow oil drilling in ANWR was defeated, he's gearing up for another re-election campaign.

On Thursday, Timothy Egan wrote a Times Opinion piece titled "Where the Goods Are Odd" and spares no words for the corrupt champions of pork:

amid the lovely, longest days of the year, the political world — controlled and corrupted by age and oil — is unraveling. The farce in the far north involves two national politicians who are used to getting their way, and a lobby that treats legislators like houseboys.

-- snip --

Ted Stevens used to be a respected independent voice in the Senate. But his obsession with opening the Alaska wildlife refuge to oil drilling, and his nearly 40 years in the Senate, have left him an embittered, tired old politician with a host of grudges.

On June 6, The Times ran an article about Coconut Road in Fort Myers, Florida. It doesn't seem Young got the message from last year's elections. Don, blatantly trading the tax-payers' money for campaign contributions does not please the voters of America. Newsflash for Don: Alaska voters are more likely to tolerate the pork when you direct it to your home state! Making sure your real estate buddies get money for a country club access road in the state 4,000 miles away may doesn't seem all that smart.

Egan says of Young:

Then there’s the Congressman for Life, Representative Don Young, 74. You know him from the Bridge to Nowhere, his effort to direct more than $200 million to build a span nearly as long as the Golden Gate Bridge from Ketchikan to an island with less than 100 people.

-- snip --

He said he was proud to be one of the biggest pigs at the trough — he used the word “oinker” — because the power to control $300 billion only comes around once in a lifetime. But as it turned out, the pipe dream really was a bridge to somewhere: the back door. Many Republicans say it cost them control of the House in the 2006 election.

On "The Stakeholder," the DCCC's blog, they've gathered additional editorials denouncing Young's latest outrage, including the home-state Anchorage Daily News, which remarked:

Only the clumsy and stupid -- and the exceptionally greedy -- engage in bribes when they know campaign contributions are a perfectly legal alternative.

Both Stevens and Young have been champions of pork for a generation and they're proving the old adage "You can't teach an old pig new tricks."

Despite the very clear message the American voters sent to Congress in the 2006 midterms, it appears they believe the "old rules" still apply in Alaska. But, if homestate sentiment is reflected in the ADN's editorial page, they may have finally crossed the line.

What does Young have to say about the latest revelations? This week, Young defended himself on the house floor (again, from the DCCC):

"I was always proud of my earmarks. I believe in earmarks, always have, as long as they are exposed. But don't you ever call that a scandal." [Congressional Record, 06-12-07]

Apparently, Rep. Young did not get this week's GOP Talking Points. He's proudly defending earmarks ON THE VERY SAME DAY Minority Whiner John Boehner is declaring war on the Democrats over the controversial practice that bleeds the federal budget.

The challenge for Democrats is the lack of an existing bench in the state, which has long been dominated by Republicans. With corruption seeping through the state GOP, the 2008 election presents a real opportunity for Dems to make serious gains in "The Last Frontier."

To date, Young has drawn one declared Democratic challenger, Alaska native Diane Benson, a mother of an injured Iraq War vet and community organizer. Currently, that's the entire roster of Dems who have said they're interested in ending the unethical - and perhaps illegal -practices of GOP, Stevens & Young, Limited Liability Corruption.

This is despite the Anchorage Daily News reports declaring Stevens potentially vulnerable. The ADN speculates on a wide roster of possible candidates, including Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, and former State Reps Eric Croft and Ethan Berkowitz, who both came up short in their bids for the 2006 Dem gubernatorial nomination, among others.

With both Stevens and Young vulnerable, the Democratic Party needs to make sure the Fifty State Strategy includes State #49 in 2008. Failing to recruit a top-tier challenger for BOTH offices would be a missed opportunity.

To help defeat "Tubes" Stevens, donate here.

To help flip the Alaska House seat to the Democratic column, donate here.

Senate Race wiki: AK-Sen

House race wiki: AK-AL

When You Crave Top Chef

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

The third season of America's Top Chef started Wednesday night. After two seasons on the West Coast (SF & LA), the Bravo reality series moves east, to sunny South Beach.

"Bienvenido a Miami!"

My television viewing is typically limited to news, sports, CSI and Law & Order (gotta get my fix of Freddy Thompson as the fearless Arthur Branch). My blogging usually focuses on political topics. But, I've got this addiction to "America's Top Chef" and I thought I'd deviate from my normal blogging fare, if only to prove how much of a renaissance man I am.

Not sure why I find Top Chef so interesting - I'm not a cook. My culinary skills consist of pushing buttons on a microwave. Perhaps that's the reason. These chefs are asked to cook under pressure and deliver beautiful and tasty (at least they look delectable) dishes. It could be I'm searching for a new recipe for the anxiously anticipated DKos KookBook.

Or perhaps it's the knives and wide assortment of other sharp instruments in close proximity to conniving (yet extremely talented) contestants fighting for money, prestige, a trip to Aspen and the title of "America's Top Chef". It's a recipe for pure entertainment.

Let the back-stabbing begin!

We're told at the start this year's group of contestants are more talented and accomplished than the previous two seasons. We are introduced to them as they gather for a cocktail party at the Versace Mansion on Ocean Drive. Nice digs.

As they're relaxing and getting to know one another, in walk judges Tom and Padma - and they've got a surprise in store. The first Quickfire challenge starts now! And the contestants are asked to create an "amuse bouche" with the leftovers from tonight's cocktail party. And they've got ten minutes. Come on, boys and girls, get to it!

Well, Micah wins with her "Tuscan Sushi Revisited." Christ, this woman not only throws together this beautiful morsel with figs, fish and who knows what else but she has a friggin name for it too? Come on. You gotta be kidding me!

Up next is the Elimination Round where the fifteen contestants get to create a surf and turf with a twist. What the hell is on that table? There's Alligator Tail and Rattle Snake, Eel and Geoduck. Sounds like what little boys are made of. Seriously, what are they going to do with that? Uhm, Geoduck? (pronounced "GOOO- eee- duck")

Oh, they're creating a surf and turf with exotic ingredients. Our contestants are preparing an exotic menu: Snake and Eel, Kangaroo & Abalone, Alligator & Monkfish Liver. And I have to ask again, "What is Geoduck??" (pronounced "GOOO- eee- duck")

All in all, the contestants impress the judges. Although guest judge Anthony Bourdain observes of one dish, "I would like this if I were drunk" (One gets the impression Tony has spent many a night perched on a barstool and knows barfood when he sees it). Another dish he deems barely worthy of being served by Air Cambodia. Not sure, but I don't think it was meant as a compliment. Padma derides one of the chefs who tried to explain his decision to fry rattlesnake and eel, "You could fry my toe and it would taste good." Again, not a compliment.

