IL-14: Obama Wins First Big Surrogate Fight Against McCain

Yesterday's special election in Illinois' 14th congressional district suggested a number of things about this cycle, one of which is what a presidential matchup between Barack Obama and John McCain might look like.

Foster ran a very aggressive and focused general election campaign. He came out swinging just days after his primary victory, hitting Oberweis on Iraq in TV ads, and kept Oberweis off balance throughout the rest of the one-month campaign. In the final week, Foster ran an ad featuring an endorsement by homestater Barack Obama.

But as well as Foster ran his campaign, this race was mostly about Oberweis. Polling in the final weeks of the race showed Oberweis' past had caught up with him, and his favorable ratings continued to sink. He did have John McCain in for a fundraiser and a press conference, but none of McCain's popularity among indies appeared to have rubbed off.

Because of both of their involvements in the race, many described this contest as a proxy war between Obama and McCain. And if it was, Obama came out the big winner.

This is a district that tends to lean about 5 points more Republican than the nation as a whole in presidential elections. Though there has been a trend in the region towards the Democrats and though this is home country for Obama, the fact that Bill Foster, with Obama's support out front, was able to so convincingly defeat Jim Oberweis, with McCain's support front and center, says a lot about what the race between the two Senators might look like.

The section above from The Hotline suggests that "none of McCain's popularity among indies appeared to have rubbed off" on Oberweis. Perhaps that's the case. But perhaps, too, in a matchup against Obama, McCain doesn't have any coattails among independents, or at least nearly as much as the establishment media give him credit for. In that case, without independent voters at his side and without an energized GOP base, how is it, exactly, that John McCain would be able to win a head-to-head campaign against a Democratic ticket headed by Barack Obama?

Tags: Barack Obama, House 2008, IL-14, Illinois, John McCain (all tags)



We Won

Democrats won! This was a win by the candidate and by Democrats, not just Obamacrats.

Obama's help did help but it was the voters and the candidate who are the winners. Both O and C supporters had to vote for him to be elected.

KumBaYa to all of us.

by kevin22262 2008-03-09 11:26AM | 0 recs
Re: We Won

Hmmmmm.  It seems that Obama worked with Blue America and cut the commercial for him.  And then the race was won.  Clinton voters, what there is left of them in Illinois, certainly helped, but she had no input in this race.  Because we have a new party leader, and his support is most effective.  This support will not extend to being Clinton's VP cheerleader, so please disabuse us of that idea.

Obama 2008

by Carlo 2008-03-09 11:53AM | 0 recs
Re: We Won

It's process-powered politics.  Doesn't count.  Nothing to see here.

by enozinho 2008-03-09 11:57AM | 0 recs
Re: We Won
Oh, so you read this morning's Evansville Courioer & Press?
The verbal gymnastics at CBS Radio were interesting as well. More Oberweis than Foster, with an occasional reminder that they both have to do it again in November.
by spirowasright 2008-03-09 01:41PM | 0 recs
Note to Republicans

For all the Republicans here (anyone? anyone?), the one prayer that you have in winning the White House, the Senate and taking back the House (that will be a real trick), is the nomination of Hillary Clinton.

Clinton is the only person right now who can energize the Republican base.  Obama brings out the low-propensity voters who just won't come out for Clinton.  Bill Clinton won twice (with an assist from Ross Perot), but she is not nearly the campaigner that her husband is.  

We saw what happens when Obama goes into a Republican stronghold--all bets are off and no Republican is safe.  With Clinton, Republicans are not just safe, but on the offensive.

For those who disagree, please direct me to the special election (any year, any level, any state) in which Hillary Clinton came into a certifiable red district and, on the strength of her involvement, won the day for the Democratic candidate.

by smoker1 2008-03-09 02:36PM | 0 recs
Re: We Won

More Obama supporters voted for Foster than Clinton supporters, by about 2 to 1.

Remember, this district was overwehlmingly for Obama in the primary.

Add to that the fact that Obamacans turned out and voted against their party's nominee and you can begin to get the picture.

by Walt Starr 2008-03-09 12:02PM | 0 recs

Take away the 1/3 that voted for him and then what do you get?

