LA-2: Inside the War Room
by Tim Tagaris, Mon Dec 11, 2006 at 12:35:35 AM EST
Let's assume for a second that supporting Karen Carter was the right thing to do, and I think it was, there are a number of heroes who stepped up and did the right thing along the way. Most notably, EMILY's List got involved in the race before they could have possibly suspected Karen's position on choice was going to be the focus of Jefferson and his allies' attacks. They provided fundraising help that ultimately catapulted Karen to a cash advantage over Jefferson, top-quality researchers with presidential campaign experience, and communications assistance that helped control the message until the final days. In my eyes, it seemed they essentially ran the campaign, not because they were outsiders who thought they knew better, but because they had the ability to take the "meta" to another level. There was always a good balance between local knowledge and national expertise, one that just happened to come up short ... way shorter than anyone expected.
I saw polling data that showed Karen up 20 points with 3 weeks to go in the race. I later found out that tracking polls showed her up several points heading into election day. Both of those were obviously way off-the-mark. So far off, in fact, that I sat in a hotel room with the press secretary on election night helping with talking points for a concession speech that was never even thought about before that moment. There was a victory speech, for sure, but I think the loss (and its brutality) shocked pretty much everyone from the candidate to random supporters at the Double Tree Hotel on Saturday.
The "demographer" laid out a list of key precincts the campaign needed if they were to carry the day. As the video shows, they were tracked throughout and seemed to hit their marks as the phone calls came in. There was no panic, only enthusiasm in the "war room" as the final hour drew near. But much like the pollster's results, the marks weren't even close to representative.
The video above hopefully ties together the paragraphs in this entry, one of my last on LA-2. It's a view inside the campaign war room most folks (even those who work on campaigns) never get to see. Many of the staffers in the room were part of the EMILY's List team; the posters on the wall were the key precincts as outlined by the campaign demographer; and as you can see, there is no panic. Such little panic that they stopped recording precinct counts at 6 P.M., two hours before the polls closed. To be sure, there were still folks out in the field delivering votes in key areas, but little did anyone know the race was long over by that point.
Two more posts left from me on my experience in LA-2. The first will be a campaign post-mortem: more looks from the inside, what we, the netroots, accomplished, and what we can learn moving forward the next time MyDD sends someone into the field. The second will deal more with post-k reconstruction, making it a priority in the new Congress, and '08 leadership on the crisis. Ultimately, helping the region is going to take more than any one representative can bring to the table -- be it Karen Carter or William Jefferson. The unfortunate bi-product of this election is that the representation they do have is totally neutered because of his legal issues. If the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are going to get the help they need, it's going to take presidential candidates adopting the issue -- and a Speaker/Majority Leader willing to make recovery a priority.