Did I say it was the backstabbing contestants providing entertainment? I meant to say the JUDGES. Yeah, that's it.

The Judges agree - Tre and Hung have excelled - and Tre's dish wins the first elimination round. This ratchets up the pressure on Tre, as the winner of the first elimination round in the previous seasons has gone on to win the entire contest. Can he make it three for three?

There are four chefs who end up in the bottom group - Howie, Brian, Clay and Dale. Clay, the self-described darkhorse from Mississippi, who underwhelemed the judges in the Quickfire doesn't seem to grasp he's prepared (and served an inedible dish. He doesn't have an answer when the judges ask, "Do you know why you're here?"

Well, the judges couldn't either. Clay becomes the first contestant to hear the dreaded words, "Please pack your knives and leave."

Meanwhile, back at the suite, the other fourteen are sharpening theirs.

Oh, and for those of you wondering, geoduck is a shellfish and it's found in Puget Sound. It remains a mystery as to why it's pronounced "GOOO- eee- duck".

See? I'm a 21st Century Renaissance Man.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Democratic Primaries - Hillary's Road to Victory

Originally posted at Daily Kos on May 23, 2007.

"In America any boy may become President and I suppose it's just one of the risks he takes." ~Adlai Stevenson

Today, four score and seven years after the battle for female suffrage was won, little girls can dream of becoming president thanks to Sen. Clinton's trailblazing path toward the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. It's time to revise Adlai's adage.

According to the national and state polls, it is clear Hillary is the frontrunner at this early stage. She's got the money, name recognition, and institutional support to secure the nomination on February 5th. In fact, it could be argued that if she wins three of the four early contests (IA, NV, NH and SC), the race could be over before the Mardi Gras Primary.

Can Hillary vanquish Obama, Edwards, Richardson and the rest of the Democratic field so efficiently?

Of course, Democrats are notoriously fickle when it comes to frontrunners, as we tend to gravitate toward underdogs and show more affinity to insurgent campaigns than Republican primary voters traditionally do. Taking this into account, I've been wondering the following:

1) Will Hillary's frontrunner status be seriously challenged by the talented candidates in the field?

2) Does the frontloaded primary schedule make her victory inevitable? Or, could the enormous pot of convention delegates available on Feb 5, 2008 be stolen away from her if she stumbles in January?

In two previous diaries, I've contemplated how both Obama and Edwards could navigate the early primaries and knock Sen. Clinton from her lofty perch. From this vantage point, both Obama and Edwards, IMO, are aiming to position themselves going into into Super Duper Tuesday Feb 5th as viable alternatives to Hillary, creating a two or three candidate race. Neither Obama or Edwards will be able to effectively lay claim to the nomination prior to the Mardi Gras Primary.

But, Hillary can.

By sweeping the January contests, she could effectively have the nomination wrapped up BEFORE the Mega Primary. Of course, she won't mathmatically be able to accumulate the number of delegates to secure the nomination (less than 5% are available in the early contests) but, her institutional advantages will allow her to close the door on the competition if she avoids January stumbles.

I'm aware this view may not be well-received here at DKos. And before I get pilloried by the large contingent of Edwards, Obama, Gore, Richardson and the "ABC" (Anybody But Clinton) populations residing on this site, I am not a Clinton supporter. In fact, I worry about the polls showing Clinton as the weakest of the leading Democratic candidates in general election matchups. I'm not advocating on behalf of any of the candidates, at this point.

Two other caveats:

Gore candidacy - I am not including a Gore candidacy in this (or the Obama & Edwards) scenarios, as an entry by the VP would scramble all the campaign's strategies. I'm taking Gore at his word - and trying to determine what he REALLY plans on doing is simply a fun parlor game, at this point.

Florida primary - The DNC is still debating whether or not Florida will lose convention delegates, as a result of leapfrogging to Jan 29. The committee is also consdiering punishing candidates campaigning in the Sunshine State. For these reasons, I'm leaving Florida out of the calculus at this point. Once those questions are resolved, I'll revisit how Florida affects the strategies of each of the campaigns.

For much of the analysis and predictions in each of these diaries, I've used the most up to date public polls available.

In addition to the polls in the previous link, American Research Group (ARG) reports presidential preferences as fo April 30, 2007 as follows:

Democrats IA NH SC

Biden 6% 2% 3%
Clinton 23% 37% 36%
Edwards 27% 26% 18%
Obama 19% 14% 24%
Richardson 5% 3% 1%
Undecided 16% 15% 13%

any candidate not listed did not receive more than 3% in any of the states listed

IOWA CAUCUSES - Monday 1/14/08 (tentative)


John Edwards has been ahead in the Iowa polls for months, with brief surges by both Clinton and Obama. Edwards' vast investment of time and energy in the Hawkeye State has paid off in his steady lead in the state polls but he hasn't pulled away from the pack, as his lead typically ranges between 2-10 points.

Iowa represents Edwards' best opportunity to derail the Hillary locomotive. Conversely, any finish other than first for Edwards likely dooms his campaign. For this reason, if Hillary can win in Iowa, the fight for the nomination would become a two-person battle.

assuming IA results: Clinton 30%, Edwards 28%, Obama 26%
45 pledged delegates at stake
Clinton - 21
Edwards - 13
Obama - 12


Nevada is an unknown variable in the 2008 campaign. Without a long history of participating in the caucus experience, identifying and developing an effective and strong network of activists is likely to be difficult for all the campaigns. Clinton has been building a national campaign and is aiming to overcome Edwards' efforts to win union support and Richardson's regional affinity and a win here would show the depth and strength of her national appeal.

Currently, the scarce polling shows (ARG - Dec 2006, Zogby - April 2007, and Mason-Dixon - May 2007) Hillary with a comfortable lead at this stage of the race. And, if Clinton wins the Iowa Caucuses, it is likely her victory will provide momentum in the Silver State. The wildcard may be NM Gov. Richardson, who could get a boost for his candidacy as the one westerner in the race (I'm not counting Gravel in this discussion, folks).

However, the most recent NV poll, from Mason-Dixon shows Hillary far ahead in Nevada, with both Edwards and Obama only measuring in the mid-teens, struggling to gain traction. In a state with no long-standing tradition of political engagement in the nominating process, Clinton's near-universal name recognition makes this a likely victory, especially if she pulls out a win in Iowa.