This is a We Democrats kind of win!

Why not take a chance with this win to say WE Won? Don't you get it?

by kevin22262 2008-03-09 01:07PM | 0 recs
Re: OK

Beacause there's still a Presidental primary going on?

by spirowasright 2008-03-09 01:42PM | 0 recs
Re: OK

No excuse.

Remember that whole "unity" thing?

by kevin22262 2008-03-09 02:02PM | 0 recs
A Strong Omen of Things to Come

I didn't think McCain's popularity among Independents would withstand Obama's.  McCain is running as a third-term for Bush.  He's flip-flopped on torture.  The Republicans have promised us nothing new, nothing different.  All they've been able to come up with is a new and hard-line against pork-barrel spending, which is likely to be too little too late.

And people wonder why the Republicans like Ann Coulter, Bill Cunningham, and Rush Limbaugh have been so much more favorable towards Hillary Clinton?  Don't get me wrong, she'd be a strong candidate who could probably win.  My question is, will she be able to reach so deep into Republican strongholds?

Clinton and Obama combined.  Energized African-American base, energized youngings.  Independents.  Disillusioned Republicans.  The rank and file of the militart.   All Democrats.  Hispanics.  We're going to crush them.

by Setrak 2008-03-09 11:34AM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins

Et tu Singer? Let me sum it up like someone over at Open Left did. This argument is the equivalent of arguing that Daly of Chicago has national coattails just because he helped a local candidate win.  No one would seriously make such as an attribution, but here that's exactly what we are being asked to believe. I know there is narrative and CW so nothing really matters here, but the argument would be valid if the indies were in a place where they weren't already inclined to endorse an Obama picked candidate over McCain. Ie, some neutral territory in which we could gauge this beyond narrative and CW. It certainly would give Obama a boost if this were something more than that.

by bruh21 2008-03-09 11:38AM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins

You still don't get it.  What this shows is the mood of the country and the effectiveness of the Obama Change message.  Foster embraced that framing and won a solid Republican district.  

by Piuma 2008-03-09 11:53AM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins

I get that many of you are trying to spin this, and that the Democratic party has been running on these over statements for much of this primary. I remind you that whether its Clinton or Obama , we will face significant hurdles in the general that no one is discussing for various reasons. Some of it ID politics related to race. Some of it, about what are the battle ground states related to long term 50 state strategies. Some of it for various reasons on various topics. Let me put this another way- if you want to win, the best approach isn't to come up with a CW and run with it without  being skeptical of it. It's the question it to make certain an idea has been fully vetted. Has that happened here, or are we once again like with Kerry accepting a lot of CW as truth?

by bruh21 2008-03-09 12:42PM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins

Even Rahm Emmanuel declared this the "shot of change heard round the world".

If you have somebody whose entire career is beholden to the Clintons saying something like that, you cannot deny the coat tail effect.

by Walt Starr 2008-03-09 12:04PM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins

Clinton  could say it, and it wouldn't change the faultiness of the argument, which is about extrapolating from a local win  as to what it means for a national campaign. I repeat-- this is the equivalent of saying that Daly of Chicago has national coattails because he can help a candidate win in Chicago. Its the equivalent of Clinton making the same argument about NY state.

This is about what CW is accepted and how that affects our chances of winning in Nov because the CW leads to poor tactical choices. Not candidate choices, tactical ones.

I remain skeptical. In 2004, many Democrats said a lot of things about how Kerry was the man to beat Bush for a lot of CW reasons, and those people were wrong. I was one of those people who fell for the CW.

