Comparative Importance of Federal and Statewide Elections in 2006

I have stated from time to time that I believe the state and local elections between now and the end of 2006 are more important than the 2006 midterms. Here are my basic reasons:
  • Retaking the Senate is a Huge Longshot. As both Jerome and Harry Reid have admitted, our chances of retaking the Senate in 2006 are, um, not good. Obviously, we do need to try and pickup seats so that we can retake the chamber in 2008, but almost no matter what happens our efforts in the Senate will not result in a tangible shift of power from one party to the other.

  • Controlling elections. For every Ken Blackwell we defeat and every Katherine Harris we toss out of office, our ability to win elections improves. Despite things like HAVA, elections are controlled at the state and local level. Without control of the elections, as both 2000 and 2004 demonstrated, our chances of winning are clearly damaged.

  • Congressional Maps. For 2002-2010, Republican drawn maps of congressional districts around the country potentially cost Democrats anywhere from 20-35 seats in the House. The state by state balance of power was so bad for Democrats following the 2000 elections that Republicans controlled the trifecta in almost every key state: Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia. Since that time, they have taken the trifecta in Georgia and Texas (also Arizona and New Jersey, but those states use non-partisan redistricting). By contrast, where do Democrats have gerrymanders? Tennessee seems to be pretty much it these days. California is actually a pro-incumbent gerrymander, not a pro-Democratic one.

    Basically, current maps are so poor that in the House that there is no realistic chance of Democrats surpassing 220-225 seats before 2012. Considering Democratic voting loyalty when compared to Republicans, that margin would be the slimmest of slim majorities. It might not even be a majority. Thus, winning a real majority in the House starts with winning back state legislatures and Governor's mansions.

  • Building a Bench Long after the demise of Newt Gingrich and the abandonment of the Contract with America, one of the main reasons Republicans are still in power more than ten years their 1994 takeover is that 1994 provided them with a massive bench of candidates who later went on to run for higher office. After all, the 1994 Republican sweep included not just the House and the Senate, but state legislatures, Governorships, and other statewide offices as well. All of these takeovers have provided Republicans with a far deeper bench than Democrats for almost every single election held since 1994. As much as I love to talk about broad, long-term, infrastructure development, when it comes time to run a campaign, ultimately it is always centered on having strong candidates. For the past decade, control of local and statewide offices has provided Republicans with just that. However, if by taking over statewide offices around the country we can make our benches deeper than theirs, that will be yet another tangible advantage toward capturing power in higher offices.

  • Building a National Infrastructure. Most importantly, more significant focus upon local and statewide offices in 2006 than on federal elections will bring us closer building a real fifty-state strategy, toward leaving no election uncontested, and once again becoming a real national party. The stronger and more active the Democratic Party is in every local area of the country, the stronger and more active we will become nationwide.
Both federal and statewide elections are extremely important. However, I truly believe that considering the current state of the Democratic Party, it is more important to build our long-term infrastructure toward a real majority than to capture a slim, transient majority (like we had in Senate in 2001-2002). For all of the reasons I listed above, local and statewide offices serve as undeniably important building blocks toward a true majority in Washington. Unless we rebuild our base locally, we will never have a real majority nationally. That, in a nutshell, is why I think local and statewide elections are more important in 2006 than federal elections.

Tags: Governor 2005-6 (all tags)



not looking good indeed
'06 looks like an even bigger long shot now that Chafee looks good in the polls against all contenders. We could just hope to chip away by making taking PA and another state away from the GOP..
by falcon4e 2005-05-11 12:51PM | 0 recs
Chafee doesn't look good...
He is polling below 50, well below 50, a general danger sign for an incumbent.  However, his seat has gone from a surefire pickup with Langevin to an open question at best.  
by Teaser 2005-05-11 01:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Chafee doesn't look good...
Langevin WAS NOT A SUREFIRE PICKUP... Kos is on crack for keeping that lie from dying.

Langevin just had high name recognition.

Look at the mayorial race in New York. Bloomberg was trailing badly until the jackass of the Democratic candidated started to tout DLC/GOP talking points.

by Parker 2005-05-12 12:02AM | 0 recs
Langevin was not a "surefire pickup."  But he gave the Democrats their best chance to win the seat.  It wasn't name recognition alone.  After all, Whitehouse was Attorney General and has run for statewide office before.
by Paleo 2005-05-12 04:32AM | 0 recs
Re: Langevin
It was name reconition...just like LIEberman lead in National polls during the primaries
by Parker 2005-05-12 05:21AM | 0 recs
Re: Langevin
What does one have to do with the other?  They are two totally different situations, and Lieberman was never ahead of Bush in the polls.
by Paleo 2005-05-12 05:33AM | 0 recs
Re: Langevin
What does one have to do with the other?