DELEGATE COUNT - assuming NV results Clinton 35%, Obama 25%, Edwards 15%, Richardson 15%
25 pledged delegates at stake

NV Prev Total
Clinton 11 21 32
Obama 6 12 18
Edwards 4 13 17
Richardson 4 0 4

NEW HAMPSHIRE Tuesday, 1/22/08 (tentative)
"Hillary Ekes Out a Win in Granite State - Race Down to Clinton - Obama

The open primary in New Hampshire presents Sen. Obama his greatest opportunity to upset Clinton's momentum. Again, NH polls show Hillary comfortably ahead, with both Edwards and Obama jockeying for the number 2 position. According to Rasmussen polling, Obama attracts independents by a 2:1 margin. If the energy and excitement remains on the Democratic side, Obama could capitalize on this advantage and attract the independents to the Democratic polls and win. This far out, I'd estimate that Sen. Clinton would be the favorite to overcome this obstacle, particularly if IA and NV are already in her victory column. Her victory margin might be very slim, but as the old saying goes, "Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades."

DELEGATE COUNT - assuming NH results Clinton 37%, Obama 35%, Edwards 10%, Richardson 10%
22 pledged delegates at stake

NH Prev Total
Clinton 14 32 46
Obama 8 18 26
Edwards 0 17 17
Richardson 0 0 4


The Battle Moves to Dixie - SC Primary Tuesday, 1/29/08 (tentative)

The African American vote makes up a large percentage of the primary vote in South Carolina. And, as witnessed this past March in Selma, Sens. Clinton and Obama are waging an all-out battle for the support of this community. I do think that Obama is likely to win either NH or SC, and from Hillary's perspective, South Carolina is the least damaging to her overall chances.

From a national perspective, South Carolina is not going to be "in play" for the Democrats in the general. And, if Clinton has already claimed victory in the three previous contests (all critical Swing States), she will have begun to silence the worry among Democratic voters about her ability to win in November. Additionally, an Obama win in South Carolina - if this is his first of the campaign - is likely going to be too little, too late.

DELEGATE COUNT - assuming SC results Obama 38%, Clinton 37%, Edwards 12%, Richardson 8%
45 pledged delegates at stake

SC Prev Total
Clinton 17 46 63
Obama 28 26 54
Edwards 0 17 17
Richardson 0 0 4

It's important to note the delegate totals only reflect PLEDGED delegates resulting from the primary and caucus results.

And, even if Hillary's machine does stumble, they've got comprehensive strategy to woo the millions of absentee voters in California (who will be voting BEFORE Iowa's Caucuses - if present schedule remains as is) to create a firewall in case Clinton loses Iowa and/or New Hampshire. After all, there are more absentee voters in CA than the entire populations of some of the early voting statess. Ah, but that's another diary.

NEXT ON THE CALENDAR - FLORIDA - a bellwhether and kingmaker?

The Democratic Primaries - Obama's January Strategy

Originally posted at Daily Kos on May 18, 2007

"Any American who is prepared to run for President should automatically,
by definition, be disqualified from ever doing so."
~ Gore Vidal.

The other day I posted a diary outlining a possible scenario as to how John Edwards might navigate a path toward the Democratic nomination. I focused on the critical first four states (IA, NV, NH and SC) leading up to Florida and then the Mega Primary scheduled for Feb 5th.

Today, I'm going to examine how Barack Obama's camp can find a path to the Feb 5th contests in a position with a legitimate shot at derailing Hillary.

The way I see it, Obama has proven his grassroots appeal (the polls, enthusiastic crowds & small $ donations) and has impressed - perhaps frightened - the political establishment with his fundraising prowess. But, historically, nominating battles are littered with early season rainmakers (Dean and Phil Gramm come to mind) who stumbled and failed when the actual voting started.

So, I pose the question: How can Obama rewrite the script in 2008?

As was the case with my Edwards-centric post, I'm going to examine current polls and trends to predict the number of delegates Obama can accumulate in the opening contests. This diary isn't going to be about messaging, positioning or strategy decisions. I'll leave that to the DC consultants. They get paid the big money, after all.

Most MSM stories focus on the NATIONAL polling, which consistently show Hillary atop the candidates preferred by Democratic primary voters. But, lurking in the same polls is the specter of Hillary being the weakest in hypothetical general election matchups.

The presidential nomination (and general) elections are NOT national elections. They are a series of state contests. So, it's more useful to look at polling on a state level. Unfortunately, there is a scarcity of public data to determine the voters true feelings in the critical early states (especially NV and SC). But, I'll use what's available to build my scenario.

In addition to the polls in the previous link, American Research Group (ARG) reports presidential preferences as fo April 30, 2007 as follows:

Democrats IA NH SC
Biden 6% 2% 3%
Clinton 23% 37% 36%
Edwards 27% 26% 18%
Obama 19% 14% 24%
Richardson 5% 3% 1%
Undecided 16% 15% 13%

any candidate not listed did not receive more than 3% in any of the states lists

Two significant caveats are necessary:

1. The reality is that the campaign ahead will hold many "Macaca", "YouTube", "Dean Scream" and other similarly unpredictable moments that will alter the dynamic of the campaign.

2. Reading polls this far out is notoriously unreliable. One only has to remember the 2004 Democratic battle. As Stuart Rothenberg wrote in early April:
Iowa voters have only now started to meet and consider the candidates, and it will be many months before they start evaluating the presidential hopefuls with an eye to their caucus participation.


History, after all, is replete with summer boomlets for presidential candidates who, when Iowa activists finally attend the state’s caucuses on a cold and often snowy night in January, do surprisingly poorly. (emphasis mine)

In November 2003, few reporters or political insiders figured that Howard Dean would finish a weak third (with 18 percent) or Richard Gephardt a stunning fourth (11 percent) in Iowa, far behind winner John Kerry (38 percent) or runner-up John Edwards (32 percent). In fact, all of the evidence was to the contrary, even just six weeks before the caucuses.

The Des Moines Register’s Iowa Poll, conducted by Selzer & Co., showed Gephardt (27 percent) and Dean (20 percent) leading in a Nov. 2-5, 2003, survey of 501 likely caucus attendees.

Having said that, I'd recommend a "robust grain of salt" as the reader digests the following analysis. One other point - this assumes Gore remains on the sidelines throughout the campaign. I'm only going to deal with the declared candidates. If he gets in, everything changes.