Frankly, the problem many of you face isn't me. Put another way, what happens when you go outside of your bubble to use these arguments in the GE with regard to strategies run and tactics used.  I am not sure. I just know it's not a good idea to start off on a bunch of false ideas about a candidates strengths and weaknesses. People are even going as far as to say that a win by Foster in IL somehow says that Obama can beat McCain with regard to independents for coattails. Why exactly? Would you accept that argument if this were AZ and McCain argued that a candidate he endorced beat a Democrat who Obama beat there? If not, then that is the extent  you should be skeptical here.

by bruh21 2008-03-09 12:39PM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins

Okay, let's make it completely analogous.  Let's say Pelosi resigned and Arnold Schwartzenegger went into her district and ran an ad for the Republican candidate and he won.  Don't you think that would, and should, be interpreted that his message and style of politics had national significance?  It would not be considered a local event, nor should it.

by Piuma 2008-03-09 12:50PM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins

No. Why? Changing the parties, and the location, doesn't change the dynamic that makes me skeptical of the argument about national coattails. You conflate Schwartznegger's local appeal in CA with national coattails outside of his homestate. It maybe interesting and can be spun by the GOP, but it doesn't make your point about national coattails. Indeed, I suspect none of you would accept such an argument if the GOP did make it.

by bruh21 2008-03-09 01:14PM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins

Actually, I think Arnold would have national appeal, I mean the man was a inveterate womanizer, but that's never stopped anyone-- I think if it were constitutional (the history of this limitation is interesting, it appears it was adopted solely to cripple the ambitions of Hamilton-- a genius, who was also basically an insufferable douchebag; seriously, Aaron Burr was like the 5th founding father than man challenged to a duel) there's a very good chance Arnold would have been the Republican frontrunner (or at the very least the VP nom)- he has postions similar to McCain's and while he lack McCain's personal heroism he embodies the American Dream and has more personal charisma than any Repub running.

by Socraticsilence 2008-03-09 03:45PM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins

As a Californian, I disagree that Arnie has policies similar to McCain.  While he's had moments of ineffectiveness, on the whole I think he's had a very moderate hand and at least plausible arguments even when he's wrong (e.g. on the gay marriage veto).  And he's been responsible fiscally, unlike John McCain's "actually, it looks like Bush was right! Cutting taxes for the rich and paying trillions for a war works!" stance.

Of course, I suppose you could argue that Arnold would be much more conservative in a national position as opposed to out here in Cali.

by jackstah 2008-03-09 04:35PM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins

I guess I meant in terms of perception (thanks for reminding me though, even I have tendency to forget just how conservative McCain is just because he differs on some issues--many of which he has now backtracked on--from the GOP status quo).

by Socraticsilence 2008-03-09 04:59PM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins

Would you accept that argument if this were AZ and McCain argued that a candidate he endorced beat a Democrat who Obama beat there?

Yes. If it was in a democratic stronghold district.

by recusancy 2008-03-09 12:54PM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins

I disagree. I would need to know a lot more. I would also assume home team advantage. I would wonder if this is more an example of a Democratic wave year, which by the way, in trying to make this about Obama, no one is noting. What if it's more a case of an example of what all the generic indicators have been showing. That it's not specific to Obama but the fact people are identifying with Democrats in general? Let's say it is this (not that I'm certain, but let's say it's true) then this too would affect strategy, would it not? Then it would mean that candidates could feel more at easy to run on Democratic values. Didn't this candidate run on some of those too? Wasn't he unabashedly Democratic in his appeal as a candidate-- ie, running against FISA, for UHC, using the Democratic brand rather than running away from it? Do you now seem the deeper problems I have with this analysis. It's not about Obama, or CLinton, but how we may, by coming to quick CW, be missing out on something more fundamental than Obama or the Presidential run.

by bruh21 2008-03-09 01:18PM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins

The horse is still dead.

A Democrat wins in what I am led to believe is a deeply red district.

Either the candidate's  (Foster) message of change resonated, the opposing candidate was a horrible candidate, the sitting senator campaigned for him, or some combination of all of those and more were responsible. But to say that the very popular Senator AND HIS SUPPORTERS played absolutely no role in this election is a hand you can not win.

by swarty 2008-03-09 02:21PM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins

Fascinating, so his winning on a Democratic message is the same as him wnning because he won on Obama's coattails? Because that's the only way my point is moot. By the way, the question is whether Obama has coattails in the national election, which is the slight of hand that's been going on since the win was announced last night.

by bruh21 2008-03-09 03:00PM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins

Look, Swarty is correct, there are a bunch of qualifications but, in effect a Physicist ran on Obama's message in a district we haven't held since the 1960s (I believe) and won. On a side note: I love the AP and others description of Foster "wealthy businessman and scientist" it makes him sound like Tony Stark or Reed Richards.