Name reconition is name recognition what the hell does that have to do with Lieberman was never ahead of Bush in the polls.

In that race LIEberman out polled all the Democratic candidates for months until the voters go to know the other candidates better

by Parker 2005-05-12 05:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Langevin
Because Langevin was ahead of Chafee.  Lieberman was never ahead of Bush.  Meaning Langevin was a "winner" where Lieberman was not.
by Paleo 2005-05-12 05:48AM | 0 recs
Re: Langevin
Ummm... no.

Fernando Ferrer was ahead substantially of Bloomberg in New York city until he went all DLCish and started to pander to the wingnuts and racist... now guess what... Bloomberg is ahead.

Was Ferrer a "winner" ...uhhh no just an idiot

by Parker 2005-05-12 06:15AM | 0 recs
Langevin and Casey are not DLCers.  They are, especially Casey, populist Democrats.  DLCers tend not to give high priority to social issues like abortion, and to the extent they do, are overwhelming pro-choice.  Think Joe Lieberman and Bill Clinton.
by Paleo 2005-05-12 07:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Chafee doesn't look good...
Langevin's pro-life position put him on shaky ground with some Dems.  And the myth of Chafee's "independence" made him look like a plausible alternative.  

Misguided, to be sure, but I still hear registered Dems say they "like Chafee."

by plunkitt 2005-05-12 12:34PM | 0 recs
We have to move beyond instant gratification
I agree with almost every point you make here Chris. I would add that in 2005, Dems need to concentrate on Virginia and New Jersey state-wide elections to build some momentum headed into 2006. It can also prove a testing ground to see how best we empower local Dems to run effective state elections - especially on the state house races - which will incidently bring voters out for up-ticket races.

One of the most important things we have to accept is that we are in this for the long haul. Even in 1994, the Republicans didn't magically appear on the stage. It was a long time in the making, and we're a long way behind.

Everyone that got riled up for the presidential, and keeps focusing on the 2006 Senate races, needs to take a long hard look at the reality of our prospects. Do I want us to do well? Yes. Take back the Senate? Of course. But I believe the local and state elections are more important to accomplish our long term goals, and provide us the majorities in political control that we need to advance our agenda. That is going to take time, and its going to take people willing to look at the big picture and the long-term calendar. I recently wrote about the next several election cycles in Alabama. We need to concentrate on putting the campaigns, the candidates, and the infrastructure in place now to be competitive and in control 2, 4, 6 and more years out, especially with the next Census redistricting.

Hoping for instant gratification in 2006 just isn't good enough.

by CAat14K 2005-05-11 01:30PM | 0 recs
Colorado correction
Actually, Democrats controlled the state Senate after the 2000 elections.  This is why there was a stalemate that led to a court drawing the federal Congressional map.  It was not until 2002 that the GOP took the state senate back by a single seat and then rammed through the midnight re-redistricting bill that was ultimately thrown out by the Colorado Supreme Court in the suit brought by Ken Salazar while he was AG.  That map would have made CO-3 and CO-7 stronger for the Republicans by herding most state Dems into CO-1 and CO-2 while splitting Democratic Pueblo in half between CO-3 and CO-4.

The more competitive 2000 map, in turn, opened the door for John Salazar to win CO-3 (which under that map includes all of Pueblo) for the Dems in 2004.

by Colorado Luis 2005-05-11 02:05PM | 0 recs
Don't Believe the Hype!
I don't buy the hype that our chances in the House are that bleak in 2006. The Congressional republicans have Tom Delay smeared all over them and it is showing in their aprovial ratings. I have more faith in the  American People that they will get sick and restore  a balance of power long before 2012. Since Norm Dicks and Jay Inslee are pretty safe here in Washington I am going to be putting all my effort into getting rid of Dave Reichert. We don't want to fall in a self fulfilling prophecy about doom and gloom in 06. We need to fight long and hard no matter what.
by Democracy For Puget Sound Dot Com 2005-05-11 02:07PM | 0 recs
Before we win the House in 06...
...two things have to happen.

  1. The Republicans need to fuck up badly and drop the ball.
  2. We need to catch it.

This will be partially motivated by events (How badly is Iraq doing?  How bad is the economy?) and partially motivated by stupidity on thier side (scandals gallore), and whether or not Reid can kick his House collegues asses into gear.