IOWA CAUCUSES - Monday, 1/14/08 (tentative)


Expectations are going to be the key to Obama's ability to gain the momentum to carry him to "Super Duper Mardi Gras Tuesday." Edwards has been ahead in almost every Iowa poll and if that remains the case throughout the year, all of the pressure will be on Edwards to win convincingly. The most recent IA numbers (from Zogby) show the race tightening in the state, with Edwards at 26, Clinton 24, and Obama 22 (with Richardson doubling his support to 6 pts).

If the headline coming out of Iowa has Hillary finishing behind BOTH Edwards and Obama, it opens the door for both candidates. I would argue that if Obama won Iowa, it would effectively eliminate Edwards from the race, making the race a two person choice between Hillary and Obama. And, if it becomes a two-person choice too early in the campaign, the party establishment is more likely to coalesce behind Clinton, IMO. (again, remember the 2004 Kerry-Dean battle).

assuming IA results: Edwards 27%, Obama 25%, Clinton 20%
45 pledged delegates at stake
Edwards - 25
Obama - 11
Clinton - 9

NEXT STOP - NEVADA CAUCUSES Tuesday, 1/19/08 (tentative)

Nevada is an unknown variable in the 2008 campaign. Without a long history of participating in the caucus experience, identifying and developing an effective and strong network of activists is likely to be difficult for all the campaigns. Edwards has been studiously courting union support and Richardson - a governor of another Interior West state - would appear to have the inside track to connect with the Nevada voters. For this reason, Obama's strategists would be wise to focus their energies on the NH and SC primaries.

Currently, the scarce polling shows (ARG - Dec 2006, Zogby -April 2007, and Mason-Dixon - May 2007) Hillary with a comfortable lead at this stage of the race. However, if Obama does get the headlines envisioned above, I'd say that NV is likely to be a wide-open contest, with any of four candidates having a chance to win. Again, if Obama's people are smart, they would downplay expectations here - and be happy with a second or third place finish - as long as it's a close race.

DELEGATE COUNT - assuming NV results Clinton 27%, Obama 25%, Edwards 22%, Richardson 15%
25 pledged delegates at stake

Candidate NV Prev Total
Edwards 5 25 30
Clinton 10 11 21
Obama 6 11 17
Richardson 4 0 4

So, how can I be making the argument that Obama could find himself with two second place finishes after IA & NV, be in third place in the pledged delegate count and still be in a good position to have the ability to seize momentum before Florida and Mardi Gras Primary Day?

It's all about the expectations game and I think that Obama's best opportunities to score significant victories are in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

NEW HAMPSHIRE - Tuesday, 1/22/08 (tentative)
The Independent Voters Shape Democratic Race

New Hampshire voters have a long history of sending a message to party establishments. (LBJ 68, Buchanan 92 & 96, McCain 2000) The open primary allows voters registered as independents to vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary and since they make up over 30% of NH voters, they're going to play a huge role in the 2008 primary.

By almost every measure, it's the Democrats who are generating the most excitement. It's a safe assumption that the NH independents will gravitate to the Democratic ballot next January. If Rasmussen's data is correct (showing indies going for Obama by a margin of 2:1 over Clinton) then, New Hampshire represents Obama's best opportunity to score a huge win.
Zogby's most recent numbers show Obama holding a steady quarter of New Hampshire's primary voters:

Democrats in New Hampshire – 2007

Candidate 5/17/20074/3/20071/17/2007
Clinton 28% 27% 19%
Obama 26% 23% 23%
Edwards 15% 23% 19%
Richardson 10% 2% 1%

Obama's forward-looking message of hope should resonate in this state that repudiated the GOP on every level in the 2006 midterms. Obama's anti-war positions, well-received across New England, are also likely to help him win support in the Granite State.

DELEGATE COUNT - assuming NH results Obama 34% Clinton 25%, Edwards 22%, Richardson 12%
22 pledged delegates at stake

NH Prev Total
Edwards 5 30 35
Obama 11 17 28
Clinton 6 21 27
Richardson 0 4 4

If each of the three top candidates win one of the first three contests, the biggest loser will be Hillary, who will have lost her aura of inevitability. As the campaign moves to the south in the last days of January, the Democratic voters of South Carolina and Florida will be key to determining the eventual nominee.


The African American Vote Rallies to Obama - SC Primary Tuesday, 1/29/08 (tentative)

The bare knuckle contest between Hillary and Obama for African-American support that was evident in the 40th Anniversary of the Selma marches will come to a head 10 months later in South Carolina. A majority of the voters who participated in the 2006 SC Democratic primarywere minority. While there is certainly no guarantee that Obama will automatically gain the black vote - and the Clinton team will fight for every vote here if the campaign does find itself in a three-way contests - Obama could ride the momentum of a win in New Hampshire into the front of the pack.

assuming SC results Obama 35% Clinton 30%, Edwards 25%, Richardson 8%
45 pledged delegates at stake

SC Prev Total
Obama 20 28 48
Edwards 11 35 46
Clinton 14 27 41
Richardson 0 4 4

Currently, both the South Carolina and Florida primaries are scheduled for 1/29, although the actual dates of the four earliest states are subject to change. The scenario outlined in this diary represents a very clear path for Obama to head into the Florida and Tsunami Tuesday on February 5th with the critical momentum.

The Super Rhetorical Question of the Day - if the three candidates find themselves in a tight race in early February, which of them would have the resources to buy adtime during the Super Bowl on Feb 3rd?

UP NEXT - FLORIDA - a bellwhether and kingmaker?

The Democratic Primaries - Can John Edwards Win?

Originally posted at Daily Kos on May 15, 2007.

"There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I don't know what can be done to fix it.
This is it: Only nut cases want to be president."
~ Kurt Vonnegut, "Cold Turkey", In These Times, May 10, 2004

This diary is installment #1 in what I envision as an evolving analysis of the top three Democratic "nut cases" and how they might successully navigate the frontloaded 2008 presidential nominating calendar to become the Democratic standardbearer.

How will the recent addition of Florida onto the calendar before the February 5th "Mardi Gras Primary" affect the chances and determine the strategy choices of each of the campaigns? Will either Nevada or South Carolina provide momentum for any of the candidates? How can Obama and/or Edwards position themselves to win the most delegates on "Tsunami Tuesday" in case Hillary falters?

And the two questions most applicable to the topic of this diary:
1) Does Hillary, sitting at 30%-40% in state polls in every region of the country, have an easier ride because of the condensed calendar?
2) Can Edwards parlay his lead in Iowa, seize momentum in other early states and win the nomination?

