No Fifty-State Strategy For Republicans

Both progressives, as most visibly demonstrated in Connecticut, and conservatives, as seen in many primary challenges this year, sought to replace so-called "moderates" with more ideologically palatable candidates. Here is a quick glance at some of the prominent districts with ideological primary challenges, and their current status in the 2006 elections:
  • ID-01: Club for growth funded primary candidate bill Sali only two points ahead of Democrat Larry Grant in latest poll.
  • CO-05: Club for growth funded primary candidate Doug Lamborn facing serious competition form Jay Fawcett. One poll shows the race tied, the other shows Lamborn up 13% in a district Bush won by 35%.
  • OH-02: Club for growth funded candidate Jean Schmidt yet again facing serious Democratic challenger within the margin of error in a district Bush won by 26%.
  • MN-06: Theocon Michelle Bachmann emerged from the primary, but now some polls show her trailing Democrat Patty Wetterling in this supposedly solid red district.
Now, compare this to the status of prominent Democratic primary challenges:
  • RI-02. After surviving against Jennifer Lawless, Jim Langevin faces no opposition for re-election.
  • CT-Sen. Republican Alan Schlesinger is in the single digits in every poll in this district.
  • CA-36. After surviving against Marcy Winograd, Jane Harman's Republican opponent has raised less than $10,000.
  • MD-04: After stealing the lection form Donna Edwards, Al Wynn's Republican opposition has raised less than $10,000.
  • TX-28: After narrowly surviving against Ciro Rodriguez, Henry Cuellar faces no opposition for re-election
Notice the pattern here? Republicans are trying to squeeze a more conservative country out of their base districts, and then still facing serious challenges in the general election in those base districts. By contrast, all Democratic primary challenges are followed by total Republican abandonment of the districts targeted for primaries. The choice is either moderate Democrats or progressive Democrats. In the red districts, the choices are total wingnut, moderate Republican, or moderate Democrat. Republican attempts to make the country more conservative have turned entirely inward. They are trying to make their districts more conservative, and hoping that their districts are enough to still govern. The lack of a third choice in many--most!--blue districts is striking, and demonstrative of how Republicans are rapidly losing their status as a national party.
Democrats currently occupy 202 seats in the House of Representatives. When working on this project, we started from a list of 108 Democrats who were either facing no opposition, or were facing Republican opposition so token that it had failed to raise $10,000 this year. Almost certainly, there were many other Democrats who were facing similarly token opposition that had raised a paltry $40,000 or less. Overall, in 2006 Republicans had failed to put up anything besides a token challenge to around 60% of Democratic-held districts. That is truly pathetic for a party that currently views itself as the natural governing party of America. They have abandoned more than 25% of this country. And this is abandonment to a degree far beyond anything Democrats have gone through, even in the reddest areas of the country. Time and time again, the districts where Republicans had either no presence, or simply token presence, tended to be urban, and tended to be represented by minorities. There is no Republican presence whatsoever in many of these districts, not even pleading RINOs desperately trying to distance themselves for their own party. Republicans have just left the districts entirely.

To provide an anecdote to this thesis, I live in one of those districts, PA-02, and when I was walking to a coffee-shop this morning I saw a Lynn Swann sticker on a car for the first time. It actually took me a little while to realize what the sticker said, because even though I could tell from far away that it was a political bumper sticker, I had never seen one quite like it before. When I realized it was a Lynn Swann sticker, I laughed out loud because it occurred to me I had never seen one before. I also laughed because in a way it made sense. As a precinct captain, I have access to the partisan registration of the 700 or so registered voters in my precinct. About 11% of them are registered Republicans. Find me a precinct in the entire country where Democrats are down to 11% registration. Once you do that, I'll show you 10,000 other precincts like mine. There are just no Republicans here.

Areas like mine are spreading to now cover entire states and regions. Republicans are on the verge of total collapse in New England, New York, and eastern Pennsylvania, where at least fifteen Republican-held seats (out of nineteen Republican held seats in those areas) are in serious jeopardy. Multiple seats in states like Illinois, Washington, Minnesota, California, and Colorado, could change hands (not to mention seats in "red states" like Ohio, Indiana, Virginia, and Florida, which could also see multi-seat Democratic pickups). At the same time, multiple Democrats in each of these states are facing either no opposition or token opposition. This is where the truly crippling rub for Republicans comes in: there are huge areas of the country where Democrats are already in the majority, and the remaining Republicans are clinging for dear life. Further, the already extent Democratic majority in those areas is typically facing either no Republicans opposition or token opposition. In other words, the 25% of the country that Republicans have abandoned tend to be closely grouped with the areas of the country where Democrats can make substantial gains this year. Basically, this means that when Republicans finally lose in many of these areas, they won't be coming back. For example, Republicans abandoned Philadelphia a long time ago, but now every seat they lose in Philadelphia suburbs this year won't be changing hands again for a long, long time. The blue, urban dots they left behind are spreading and becoming larger, as they slowly transform into full-blown blue regions.

