Nationalizing November's Midterms

Newsweek's Jonathan Alter recently sat down with DCCC chairman Rahm Emanuel to talk 2006 strategy, a conversation that focused on Democratic efforts to nationalize House elections around the country. In contrast, Alter writes,

The Republican strategy is to localize the contests. Republicans are banking on having bought off enough votes with the type of local pork-barrel projects that Democrats once used. The flaw in the GOP logic is that the last three midterms have all been nationalized. In 1994, the big issue powering the Gingrich Revolution was widespread dislike of Clinton. In 1998, Democrats held their own because of a national backlash against impeachment. And in 2002, Bush bucked tides that historically flow against the party controlling the White House by exploiting fears after 9/11.

In order to help nationalize this year's midterms, Emanuel intends on releasing "The Plan: Big Ideas for America" in August, a modern Democratic version of the GOP's 1994 "Contract with America." Alter didn't get the exact details of the plan but came away with this general picture.

The strategy for getting swing-district voters to fire their incumbents is already taking shape. Just as Harry Truman ran against the "Do-Nothing Congress," Democrats will run against the "Rubber-Stamp Congress," which pimped for K Street, took a dive on its critical oversight duties (particularly on Iraq) and helped the president bankrupt the country by shoveling money toward the rich. Emanuel won't say yet which votes supporting Bush he plans to wrap around the necks of incumbents. But look for gut-punch ads that highlight the incumbents' 90-plus percent backing for Bush on issues like cuts in college loans and veterans benefits, privatizing Social Security, selling out to Big Pharma on prescription drugs and halting stem-cell research. Republicans are now scurrying away from Bush, but it may be too late. They can't take those roll-call votes back.

The key to the program comes in that last sentence -- "they can't take those roll-call votes back." For all of the Republican talk of distancing themselves from their wildly unpopular President, in the past they've gone to great lengths to give George W. Bush everything he's wanted -- even during this Congress.

In a nationalized election, Republicans won't be able to talk pork, or at least the voters will care less about those projects than in other years. No, every one of the Republicans who voiced support for partially privatizing Social Security, every Republican who voted for the disappointing Medicare prescription drug bill, every Republican who voted in favor of rules defending indicted GOP leader Tom DeLay, and every Republican who voted in favor of cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, student loans and food stamps is going to face angry voters this year. This is what nationalizing the election is all about.

Maybe Rahm Emanuel is as politically deft as was Tip O'Neill, maybe not. Remember, for all of the talk of "all politics is local," O'Neill successfully nationalized the 1982 midterm elections by hammering President Reagan and the Republicans over Social Security en route to a 27-seat gain. But if Emanuel can channel O'Neill and follow through with the strategy of nationalizing the election -- even to a degree -- the next seven and a half months until election day are going to be a lot of fun.

Tags: House 2006, rahm emanuel (all tags)



Re: Nationalizing November's Midterms

November's Midterms should be nationalized, but Primaries should always remain local.  I wish Emanuel would focus on the general and not intervene in my district's primary.

by illinois062006 2006-03-19 05:20PM | 0 recs
Is someone challenging Bobby Rush? n/t

by Daniel Biss 2006-03-19 07:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Nationalizing November's Midterms

Well, if these guys can play offense, I'll be delighted.  MOre than delighted.

But it sure would be new.

by Pachacutec 2006-03-19 05:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Nationalizing November's Midterms

Read the rest of the Alter piece.  Ugh is all I can muster.

by Matt Stoller 2006-03-19 05:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Nationalizing November's Midterms

All I get out of that is Emanuel doing some PR for himself, with Alter joining his fluffer brigade (must be hard to get to it, what with all that ballet dancing.  What a trooper, that Alter!).

The other level to it to me is, Alter thinks Rahm is going to have a good year, and he wants to get his calls returned for scoops after November.  Which just reifies the CW that Dems will make gains in the midterms.  This is Alter casting his lot.

As for the details of their plan for offense, who the fuck knows.  Knowing the players involved, it will probably be rolled it with so little passion that any success will come in spite of it.  Rahm's a machine, but his machinery could make watching the Sopranos like reading the phone book.  Feh.

by Pachacutec 2006-03-19 06:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Nationalizing November's Midterms

look for gut-punch ads

I'd like to see that.  But unfortunately I have to be content with "I'll believe it when I see it."

by brahn 2006-03-19 06:19PM | 0 recs
DLC is writing playbook???