Let's start by looking at where we stand eight months ahead of the Iowa caucuses...

The national polls consistently show Hillary occupying a dominating position within the Democratic party's primary voters. Nationally, she has maintained a solid lead throughout the opening months of the campaign

The dilemma for Democratic activists is the divergent messages contained in the current polls. While Hillary is the clear frontrunner in the fight for the Democratic nomination, she consistently measures up worse against the GOP frontrunners than both Obama and Edwards when the pollsters present voters hypothetical 2008 general election matchups.

Of course, both the nominating process and the general election are NOT national elections. Rather, in both the primary season and on election day, Americans select our president in a set of state-by-state contests, so a more accurate analysis of the state of the race can be revealed by looking at state preference polls to determine who has the inside track to the nomination.

For those in the "ABC (Anybody But Clinton)" Camp, the news isn't good. Despite her lack of popularity in the liberal blogosphere, Clinton looks exceptionally strong at this stage of the race. In fact, a review of polling outlets across the nation reveals that Sen. Clinton leads in practically every state in America - and after briefly being threatened by an "Obama Boomlet" seems to have found her voice and steadied the ship.

In state after state, public opinion has settled in measuring the support for Hillary between 33%-45%, Obama at 18%-27%, and Edwards receiving between 12%-20%. It is important to note that in the early primary states, where voters are paying more attention (and the candidates have become more familiar due to frequent visits), the gap between the candidates is often smaller.

Currently, there are four states in which Mrs. Clinton has not held a consistent lead: Iowa (Edwards), Illinois (Obama), North Carolina (Edwards) and New Mexico (Richardson).

Since three of the four are simply a home state supporting the favorite son, the one state currently in play is the one at the front of the line. Iowa is likely to determine whether or not this primary season becomes yet another Democratic coronation, as in 2000 and 2004.

But, tantalizing questions abound: If Hillary falters in Des Moines does it open the door for anyone else on Feb 5th? If Edwards surprises in Nevada or Obama surges in South Carolina, does it mean Democrats nationwide start casting their votes for the candidate viewed as the strongest in the general election? Will Democrats in states with primaries in mid February (or even March) play a role in determining the nominee? Or, does a Hillary defeat in Iowa start the dominoes falling to create a scenario to a brokered convention? Or perhaps a Gore candidacy?

Since the lynchpin to any scenario other than Hillary being the nominee starts with her not winning Iowa - and John Edwards is the candidate most likely to succeed in the Hawkeye State, I'm going to look at how the Edwards team can plot their road to the White House, from today's vantage point.

In coming days, I'll look at Obama and Richardson's potential roadmaps.

IOWA CAUCUSES - Monday, 1/14/08 (tentative)


The storyline for the Edwards campaign coming out of Iowa simply HAS TO BE something along these lines, if they hope to be competitive on Mardi Gras Primary Day. The air of invincibility surrounding the Clinton campaign must be called into question.

The fast and furious pace of the weeks between Iowa and the National Primary makes it imperative for Edwards to seriously question Clinton's general election chances - and this message must seep into the MSM, Internet and national dialogue.

DELEGATE COUNT (assuming IA results - Edwards 30%, Clinton 24%, Obama 20%)
45 pledged delegates at stake
Edwards - 25
Clinton - 11
Obama - 9

NEXT STOP - NEVADA CAUCUSES Tuesday, 1/19/08 - tentative

The central question for all the campaigns in approaching Nevada's inaugural caucuses echoes the Vegas ads. Will the rest of America respond to the results with a shrug of the shoulders and say, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?" The long tradition of IA and NH as kingmakers in the presidential process simply doesn't exist in Nevada, one of the fastest growing states in the US.

And while it is precisely the phenomenal growth (along with the large Latino population and huge union influence in the state) that provided Harry Reid the arguments to convince the DNC to place NV near the front of the line, to turn Nevada Blue. There are simply so many unknowns, which are clearly making some campaigns hesitant to spend a lot of resources in the state at this early stage.

With the unions current decision to refrain from making early endorsements in the 2008 nominating fight, Edwards' can expect limited support from some of his closest labor allies - and that may not translate into the committed supporters that otherwise would be at his disposal with labor endorsements in his back pocket. This also may be the place that NM Governor Bill Richardson finds his traction - which might lead Edwards strategists to eventual opt for the sidelines in the Silver State.

A recent Mason-Dixon poll shows Hillary's numbers in the state reflecting the national polls, with both Edwards and Obama in the midteens struggling to gain momentum. Edwards hope to outperform his current poll numbers can happen if his labor allies successfully get members to the caucuses and that Richardson (likely to gain some support as the Westerner in race), syphons support from Hillary and not Edwards.

DELEGATE COUNT - assuming NV results Clinton 27%, Edwards 22%, Obama 20%, Richardson 15%
25 pledged delegates at stake

NV Prev Total
Edwards 6 25 31
Clinton 10 11 21
Obama 5 9 14
Richardson 4 0 4

NEW HAMPSHIRE Tuesday, 1/22/08 (tentative)
"Another Comeback Kid?"

It is possible Clinton could recover her footing in New Hampshire, but unlike "The Comeback Kid's" resurrection with a second place finish in 1992, Hillary will need to win convincingly in the Granite State to silence the doubters. If she does this, the battle will likely be over with the first primary of the season.

New Hampshire voters, however, have a notorious history of independence when they walk into the voting booth. Will the anger toward the war exhibited in the 2006 elections continue into the 2008 primaries? If so, will Hillary pay a price for her "no apology" stance? What role will indpendents play in this open primary? Thus far, the NH polls show Hillary weathering the storm. However, Edwards has recently been closing the gap with the frontrunner according to recent NH polls. He has surpassed Obama who appears to be struggling to connect with the Yankees of the Granite State.

Since this diary is designed to illustrate Edwards' path to the presidency, let's assume this trend continues. If Edwards can overtake Hillary in New Hampshire, it could signal the beginning of the end of the Hillary candidacy. But, let's be honest, the more likely result is that we would have a humdinger of a nomination battle on the Democratic side as the nation's focus moved south to South Carolina and Florida and then to the SuperNova on February 5th.

DELEGATE COUNT - assuming NH results Edwards 33%, Clinton 27%, Edwards 22%, Obama 20%,
22 pledged delegates at stake

NH Prev Total
Edwards 12 31 43
Clinton 6 21 27
Obama 4 14 18
Richardson 0 4 4


The Battle Moves to Dixie - SC primary Tuesday, 1/29/08 (tentative)

South Carolina was Edwards only primary victory in 2004. He was born here and represented neighboring North Carolina in the Senate. This time around, however, he is not expected to win. The two other frontrunners have a strong base of support in the state's African American population, which makes up a large percentage of the Democratic primary voters.