Even if the entire transformation does not happen in 2006, the progressive movement is operating and pushing outward in areas that Republicans have abandoned, while the conservative movement is being seriously challenged by Democrats even in districts like ID-01, OH-02, and CO-05. As long as that environment doesn't change, the country will move to the left. As we wreck havoc in their back lines, and operate free of their influence in our back lines (expect when they make alliances with LieberDem types in our back lines), the water around conservative governance will continue to grow. Electoral politics isn't everything, but at least partially because of the progressive movement's full-blown fifty-state strategy, and because the conservative movement has abandoned theirs, conservatives are on the defensive for the first time in a long time.

I point this out so that we remember to continue charging hard everywhere even when we are in power, which hopefully won't be that long form now. If we win, we can't allow victory to breed complacency, lest we face the same fate as the once mighty Democratic majority, and the narrow, but once seemingly invincible, Republican majority. The fifty-state strategy is not just a tactic to take power, but to keep it as well. Until this year, Republicans always ran more candidates than we did, and refused to concede far fewer states and districts than they did. When our will to fight everywhere surpassed theirs, we seized the advantage. You better believe that the moment they once again pass in that category, they will take the advantage back.

Tags: 2006 elections, Democrats, fifty-state strategy, Primary Elections, Republicans (all tags)



Re: No Fifty-State Strategy For Republicans

I have to say, that is honestly the best and most hopeful development I've heard of in around a month.

by Callandor 2006-10-29 12:10PM | 0 recs
We need to remember the MD-04

Next cycle we need to make sure this race isn't stolen again.

I know its controversial but our candidate was a great person and I don't even too much about the race... next cycle, we need to get it back.

-- MrMacMan

by MrMacMan 2006-10-29 12:20PM | 0 recs
Don't Forget Scott Kleeb vs. Adrian Smith!

Chris - you didn't mention Nebraksa-03, where Club for Growth candidate Adrian Smith won a tight Republican primary.  This is a very red district, but the CFG supports ending all agricultural subsidies and wants to abolish the Department of Agriculture.  In Nebraska, that's not a popular position.

Meanwhile, Scott Kleeb is running a phenomenal campaign.  He is an extremely attractive candidate (both politically and physically), and disillusioned Republicans have started "Republicans for Kleeb" chapters.  

I think NE-03 is a perfect example of how Republicans have become so complacent with Democrats being weak, pathetic and ineffectual that they can run a complete moron and expect him to be elected to Congress.

by Paul Hogarth 2006-10-29 12:37PM | 0 recs
Re: No Fifty-State Strategy For Republicans

I agree in general that the Republicans made a long term strategic blunder in the divisive action of Rove and Bush.  It won them 2 Presidential election and great inroads in the Bible Belt, but lost thousands of moderate Republicans who became Democrats or Independents.  Most of these will never go back.  

However, when the next election comes with probably either Giuliani or McCann as the standard bearer, they will switch on a dime and appeal to moderates.

Also the Republicans haven't completely abandoned the Republican candidates.  The Club for Growth is functionally an appendage of the Republican Party.  Plus Lynn Cheney bragged today that her husband raised $40 million for Republican candidates and we know that Bush has raised more than Waterboarding Dick.

by edonyoung 2006-10-29 01:00PM | 0 recs
Re: No Fifty-State Strategy For Republicans

The problem with thinking that they can now turn back to appealing to moderates is that once the true-red believers have the power, they won't be giving it back. I really think that Giuliani has zero chance at the nomination, and McCain has a tough row to hoe, as well.

You can't give the keys to the bus to the rabid elements of your party and then expect to take them back when you need them.

Plus, they've completely trashed their brand among broad sectors of the population. Brand-building takes a long, long time, and I don't think they can enter 2008 as the party of moderation.

by BriVT 2006-10-29 01:21PM | 0 recs
Re: Four more

MI-7 Club for Growth knocked out the incumbent, GOP House member, Joe Schwartz.

NY-24  After two successive challenges from a CFG financed winger, 12 term incumbent Sherwood Boehlert is forced out.  The race tilts ever so slightly to Democrat Michael Arcuri now.

NV-2 A Club For Growth funded challenge for an open seat barely missed.  Dean heller is in a fairly tight race with Jill Derby.  Bush had polled 57% here in 2004 and Gibbons got 67% so it should not be much of a contest.