What the fuck?

by blogswarm 2006-03-19 06:27PM | 0 recs
Re: Nationalizing November's Midterms

Why nationalize the mid-terms? What puspose would that serve?

There is some value in waging a national onslaught of issues but at this stage, the national issues percolate so nicely to the local levels that they can play just nice for every candidate in his own race.

Why? There is not, shouldn't be and can't be real consensus on issues like Iraq.

by NonConservative 2006-03-19 06:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Nationalizing November's Midterms

I agree with the strategy. Most polls show the majority of Americans disagree with pretty much everything Bush and the Republican Congress has been doing, so tying those votes around their necks is a good strategy.

The GOP has been bringing a lot of pork home too, which is why localizing these elections would hurt the Dems.

Still, the most important point of the article was Emmanuel's worry that the Dems are getting too confident.

Damn...I hope not but I feel like it's true......

by Bush Bites 2006-03-19 06:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Nationalizing November's Midterms

While I agree that the DCCC should be nationalizing the election, I don't believe it will be effective.

We don't have a Newt or even a Tip to put a face to the generic democrat.

by Judeling 2006-03-19 07:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Nationalizing November's Midterms

by Sarah R Carter 2006-03-19 08:06PM | 0 recs

Nevada is the perfect sort of place for nationalizing the Senate race.  Bush's approval rating there is 37%, and John Ensign, the incumbent, is truly a partisan hack (he voted with the administration 100% of the time in 2004).  Ensign has already started trying to distance himself from Bush, but Carter's not going to let that happen.


by Sarah R Carter 2006-03-19 08:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Nationalizing November's Midterms

To Rahm,

Everyone knows that the Republican marketing can be summed up in a few words: strong national defense, low taxes, limited government, personal responsibility, business friendly, moral values. Depending on the audience they might omit one or two.

For the Democratic stands, I suggest
-enlarging the middle class (stop those who are falling from it and help the poor reach it by eductation, reformed health care, etc.),
-realistic foreign policy (diplomacy and military),
-fiscal responsibility,
-competent government (antithesis of Bush),
-individual liberties (including civil and women's rights and religious freedom by separating it from the government), and
-economic expansion.

by edonyoung 2006-03-19 08:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Nationalizing November's Midterms

I think "nationalizing" the midterms is a good idea. I, however, have some problems with who seems to be running the show.

I agree that Rahm seems more interested in getting himself coverage. When the Democrats win, we'll be hearing all of these stories about how Rahm is some kind of genius.

I began thinking this when I recieved a DCCC email a while back. It was a poll asking Democrats all sorts of questions. One of the questions was who I considered to be "the leader" of the Democratic party. Of course, Rahm included his name. I just rolled my eyes.

If we get more crap about how "Rahm supports vouchers for health care" or any other stuff like that, i'm going to puke.

by JackBourassa 2006-03-19 09:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Nationalizing November's Midterms

Together, Democrats can do better--at coming up with a better slogan and unified message that doesn't put even Katie Couric to sleep. I swear, if voters hear it while driving they're going to run right off the road and cause accidents.

by kovie 2006-03-19 10:19PM | 0 recs
I'm I the only one bothered by this...

It should be Rubberstamp Republicans, not Rubberstamp Congress. Attack the Republicans, not the institution, which Dems are a part of.

by gina 2006-03-19 10:54PM | 0 recs
I sure hope we can nationalize it...

If this election gets nationalized, Virgil "MZM-Scandal" Goode (my district, VA-05) will be stuck with little else but his ties to Abramoff and MZM and his rediculously high Bush Loyalty Rate. In Southside Virginia, Farms are closing, factories are closing, and military recruitment keeps going up as the signing bonuses do. The issues that will matter in a nationalized election -- such as single-payer healthcare, energy independence (switchgrass is already being grown in the district), and changing the course of the Iraq war -- are entirely in our favor, and our local Fighting Dem, Al Weed takes a bold progressive stance on every single one.

Also, Al's daughter is gay, so if the Republicans could a) stop talking about it; or b) talk about it so much that people just get fed up  like they did with Kilgore's (2005-gov) rabid social conservatism; we'll be in much better shape. That hurt last time, but Al refuses to back down on gay rights or gay marriage.

If the race is "local" as it has often been in the past (at least in my district) the DLC dem -- whose "boldest" position seems to be to advocate a regional marketing strategy; as in, reverse the flow of globalization without improving the labor force; just hire people to lobby the lobbyists -- could potentially get the nomination, and in either case, Virgil will win a local election by 20 or 30 points, as per usual.