One could argue that if the Edwards camp has won both Iowa and New Hampshire coupled with a reasonable showing in Nevada (as the above scenario lays out), then the poll numbers in SC would likely undergo a significant shift.

If I were inside the Edwards camp, I wouldn't be placing too many resources in SC, for a number of reasons. I simply don't think that South Carolina is a "make or break" opportunity for the Edwards team. If they haven't won in either IA or NH, a win here is going to be meaningless. because the campaign would already be over. And, if they are on a winning streak, any delegates picked up here would, IMHO, be viewed as icing on the cake.

DELEGATE COUNT - assuming SC results Clinton 35%, Obama 27%, Edwards 22%
22 pledged delegates at stake

SC Prev Total
Edwards 12 43 55
Clinton 23 27 50
Obama 10 18 28
Richardson 0 4 4

And, if the South Carolina and Florida primaries are held on the same day (as is currently scheduled), Florida will unquestionably be the focus of every campaign. The winner of the nation's largest Battle Ground state will automatically become the de facto favorite going into "Tsunami Tuesday".

UP NEXT: FLORIDA - a bellwhether and kingmaker?

One note: The "small d" democrat in me is rooting for a longer nominating process, one in which more voters become engaged, the candidates debate serious issues, Democrats differentiate our party from the corporate, war-mongering Republicans and our eventual nominee becomes a unifying choice around whom we can all rally in the general election.

I don't believe the chaotic 2008 primary calendar is the most effective way to achieve these goals. But, while it sure ain't pretty, its what we've got this time around. So, let's make the best of it and make sure we nominate the strongest candidate who stands the best chance of ending this long national embarassment and can lead America back to our founding ideals.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Building a Filibuster Proof SuperMajority Part 3

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

This is the third in a three-part series designed to determine whether Democrats can achieve a net gain of nine seats in the US Senate in the 2008 elections.

Nine seats on top of the six seat gain already achieved in 2006? "Outrageously over the top," you might be thinking. Has any party ever gained fifteen seats over the course of two cycles?

Since you ask. A little history:
Major Mojo Shift: The Republicans netted 15 seats between the 1978 (net gain 3) and 1980 (net gain 12) elections. Ronnie had some impressive coattails when he rode in from the West.

The Big Mo Swings Back: In 1986, the Democrats defeated nine GOP incumbents, while losing a seat in Missouri for a net gain of eight seats, seizing control of the Senate.

So, a gain of nine seats is NOT unprecedented. Can the Democrats accomplish the feat in 2008?

Let’s see.

If they do, it's not going to be easy. Most of the GOP incumbents up for re-election next year reside in the Red States of the South, Plains and Interior West (NC, SC, GA, AL, MS, TN, TX, OK, KS, NE, WY {2}, and ID). Additionally, the Dems have two vulnerable seats in LA and SD that they must defend if their effort to dramatically expand their majority is to be successful. The Democrats face even longer odds in a presidential election year.

Part 1 reviewed the national climate and how, despite long odds, Democrats have a real chance to field strong challenges. The national mood is primed for Dean's Fifty State strategy and Democrats are presented with tantalizing opportunities across America. It also surveyed the current "consensus" of the 2008 Senate races, as measured by Beltway Insiders. The "low-hanging" fruit for Democratic pickups include:

* CO (open)
* NH (Sununu)
* ME (Collins)
* MN (Coleman)

Additionally, OR (Smith) and NC (Dole) make some lists.

That's six of the 22 GOP-held seats. If Dems manage to win 4 of these (and hold onto LA and SD), they'll have a 55-45 majority. Where else might they look for a pick-up opportunity?

Part 2 explained the *Vulnerability Factor Score*, which represents my effort to quantify and identify the Red States that might be a little more purple than the others. The factors included in the score include current finances, age, scandal, strength of the state democratic party, previous election returns, and President Bush's approval ratings.

This VF Score is comprised of three components
* PERSONAL WEAKNESS (PW) (possible range 0-8)
* BUSH DRAG (BD) (possible range 0-5)
* PARTY STRENGTH (PS) (possible range 0-7)
The higher the score (total VF range - 0-20), the more likely a Democratic challenge might find success. Keep in mind this VF score does not include the strength of current (or potential) challengers. When we get closer to the election season, I anticipate adding a "Challenger Quotient" to adjust the listings to accomodate real-world changes.

It is important to note that seven states still have no Dem challenger. Please check out Senateguru2008's recent posting addressing this issue.


1 NH 13.5 4 5 4.5 12 KY 5.5 2 1 2.5
2 MN 13 3 5 5 13 GA 4.5 3 0 1.5
3 OR 13 2 5 6 14 SC 4.5 2 2 0.5
4 CO 12 4 3 5 15 TX 4.5 4 0 0.5
5 NM 11.5 4 2 5.5 16 MS 4 1 0 3
6 NC 11 5 1 5 17 OK 4 1 0 3
7 ME 10 0 5 5 18 NE 3 2 0 1
8 TN 9 3 2 4 19 WY 3 1 0 2
9 VA 7.5 3 2 2.5 20 AL 2.5 0 0 2.5
10 KS 7 2 2 3 21 ID 2 2 0 0
11 AK 5.5 3 1 1.5


*Top Seven - The Low Hanging Fruit:* Five of the seven states that have the highest VF score (VF = 10+) also appear on most every prognosticator's list as the Dems best pickup opportunities. It's also not surprising that all, with the exception of NC, are considered to be Democratic-leaning or battleground states in presidential contests. Four (CO, NH, MN and ME) have top tier Democratic challengers, and I encourage you to visit their campaign websites and consider any way you might be able to support their efforts.