It will definitely be an extremely uphill challenge unless the stars align (for us, this means, unfortuantly, everything bad that can happen does happen, all at once).

by Geotpf 2005-05-11 04:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Before we win the House in 06...
I think we're still missing point number 2 in your equation. The focus on hoping the other side messes up badly enough is a tired strategy. It helps, I won't argue that, but after we "catch" the ball in point number 2, there has to be a number 3 - do something with it.
by CAat14K 2005-05-11 07:24PM | 0 recs
Another great post by chris.
The local activism circle yields un-believable
benefits to the new democrats out there, the
ones signing on to the party of Dean,
army of one. You need your home base safe,
before you head out into the open.


by turnerbroadcasting 2005-05-11 02:51PM | 0 recs
The Road to Fifty
I give Chris credit for saying that we ought to concentrate on statehouses instead of the Capitol. The fact is that we may find the tide turns and the Dems retake the majority. But just as easily we can use 2006 to push back against Repubican domination while solidifying control of state legislatures and governorships.

Now, the Dems in theory can use Bush to the disadvantage of many of the incumbent Republican senators. In some states, this will work and in other states it won't. But perhaps most telling is that in some of the states where it would one wants to run.

We know Pennsylvania is a very possible pickup, and everyone hoped Rhode Island would also turn blue. But there's still plenty of states to attack: Ohio, where Ted Strickland is very popular...Tennessee where the Dems can test drive their Suddern message on an open seat...Virginia where Allen will be looking ahead to '08.

And then there's Montana, Nevada, and Maine, where each of the GOP winners squeaked by in 2000 but no one seems interested in running. And the truth is, no matter what the Democrats do in terms of choosing where to spend money they have to make it abundantly clear that moderate Republican senators have enabled the Administration to run wild.

Just as the Kerry campaign blew it by not plastering Osama bin Laden and Crown Prince Abdullah's faces next to Bush's throughout 2004...we're going to blow it again if we don't affix Dubya, Cheney, DeLay, Falwell, John Bolton, and all the other crazies right next to Olympia Snowe, Lincoln Chafee, Ricky Santorum, and George Allen.

You are judged by the company you keep.

by risenmessiah 2005-05-11 02:54PM | 0 recs
Let's Defeat Defeatism
Claiming that defeat is written in the tea leaves 18 months before an election a pretty sure way of giving up the fight long before it is really on.

Here in Washington we did not give up and we control the State House, State Senate and the Governors Mansion. We won the legislature and we are ready to take on the three Republicans that are not accurately representing us in the US House.

by Democracy For Puget Sound Dot Com 2005-05-11 03:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Let's Defeat Defeatism
What are you talking about?

What you did in Washington is exactly what Chris is proclaiming for the other states is that defeatism.

As long as the DLC is directing the political agenda in Washington the Democrats are going to Lose because that is their main agenda neuter the Democratic party and they are succeeding.

The states are a different matter as you described in Washington.

by Parker 2005-05-12 12:11AM | 0 recs
Whoa there man
your bumming me out brother. I believe we can own the senate and maybe the house by 2006 I see the following states as Vulnerable, and I've been following this for awhile. Here's my predictions for the following Republican canidates in order of vulnerability

Mad dog Santorum (pennsylvania my state.) (if you look at history those who are just way too radical and want to scale back everything, end up rising to power quickly, but end up running out gas real fast.) Santorum is gone, We got Bob Casey Jr. (pro-lifer, which sucks cause the ladies are coming back to democratic party, but I'm sure he'll side with democrats even if an issue like that does come up.) but he's the son of former popular Democratic Gov. Casey from mid eighty's to mid ninety's, he can't be beat.

Burns (montana.) the guy is tanking in the polls, montanans have a Dem. Gov, their house and senate is owned by the dems, that means plenty stomping for the democrat, getting out the vote, Burns is toast.

Chafey (RI): below 50 percent, he's trying to get back in bed with the conservatives by backing bolton, but this is a mistake, Rhode island is die hard blue, and I'm sure alot of blue staters voted for chafey cause they thought he would be like a walking stick (the bug that confuses his predators.) and side mostly with the Dems, and confuse the Republicans, but now he is starting to lose ground either way, He'll be thrown out as long as he continues to be hammered by the democrats.

Virginia allen: If the Gov. runs (Warner.) allen doesn't stand a chance, I'm telling you this state is rapidly yeilding to become our advantage state, keep an eye on Virginia.

Dewine: now I know this is a long shot, and we still have blackwell and all that stuff to deal with, but Ohio is only losing under the republicans, and Kerry was 3 percent away (if you don't look at all the scandles and all that.) I believe if the Democrats find a a good Canidate and pack him with plenty of resources and support, Dewine is gone.