by Socraticsilence 2008-03-09 03:48PM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins

 that's not the argument being made in general. It began with Obama's coattails and now its Obama's message. Two very different concepts. One is about the person, and the later is about messaging. only a subset was making the messaging argument, and of that subset there is a tendency to blur the difference.

by bruh21 2008-03-09 04:14PM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins

 that's not the argument being made in general. It began with Obama's coattails and now its Obama's message. Two very different concepts. One is about the person, and the later is about messaging. only a subset was making the messaging argument, and of that subset there is a tendency to blur the difference.

by bruh21 2008-03-09 04:14PM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins

If you call a district that has elected only repugs since 1976 deeply red..well yea, this is a true test of obama's was considered a big upset in Illinois political circles,to put it mildly.

And flipping parties in a special election of this sort is rare.
And when it is the speaker of the house's district from the other party?

You cannot spin this anyway but impressive for Obama.

by hawkjt 2008-03-09 08:34PM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins


Stop beating the horse. It's dead already.

People make assumptions based on elections. Always have, always will.  This little election in Illinois is an easy one to connect the dots, with the added bonus that it was Denny Hastert's seat.

At least you're not calling this discussion a spamming of the thread today.

by swarty 2008-03-09 02:15PM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins

What you are saying is that because people make assumptions based on elections that tells us their assumptions are what? RIght? Other than trying to get me to shut up, I am not exactly sure what your point is in saying people make assumptions. I mean- the DLC thought that triangulation was an effective strategy based on Bill Clinton's win.  If the assumptions are wrong, are you arguing no one should "beat the horse" of pointing out the assumptions are wrong? We shouldn't be skeptical or question assumptions?  We shouldn't try to figure out whether it was Obama or the messaging from Foster that won?  I guess someone better tell the blogs this. I am sure "Crashing the Gates" was all about just accepting assumptions that come about from CW.

by bruh21 2008-03-09 03:12PM | 0 recs
Proxy for O vs C

Methinks that you are using this coattails discussion as a proxy for a Barack vs Hillary fight. It's really gotten to be way too much nit-picking for it to be just about coattails.

Was there "some" coattail effect from Obama to Foster? Yes at least some.

Was there some "hometown" effect that will not translate to other places? Yes, of course.

Will there still be a net positive coattail effect compared to Clinton? Likely, imho.

All the rest is chatter.

by Jeff Wegerson 2008-03-09 12:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Proxy for O vs C

 I said the exact opposite of what you attribute to me at the beginig of your post. It's all chatter until people start formulating strategies because foolishly they accept the chatter as fact. i.e., Obama has coattails across the country due to the example of that victory in IL so that means we should take our resources and cut commercials across the country in close races with Obama in it. Indeed, you just wrote something similar in your post with the cut regarding Clinton.

by bruh21 2008-03-09 12:53PM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins

Coattails are probably the wrong word but the Foster win does tell me that Dems running in traditionally Repub areas are not afraid to use Obama to help them, home state or not.  

Contrast this with a special State Senate election in upstate NY two weeks ago where Darrell Aubertine, a Dem running in a heavily Repub seat, used an endorsement from Sen. Chuck Schumer but not Hillary Clinton in his race.  This was a highly significant contest because the Aubertine victory brought the Dems within one seat of winning the State Senate for the first time in 40 yrs.

I like Hillary but she is more polarizing than Obama.  Dems in Repub territory, even in her home state, are not likely to use her to help in their elections.  We'll see if Obama can continue his crossover appeal but so far he seems to have and is using it.

by jmnyc 2008-03-09 01:34PM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins

I am perfectly willing to accept that Obama has coattails nationally if it is shown. I am not willing to accept the poor arguments being made here that running with this  homestate race as a sign of that. That's about all I can add at this point.

by bruh21 2008-03-09 03:16PM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins

But this very comment demonstrates that coattails in one's own state are not a given.  No, it doesn't prove anything.  But it's a damn good sign.

by jackstah 2008-03-09 04:37PM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins First Big Surrogate Fight Ag

My extended clan lives in 14, and trust me, this is still the heart of republican Illinois.  What it is NOT is Oberweis territory.  They all turned out to vote against Oberweis.  They are sick and tired of that fat ass thinking he represents anybody anywhere: they hate him, and they know he is a pathological liar who will say anything to get elected.  