Oh, and we've started calling them "Bush Republicans." It's less cutesy, just as accurate, and turns Bush into a four-letter-word.

by msnook 2006-03-20 02:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Nationalizing November's Midterms

Looks like I'm tail end Charlie on this thread.

So, briefly - enough with the bipolar nonsense! This lefty 'sphere oscillating between heaven and hell is doing no one but the GOP any good.

I've only skimmed the Alter piece - and, if he's the Dem Messiah, I'm Louis Armstrong. (I'm not, by the way...)

If that LBJ comparison was his, and not Alter's, that's a whole Potomac-ful of folie de grandeur right there. And Rahmbo?

And what's this about the Dem equivalent of Contract with America being his book coming out in August? I thought that the Dem Congressional leadership were putting out a platform - the one postponed from November - any time now.

What in hell's name is going on?

(This has Dem snafu written all over it!)

Am I downhearted? No.

Dems have to understand that, if they don't win this year, or in 08, or in 10, it's not the end of the world.

I'd hope they'd win in 12, because they'd gerrymandered the country to buggery with their overwhelming control of governorships and leges.

But I get the feeling few in the lefty 'sphere is interested in that sort of long-term planning.

by skeptic06 2006-03-20 04:35AM | 0 recs
Yeah really...

Why the fuck is our contract coming two months before the election? and why the fuck is it coming out as a book? Isn't the d-trip already paying him? like a lot?

by msnook 2006-03-20 06:40AM | 0 recs
The House Is A Stretch

If the election were held today, I have no doubt the Dems would get the Senate back.  The House is much tougher because of the 2002 gerrymander.  It reminds of the NY State Senate which gerrymander for the Repubs in a similar manner.  There is a lot of truth that Representatives have picked their voters instead of vice versa.  I see his getting close in the House but I don't see how we get to 218 with the decks stacked against as they are.  

I wouldn't want to have dinner with either Emmanuel or Schumer but I like their take no prisoners attitude.  I may not agree with them on every decision but it is about time we had some leaders with some moxy.  I feel better about our chances than I have in years.

by John Mills 2006-03-20 05:31AM | 0 recs
Re: The House Is A Stretch

The model is prize son of a bitch LBJ, who certainly took no prisoners.

But, during his period of maximum mojo (he wasn't the same after the Class of '58 moved in), he had control of the Senate party in a way that Reid doesn't get close to.

Congressional leaders can be nasty as hell, but if they allow shambles like the censure res - he should have insisted that every Dem made up his mind on the Sunday - their nastiness is to no purpose.

by skeptic06 2006-03-20 06:00AM | 0 recs
Re: The House Is A Stretch

The Senate is a very different place than 50 years ago so you can't compare LBJ and Reid or any other leader.  Times change and leaders must adapt.

I differ from most here about the censure resolution.  It is not going anywhere under a Repub controlled Congress so I think it is a distraction. Plus, Feingold did this in a manner to help his Presidential ambitions rather than gathering support from like minded Dems.  I don't begrudge him that but let's call it what it is.

by John Mills 2006-03-20 07:57AM | 0 recs
Re: The House Is A Stretch

Times change and leaders must adapt.

I agree.

It's fair to point out, though, that Reid leads a party with a much higher degree of ideological coherence than ever LBJ enjoyed (with Thurmond and Humphrey, amongst others). He has modern technology to keep in touch with his troops, and they, and he, have far more staffers to keep on top of things.

He may well not be able to control the Dem desertions seen in the Medicare, energy, 'death tax', bankruptcy and other such bills; but he surely should be have been able to marshal an ordered response to Feingold's censure res on the Monday - even if that was 10 yesses and 35 no ways. Rather than the undignified scurrying from the media which gave the GOP something to smile about for the first time in a while.

by skeptic06 2006-03-20 08:58AM | 0 recs
Dems for a Brave America

the mantra that every Democrat should be repeating, is that the GOP is the party of fear, and the Dems are the party of courage. The American people have been living in fear for the past 5 years, and we're tired of it. The GOP has been consistently and relentlessly telling Americans that we should be scared. The Dems have a big opportunity to say that we refuse to be scared any longer. We will refuse to let the terrorists win. We do not have to choose between keeping America safe and protecting our fundamental Constitutional liberties. the Dems believe we can do both. And we're not afraid!

by mikearauz 2006-03-20 08:02AM | 0 recs


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