CA-20  Freshman Democrat Jim Costa, a conservative Democrat, is running unopposed.  Costa got only 53% of the vote in 2004 and Kerry won 50.6% in this district.  Unopposed by the Republicans?  Thank you very much.

by David Kowalski 2006-10-29 01:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Four more

MI-7 Club for Growth knocked out the incumbent, GOP House member, Joe Schwartz.... favor of Tim Walberg, who has outspent Dem challenger Sharon Renier 26 to 1 and yet is still not over 50% in recent polling, and now faces a scandal because Walberg has been knowingly employing a child beater.

by The lurking ecologist 2006-10-29 03:16PM | 0 recs

Chaffee took a real beating in his primary and is now running behind Whitehouse.  

I'm actually surpised this wasn't mentioned; after all, if this seat flips, it won't be flipping back anytime soon either.  

by SGoo 2006-10-29 04:22PM | 0 recs
Re: No Fifty-State Strategy For Republicans

Sounds like a game of "Go".

by Coral 2006-10-29 01:14PM | 0 recs
Re: No Fifty-State Strategy For Republicans

To reinforce your comment about blue areas being completely blue, there is my city, Ann Arbor, MI.  Admittedly, this is not a typical town for Michigan, but George Bush has made it completely toxic politically to call oneself a Republican here.

Our city council is now 11-0 Democrats, and most races are not contested by GOP candidates.  The funny thing is that two of the Democratic city councilmembers are former REPUBLICAN mayoral candidates!

by A2SayHey 2006-10-29 01:27PM | 0 recs

I live in the heart of MI-07, where popular moderate Republican was knocked off by a real doozy, Tim Walberg, a fundie preacher from Lenawee County. Schwarz beat the Democratic nominee Sharon Renier by about 30 points in 2004. This year, Walberg is ahead of Renier by only 8, according to a poll taken a couple weeks ago. The amazing thing was that 35 percent supported her, but only 25 percent had ever heard of her before. Since then, her signs are popping up all over Calhoun County, and presumably other parts of the district as well. In the wingnut sections of the district, like Jackson County, Walberg's special friend Mike Baxter has his sign up everywhere (running for state legislature) with matching hideous bright orange and blue signs. But Walberg's signs aren't as prominent. I'd be shocked if Walberg ended up losing, but we have a real chance to knock of that loser in 2008 when our state Senator, Mark Schauer runs at him.

by elrod 2006-10-29 02:49PM | 0 recs
Re: No Fifty-State Strategy For Republicans

What's your definition of survival?

Lagevin beat Lawless by 20 points (61/39)
Harman beat Winograd 62/37

Your other examples fit the bill though. Still, I'm not entirely sure how blue these regions will stay in the coming years though I'm willing to find out.

50 states or bust baby!

by MNPundit 2006-10-29 02:58PM | 0 recs
Few other districts

Arizona 8 - a moderate Republican retires and is replaced with the rightwing candidate who ran against him in the 04 primary (Graf). Graf is so far to the right, the NRCC gave up on the district after he won the primary.

NH 1 - progressive star Carol Shea-Porter pulls the upset over democratic machine candidate in the primary and kills the democratic chances of winning the district.

by The Professor 2006-10-29 04:32PM | 0 recs
Re: No Fifty-State Strategy For Republicans
     I think there are two ideas here that are being joined in a confusing manner.
     Idea 1 is that the Republicans are rapidly approaching endangered species status in large parts of the country. I agree with that.
     Idea 2 is that the Republicans are on the decline because of their inability to make a serious contest in 100 or so congressional districts, or that that inability demonstrates that they're on the decline nationally. I don't think that's necessarily so.
     For decades districts like PA 2 have not had any serious Republican presence. But that didn't lead to changes in the suburban districts. Those changes in the Northeast and Midwest are happening now, not because big-city influence is spreading to the suburbs, but because having the Republican Party in power nationally for the last six years has been a disaster for the country. I agree with Chris's conclusion that those suburban districts will stay Democratic for a long time when they turn. But I don't think their experience has much to do with questions about the 50-state strategy (which I support).
by Ron Thompson 2006-10-29 04:46PM | 0 recs
Our narrow strength is our wide-spread weakness.

Democrats dominate in very high percentages in many districts (mostly Urban), but the Republicans have moderately high percentages in many more districts. Urban vs rural. NE vs South. The suburban & exurban South & West are the growth areas, and these populations have an Independent to Conservative outlook, and not loyal, dedicated democrats.

Much as I would wish it, the West is not reliably Democrat. Yes, we have many good candidates this year, and they are doing well in the present environment. But, if Republicans are losing more support than usual this year, it is moving to the Unaffiliateds not the Democrats.

Colorado Dems are highly concentrated in our two secure Democratic seats. Registration is strongly Republican in four districts leaving only one tossup. We have a shot at (some of) the Republican districts only because the extremist wing of the Republicans have over-balanced, and we are running conservative Democrats.