The remaining three, Oregon, North Carolina and New Mexico merit further review:

(rating system - cold, tepid, lukewarm, warm - the hotter the race, the hotter rating)

* Oregon (Smith)- (VF 13) Race Tracker wiki: OR-Sen. In 2005, Gordon Smith received a 20% liberal rating from Americans for Democratic Actionn (ADA) and has a 74.5 lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union (ACU). Despite approval numbers below 50%, Democrats have encountered significant resistance from the state party's "big names" - Reps DeFazio & Blumenauer and former Gov. Kitzhaber have all ruled out running - to take on Smith. The Democratic lean of the state makes this a real pick-up opportunity that may slip from the Democrats grasp. The one declared candidate is Steve Novick, an environmental lawyer who could make a credible run. At first glance, Novick lookes like a candidate progressives could rally around. Over at Blue Oregon, they're reporting on political neophyte Eileen Brady meeting with DSCC Chair Schumer about the possibility of jumping into the race. Brady is an entrepreneur with an environmental background. Kossack *torridjoe* posts regularly on this contest and local Oregon politics are covered at his Loaded Orygun blog. If you're an Oregonian, I encourage you to join the grassroots movement to defeat Smith at StopGordonSmith.com.
* New Mexico (Domenici)- (VF 11.5) Race Tracker wiki: NM-Sen New Mexico is the best pick-up opportunity for Democrats that most of the experts are currently overlooking. This is perhaps the most purple state of any in America. The NM State Democratic Party is healthy and competitive. To top it all off, "Pajama Pete" Domenici has embroiled himself in the middle of the USAGate attorney firings. It was long thought he had planned to retire at the end of this term, but Heather Wilson, the heir apparent to the Domenici seat, also finds herself entangled in the scandal. Democrats have a strong field of potential challengers to take on Domenici, who appears increasingly vulnerable as his longstanding sky-high approval in the state has plummeted throughout 2007. The second quarter fundraising numbers will provide more insight into Domenici's 2008 plans. The more Abu Gonzo stays in the news, it is likely Pajama Pete's predicament continues to deteriorate. For thorough coverage of the local NM beat *fbihop* does an excellent job at the New Mexico FBIHOP blog.
* North Carolina (Dole)- (VF 11) Race Tracker wiki: NC-Sen. Sen Dole is vulnerable not only because she is a freshman senator over the age of seventy. Her personal approval numbers are below 50% and recent polling reveals a deep dissatisfaction with the Republican Party in the state, with Democrats enjoying a 47%-42% lead in a generic presidential survey. Dole was unimpressive as NRSC chair during the 2006 cycle. It will be interesting to see how successful she is in tapping into the fundraising network this quarter. *BlueSouth* who does an impressive job reporting on the local developments and has a website - DraftBradMiller.org - devoted to convincing Rep. Brad Miller to jump into the race. In my opinion, North Carolina represents a real opportunity. If Edwards were the nominee, it would likely boost any challenger's vote total, further endangering Dole. Local NC Dem news can be found at NCBlue.

Let's assume the Democrats succeed in CO, NH, MN and ME and things fall in place to pick up two of the three remaining in the top seven. That gets us tantalizing close to the sixty seat goal.


*Middle Eight - With A Little Bit of Luck & A Whole Lotta Work: * In this group, there are four freshmen, two long-serving Senators who are rumored to be contemplating retirement, one under the target of an FBI probe and a Majority Leader under seige from within his own party. So, maybe sixty is possible.

* Tennessee (Alexander) - (VF 9) Race tracker wiki: TN-Sen. Former Education Secretary and presidential candidate Alexander has yet to draw a challenger. The bench here is strong, including 2006 nominee Harold Ford, Jr and popular Gov. Phil Bredesen, although both seem to be staying on the sidelines in 2008. There is a 500 pound elephant and 1,000 pound donkey hanging over this race - potential presidential heavyweights Al Gore and Fred Thompson, both former TN senators, could scramble all calculations in the state if either - or both - end up as the nominees at the top of the 2008 ballot. After Ford's impressive - but ultimately unsuccessful 2006 run - and Alexander's less than stellar approval ratings, logic says this is a winnable state for the right Democratic candidate.
* Virginia (Warner) - (VF 7.5) Race tracker wiki: VA-Sen. Retirement rumors swirl around John Warner, who managed to raise only $500 in the first quarter. Former Gov Mark Warner, who tantalized many with the possibility of a presidential run this year, would be a formidable foe, regardless of John Warner's decision. If Warner does retire, Rep. Tom Davis is likely to try to move up on the Republican side. Mark Warner would be the favorite in such a matchup. Of the eight seats in the second group, Virginia is the likeliest to flip to the Democrats' column, if Warner throws his hat into the ring.

* Kansas (Roberts) - (VF 7) Race tracker wiki: KS-Sen. Roberts is not popular, despite his conservative credentials in a solidly conservative state. Recent Dem successes in the state - Gov. Sebelius, Nancy Boyda's stunning upset of Jim Ryun this past November - make Kansas a little less red than its neighbors. It also makes it an 'under the radar' pick-up opportunity. Kansas and Tennessee are the two states that do not yet have a Democratic entrant in which a top tier candidate could score an upset victory, especially if the national anti-GOP mood continues, or worsens. Thus far, the potential challengers seem to be reluctant to jump in. Blue Tide Rising is a local Kansas blog covering progressive news from the heartland.

* Alaska (Stevens) - (VF 5.5) Race tracker wiki: AK-Sen. Ted Stevens hs trouble at home. He's the subject of FBI investigations and if I were a betting man, I'd say the odds are increasing each week that he will decide to retire. Now, is there a Democrat in the the Last Frontier that has the capability of winning the seat? Right now, it doesn't look promising. Republicans have shown a willingness to tolerate nepotism (Lisa Murkowski) but the corruption would appear to provide an opening - if there were any Democrats on deck. This is a state where it may be too soon to expect a 50 State strategy to pay dividends.

* Kentucky (McConnell) - (VF 5.5) Race tracker wiki: KY-Sen. Defeating Mighty Mitch would be wonderful payback after the Daschle defeat in 2004. One of three states electing Governors in 2007, McConnell, once described as the "Godfather" of the Kentucky GOP, backed the losing primary challeng by former Rep. Anne Northup in May. The ethically challenged incumbent Gov Ernie Fletcher was not amused. The conservative base is also furious with McConnell over his support of the immigration reform legislation. Now, McConnell faces a primary challenge, although being knocked out then doesn't seem all that likely. There is a pretty vocal anti-McConnell Kentucky netroots presence and much of their news and happenings can be found at DitchMitchKY.com. The DSCC is peddling polls showing McConnell can be beaten and multiple candidates have made public their potential interest in running.