Olypia Snowe: Yes this is a purplish state that ussually goes blue for the pres. elections for some strange reason, but I still believe that people are going to be fed up with Republicans by 06, and they don't want some lame as moderate weak republican in there, we need a suitable Dem!

I should note that sanders is getting in, and he'll vote with the Dems in Vermont, so thats all good.

Wyoming: don't know much about this state, but why not? I heard that this Republican is vulnerable.

Kyl: Arizona, this is actually a potentially good blue pickup state. Think about it, why is MCcain trying so hard, just as much as Hilary to get near the center? He must satisfy his blue constituents, that support him. I think Kyl is weak and vulnerable.

Tennessee (open seat.) this is pretty deep south Bush cowboy hat wearing territory, yes your right, I concur, but we've got Ford, and although there are alot of bigots, and this aint Illinois, so his skin color is a handicap, still I believe with enough support, he's got a chance atleast, and he's got one hell of a name.

Missouri: I almost was going to say no way here, but I heard the Republican is pretty weak here and correct me if I'm wrong, but missouri still has a democratic base, and just recently had a Dem. Gov.

These are the potential states that could K.O their republican incumbants.
But here's my major advice people....

Don't let anyone even think of Nominating hilary Clinton! She just sided with Newt today. Screw her and her centered views, Clinton or no Clinton, we need a strong canidate, an Ace in the whole, enough of this flim flammy weak democrat center fielding bullshit. I could stand Hilary, but just merely stand, not get excited for. She wouldn't win, she'd be rubber stamped liberal, and put out to pasture. We need to get over the closed...time to move on! we need to get our majority back not waste our time with someone who blew it know...under the the oval...that fucked up everything for us. It didn't bother me, but we don't need any fuel for the fire. Agreesive progressive in 08 baby!

by 48percent4now00 2005-05-11 03:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Whoa there man
Don't let anyone even think of Nominating hilary Clinton! She just sided with Newt today

This is exactly why the Dems won't take back the House and Senate...asshole Dems like this in Washington.

I am with Chris let's take back the states one by one and push these shitheads out of Washington

by Parker 2005-05-12 12:07AM | 0 recs
State level activism good.
Prognostication bad.

Chris, my man, I commend you and everyone working away at the state and local levels. Go get 'em.

But there is a fundamental problem with all this long term prognostication. It is based on EXTRAPOLATIONS that cannot hold.

I know. History tells us how things work. History tells us how political structure determines what is possible. History tells us how long it takes to sell a message, especially against the opposition of the Noise Machine. History tells us that states have voting patterns. You look at all the factors and make a projection along trend lines from where we stand ...

And I swear it's all bunk. It's bunk because the whole shebang is going to mutate radically.

Today's electoral dynamic is doomed. I can't promise it will break down by 2006, though I think it will. But talk of 2012 is lunacy.

There is no flaming way that the Thugs are going to keep the American people ignorant for much longer of what is happening to them. Already the reality is piling up: S S. Terry Schiavo. United Airlines.

When the people shake off the ether and get a good look around them, they are going to go batshit. That IS going to happen.

Hell, it's happening already. Look at Ahnold. He went from unbeatable to life support in about 2 months.

The Republican dynamic, which has seemed depressingly solid for a long, long time, is nevertheless a powderkeg waiting to go. When it goes, it will go with a really big bang.

Will that happen by 2006? I dunno. But it won't be much longer.

Which is not to say that we're gonna be fine. What it does mean is that Thugs are approaching the point where they either have to transmute the nation into an overtly non-democratic oligarchy or they will be blown out of office.

They MIGHT pull that transmutation off. I think they are in the act of trying to do that.

But then, IF they do that, then your state level activism becomes a quaint anachronism. Grass root growth cannot mature if a backhoe is ripping the turf off the rocks.

I see no point in drawing conclusions about what can't be done in 2006. It's depressing as hell. And it is, IMO, a form of fatalism. The simple fact is that grassroots activism cannot possibly develop fast enough to meet the Thug push into fascism. 2012 is simply too late to win majorities. If it takes us that long, nothing we are trying to do will matter.

I mean, it's like you are Denethor saying, "The Hosts of Mordor have broken through Osgiliath and are approaching Gondor. There is no way we can hold the walls. So let's start breeding our own race of orcs so that, in 10 years or so, we can fight back."

Please recall that I am NOT disrespecting the fight at the grass roots level. It is a crucial thing to do. Do it now, do it hard, and help build the percolating awareness of the danger. Grass roots organizing is a key part of the answer.