I'm not sure I like the idea of a Democratic Party created out of the merger of Conservative Dems and Moderate Republicans. (Yes, it is better than the extremists running the show today.)

by MetaData 2006-10-29 07:15PM | 0 recs
TX-28's primary didn't count after all.

Henry Cuellar has opposition from Democrat Frank Enriquez in next month's special election for TX-28 (which is a Louisiana-style nonpartisan election with a runoff if necessary).

23 and 28 have undergone changes in recent years. In 2002, Cuellar ran in a Laredo-NW San Antonio-Big Bend 23rd, almost beating Bonilla (52-47).  Delay's redistricting took 1/2 of Laredo, and Cuellar, and stuck it on Rodriguez'28th.  However, after the 2006 primary (the one everyone watched), the courts ruled 23 and 28 illegally drawn, since it took two district's Hispanic areas and combined them into one.  So now Cuellar's 28, Ciro's old seat, is now Laredo-to-McAllen, while Ciro is running for the 23rd, which Cuellar nearly won, which is now southside SA-to-Big Bend.  

With all of Laredo in Cuellar's new district (and the 2004 election basically came down to Laredo vs. San Antonio), McAllen resident Enriquez has a uphill battle with little time.  However, I did hear some hard-hitting ads on the radio from him over the weekend focusing on Cuellar's cozy relationships with the GOP, so there's always hope.  

by servetus 2006-10-29 08:02PM | 0 recs
website for Cuellar's Fighting-Dem challenger...

by servetus 2006-10-29 08:08PM | 0 recs
Re: No Fifty-State Strategy For Republicans

A LOT of the Republicans problems stem from Bush.

Remember how many wounds were self-inflicted. Is there any doubt that if Bush didn't have Karl Rove whispering in his ear, and if he weren't so dense, he could have been a 60% President rather than a 40% one?

Of course he couldn't have gotten all the tax breaks for billionaires or invaded Iraq. But, he could have moved to the middle (theoretically).

If he had done this he would have consolidated Republican rule for the next 10 years. It's only because of his stupidity and overreaching that Republicans are in such deep trouble.

Bush steered the ship of state into an iceberg and they are sinking with it.

That brings us to 2008. Don't think McCain will run as the "anti-Bush" i.e. "competent straight talking leadership that avoids the partisan gridlock and gets things done?"

The media will LOVE that theme and continue to kiss his ass, no matter how many on the left point out what total utter B.S. it is! The Republicans could be 2 years from a total recovery to win the Presidency and both houses of Congress. It could easily happen. In fact, that's the most probable scenario given the general media flatulence and subservience to power.

So, let's not write off Republicans as a national party just yet. They've been shooting themselves in the foot at every chance and we STILL haven't taken control of Congress yet!  

by Cugel 2006-10-29 08:09PM | 0 recs
Re: No Fifty-State Strategy For Republicans

     I don't agree with this assessment. It's true that the Republicans are not running in as many districts and are on the defensive, but thats because they screwed up big time over the past six years. This year will give us some Democratic wins, yes, perhaps even wins of 25-30, and maybe the coveted six senate seats. But you have to take a longer term perspective on this. Bush is going to veto all the progressive legislation passed by Democrats. A lot of the new Dems in the house and senate will be conservative/moderate Dems, and they will split from the party on certain key votes (think taxes, national security, corporate, etc.). It isn't that I think the Dem leadership in the House or Senate is inept, but simply that the party is very diverse ideologically, compared to the Republicans, and the cohesion needed to get our agenda passed will not be there (the assumption that Republicans will jump on the Democratic band wagon is ridiculous; just about all the GOP in the House and Senate will fight and block the progressive agenda). That being said, we are in for some old school trench warfare. Additionally, 2008 is going to be a pain in the ass. I think the current crop of Democratic candidates are mediocre (though its the same for the GOP); my guess is we will get a close election between two candidates that most Americans really could care less for, excepting if Mike Bloomberg runs as an independent or Republican, in which case I think he would get a lot of support (even though he is a plutocrat and corporatist). The effect down the ballot on House and Senate races will be mixed. I think the Republicans will fight more aggressively in 2008, and maybe pick up some seats of the Dems, especially as the anti-Republican mood softens, and grid lock in Congress leads to mixed blessings (not saying that now things are bright). That being said, I think we will have to wait until after the 2008 elections to see what the land scape really is like. My guess is this; the South will be the Republican base, the Northeast (including parts of Pennsylvania and Ohio) will become the Democratic base, and the rest of the country will be up for grabs. As such, we will need to fight it out in the Rockies, Great Plains and the West Coast. This won't be as easy as it looks. Be prepared for the coming wars.

by alexsycara 2006-10-29 08:12PM | 0 recs


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