* Georgia (Chambliss) - (VF 4.5) Race tracker wiki: GA-Sen. The defeat of "Sucksbee" Chambliss would be the best storyline coming out of election night 2008 after the savaging the Ralph Reed GA GOP attack machine put war hero Max Cleland through in the 2002 campaign. Georgia is one of the rare states that has continued trending toward the GOP over the past couple of elections. The highest profile Dem in the race, Vernon Jones (a conservative Dem who voted for Bush in 04) was joined by two lesser-known candidates, Dale Cardwell and Rand Knight this past week. *Volvodrivingliberal* diaried on Cardwell, and he doesn't look much better, with his calls for abolishing the IRS. A cursory glance at Knight's website reveals a young photogenic ecologist. All in all, it doesn't look promising for the GA Democratic Party. Do we really want another Blue Dog in Congress? For Peach State progressive news, check out Tondee's Tavern.

* South Carolina (Graham) - (VF 4.5) Race tracker wiki: SC-Sen. Lindsay Graham, freshman conservative is unlikely to face significant Democratic opposition in his re-election effort. In fact, he may have more dissent in his own party based on his association with comprehensive immigration reform. THe base is mad as is his GOP Senate homestate colleague, Jim DeMint who has made no secret of his disdain for the legislation. He and Jim DeMint (R-SC) have exchanged harsh words as they find themselves on opposite sides of the contentious issue.
* Texas (Cornyn) - (VF 4.5) Race tracker wiki: TX-Sen. The freshman Cornyn is strikingly unpopular in Bush's home state. *Skulnick* poses in a diary this morning the question: Could Texas voters reject a GOP incumbent? With ultra wealthy candidate Mykal Watts the Democrats may actually have a fighting chance. For a quirky - yet accurate - accounting of Texas politics, Burnt Orange Report is a good resource.

If the Democrats are lucky, invest the money, energy and resources now, they could conceivably win three of the eight in the second tier states.


*Bottom Seven - The Real Sleepers - * I know that there's been a lot of noise about Nebraska & Idaho, where incumbents will be challenged in a primary battle and Wyoming, which now has two Senate seats up in 2008. And, Inhofe in Oklahoma could be vulnerable - I'd nominate him as the "Most likely to emulate George Allen" in 2008 cycle. I'll look at those in a later posting.

The last time one party controlled 60 or more seats was in 1974, when the Democrats held 61. It may happen again sooner than anyone thinks.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Are Democrats Selling Their Soul by Pandering to People of Faith?

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

Last Monday night, the three leading Democratic presidential candidates appeared on CNN at a Sojourners sponsored forum. Clinton, Obama and Edwards individually sat down with Soledad O'Brien to discuss the role of faith in their lives.

I have to admit, I watched this event with more interest than I did either of the two debates it was sandwiched between last week.

I thought to myself, "Ah, they finally get it."

But, it appears I'm in the minority on this point here at DKos. A good number of Kossacks viewed the event as an attack on the separation between Church and State. By choosing to "wear their faith on their sleeves" our candidates had accepted the Religious Right's framing of the debate. Some viewed the forum as the Democrats making a Faustian deal to attain power.

I'm sorry, but I do not agree. Give me a chance to explain below the fold.

Before I begin, let me say upfront - I myself am not a churchgoer - I'm a gay man who experienced firsthand the hypocrisy of organized religion. I have chosen a spiritual path unique to me. As such, I do not attempt to evangelize - and I cringe when I see, hear and witness those who do.

But, when I see Democratic presidential candidates talking about faith, I do not get angry, as many others here do. On Monday night, I did not hear any of the candidates telling me their beliefs should be mine.

We must understand that faith matters - not only to the candidate, but also to the voters they are courting. Pew Research has some interesting findings on "the faith-based partisan divide." They report that in the 2004 presidential election

"voters sorted themselves out not just by policy preferences and demographic traits but also by the depth of their religious commitment. In fact, whether a person regularly attends church (or synagogue or mosque) was more important in determining his or her vote for president than such demographic characteristics as gender, age, income, and region and just as important as race."* (emphasis added)

Democrats have ignored the votes of Americans who worship regularly for far too long, essentially allowing the unholy marriage between the Religious Right and the Republican Party free reign to define the "values" debate. As such, "values voting" today equals abortion and gay marriage. Long gone are the days when environmental stewarship, social and racial justice, peace and anti-poverty issues defined religious involvement in the public sphere.

A generation of Americans has grown up equating going to church with voting Republican. In a nation of churchgoers, that's a serious strategic mistake.

The Religious Right has been so successful in their assault on the separation of church and state and infiltrating the Republican Party that *anyone* who discusses religion is assumed to share the view that government is a tool for religious indoctrination. Any politician who publicly discusses faith must favor dismantling the wall between church and state. Any religious figure in the public sphere must be aligned with the Falwell/Robertson/Dobson fundamentalist fascists.

I find myself wondering, "What would Martin Luther King, Jr. think?"

Can progressive religious leaders redefine the debate? I believe they can. In fact, they must.


* Because the war in Iraq is a moral issue.
* Because the rapidly growing gap between rich and poor in this country is a moral issue.
* Because climate change is a moral issue.
* Because providing affordable healthcare for all is a moral issue.

That's what Edwards, Clinton and Obama tried to say last Monday night. Where they 100% successful? Not even close. But, at least they engaged in the conversation.

Sojourners is not the only organization working to counter the influence of the Religious Right. Many more are participating in the dialogue. In fact, it's likely that if you look to the top of this page, you'll find a banner proclaiming the existence of a group called "Street Prophets" - there's a progressive spiritual discussion going on here only a click or two away.

In addition to Sojourners, there are The Interfaith Alliance, Tikkun, and many others. Are they smaller and less-financed than the Religious Right? Certainly.

Progressive advocacy groups like People For the American Way have ordained ministers on their staff. In fact, PFAW has a report documenting a shift of the religious vote toward Democrats between the 2004-2006 elections: Exit Polls Show the Partisan 'God Gap' Cut in Half from 2004.

Over the years, I've worked with many organizations like these - and I have to say there is a keen understanding of what they're up against. There is genuine heartbreak - and anger - at the fact the Religious Right has effectively redefined what it means to be Christian. None of the people I met while working with these organizations believed countering the power of the Religious Right would be a short-term project.

Additionally, it is relevant to point out that advocacy organizations spanning the progressive spectrum acknowledge the role of faith in our personal and public lives. Even LGBT organizations like HRC and NGLTF have faith-outreach programs; environmental groups are developing strategies to talk to evangelicals - who are awakening to the realization the GOP hasn't exactly been a good steward of the planet.

Will progressives be successful in reframing the definition of "values voting"? The answer is to be determined.

The netroots community can make a difference on this. I encourage Kossacks to join in the conversation. Visit the organizations' websites I've mentioned above. And, let's allow our candidates the freedom to engage in this dialogue without fear of recrimination from their base.