And maybe that's all you are trying to do here. Maybe you're just saying, "See how important state level stuff is?"


But don't try selling this 2012 timeline. You'll have progressives all over America mounting the funeral pyres with Denethor.

And the breaking point is not in 2012. One way or the other, the breaking point is AT HAND!

We have GOT to see that. We have got to act with the urgency that knows that another 2-4 years of failure will simply be too little too late.


Montana proves that. Ahnold proves it. The revulsion in Texas at DeLay proves it.

Man, do you realize that that moron pastor in North Carolina who tried to get his congregation to sign the party line WAS FORCED OUT TODAY?

Even in a wingnut church in North Carolina, it is becoming clear that this is a false path.

These guys CAN BE HAD and they CAN BE HAD NOW!

If we don't believe that, then we may as well light the pyres and sing Kumbaya one last time.

by Thresholder 2005-05-11 04:30PM | 0 recs
Re: State level activism good.
Uh whaaaa?

Chris's point is that the number of competitive Senate seats makes it foolish to divert resources from state campaigns to federal ones on the hope that the worm will magically turn.

He is not suggesting that it's hopeless in every state: but that the only decent chance states are less than what we need to get 50 seats.

But fact is, I agree we could win the Senate back in 2006 but we need to find strong candidates in states where the GOP is struggling and so far...not many have declared.

by risenmessiah 2005-05-12 11:56AM | 0 recs
Here's what I'm worried about
While local and state election wins are needed for Dems to regain ground, imagine the news after the democrats face their fourth election defeat in a row. I'm guessing it's going to sound something like "The democrats aren't even a viable party if they can't win an election in 6 years! Why throw your vote away when the republicans are clearly the mainstream american party" It's enough to make me want to puke, but then again, I've stopped watching tv news anyway.
by who threw da cat 2005-05-11 04:52PM | 0 recs
Another Dem gerrymander...
...where do Democrats have gerrymanders? Tennessee

What about Massachusetts? Bush got 37% of the MA vote last November, but the GOP elected precisely zero Congressmen! (Four Dems were elected unopposed.)

From a quick check, the state is by far the largest to send a one-party delegation to the House. And, just like CA and TX, the maps scream gerrymander.

by johnsmith0903 2005-05-12 02:32AM | 0 recs
Re: Another Dem gerrymander...
actually, to get a seat that a Republican could win, you would have to gerrymander Massachusetts. Republican voters are too spread out.
by johnny longtorso 2005-05-12 05:42AM | 0 recs
The House
I disagree that there is "no realistic chance" that the Dems could get to 220 before 2012.  That's 17 seats, which certainly could be accomplished over three elections, given the usual amount of retirements and running for Governor or Senator, even with the gerrymandered political map.
by Paleo 2005-05-12 04:34AM | 0 recs
where's the beef
This seems like a lot buzzwords (50 state strategy and building infrastructure) without the talk about how we make it real.

Talking about things like ACORN and John Edwards teaming up to push for minimum wage increases  - amp;cHash=9487b19ffc - seems more productive to me.  Grassroots work on issues like raising the minimum wage at the state level translates into developing doorknockers and candidates for elections, lists of supporters, and ways to get the word out.  That's how to build infrastructure in 50 states.

by Steve P 2005-05-12 07:06AM | 0 recs
Retaking the Senate is a Huge Longshot

It'll be easier for us than it was for Repigs in '94...yet, goshdarn, they did it. Stop re-enforcing pessimism.

Oh, BTW, Repigs don't control New Jersey...Dems do.

The House: Repigs faced horrible Dem gerrymanders in '94 and needed over 50 seats to take back the chamber. YET SOMEHOW THEY DID IT. Why is it any harder for us today? We only need 15 seats.

I hate it when you depress us, Chris. Things are much easier for Dems today than they were for Republicans in the early '90's. Why the assuming?

by raginillinoian 2005-05-12 08:05AM | 0 recs
The Reeps did it
with a media-propaganda network built over two decades. The Dems have one built over, what, four years? Progress has been made, but the Reeps still have the upper hand on message formulation and dissemination.
by catastrophile 2005-05-12 10:59AM | 0 recs
Any way you slice it-----
2006, 2008, 2012, it will be too late to save the irreversible destruction to the environment. All that's left now, all I volunteer for, is retribution. Not hope.
by euzoius 2005-05-12 01:06PM | 0 recs
You know I don't disagree about '06
That's why The Insurgent Political Campaign exists.
by BigDog 2005-05-12 03:28PM | 0 recs


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