That fact he has spent tens of millions he skimmed from investors, and left him 0-for-4 in election attempts speaks volumes.  Only a matter of time before the SEC opens a file on him.

Not one state republican I'm aware of said a single word in his favor, while Durbin and Obama both did quick stumping with Foster.

Should the IL repubs get someone other than Oberhitler to run in November it very well may flip back.

Hit the ground running Mr. Foster.

by markt 2008-03-09 12:04PM | 0 recs
I think you are right

And Foster should definitely hit the ground running. But the Republicans in that area have now voted for a Democrat twice. 2004 Obama and now 2008 Foster. Yes it was two votes against wingnut Republicans, Keyes and Oberweis, but still it shows that they are able to pull the Democratic lever as needed. Good habits can begin with the rejection of bad ones.

by Jeff Wegerson 2008-03-09 12:10PM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins First Big Surrogate Fight Ag

IF you think Oberweis would check his ego and withdraw from November you're naive.

Oberweis wouldn't give up his slot on the ballot any sooner than McCain would give up his.

It's an Oberweis v. Foster rematch in November. Nothing short of Oberweis croaking will change that.

by Walt Starr 2008-03-09 12:18PM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins First Big Surrogate Fight Ag

Thank you for this post. This is exactly the point of remaining skeptical as to why Foster won his district. These outside factors may have helped, but in terms of winning the district going forward, and winning other districts, we need to keep the narrative firmly focused on those things that will actually matter rather than draining resources and time on strategies that may not have mattered because we don't bother to question  our own assumptions.

by bruh21 2008-03-09 12:45PM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins First Big Surrogate Fight Ag

Oberhitler? Seriously though the Freepers seem to believe the problem is that he was too liberal or that he's a Romneyesque flip-flopper (sue me, I vist FR every time a Repub loses; schadenfruede is "teh awesome"), I get the impression from their threads that he's kinda like Keyes and just loses a whole bunch?

by Socraticsilence 2008-03-09 04:10PM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins First Big Surrogate Fight Ag

My favorite part of the above Hotline piece:

Democrats will trumpet this as a harbinger of things to come for '08. And they may be right. Foster didn't try to hide his Dem label at all, featuring it prominently in TV ads. He also campaigned on big issues like Iraq and health care like a liberal. Those are strategies not usually pursued in GOP-leaning CDs like Hastert's, but they don't appear to have hurt Foster. Could this be a sign that Reps. like Sam Graves (R-MO 06) and Tim Walberg (R-MI 07) are in trouble?

Take note, 2008 Dem challengers.  Don't run from the brand.

by lorax 2008-03-09 12:09PM | 0 recs

Or it could be Obama is more popular in Illinois than McCain??? Who would have thunk it?! Try it in Ohio or Florida and we'll talk

by rossinatl 2008-03-09 12:33PM | 0 recs
Re: re

Really? That's the best you can do?

just go watch saturday night live again. It'll keep your spirits up and away from that pesky "information that doesn't back up your preferred way of thinking."

by Lettuce 2008-03-09 12:43PM | 0 recs
Re: re

So Obama isn't more popular in IL than McCain, and that's a Saturday Night Live coment to point it out?

by bruh21 2008-03-09 12:46PM | 0 recs
Re: re

Just stop it; you have been deriding Obama and his supporters every chance you get. You can't face the fact that a U.S. Senator from Illinois who is popular in his own state may have contributed to the victory.  Stop making it seem like we think Foster couldn't have not won without Obama.  No one is making that charge but you. What everyone is saying is that the message of change that Barack talks about was embraced by Foster and that may have helped.  Jesus, you make a mountain out of a mole hole all the god damn time and it is so petty how you pursue your arguments.

Grow up!

by rejectandenounce 2008-03-09 01:06PM | 0 recs
Re: re

That would be nice, but that's not what everyone is saying. In fact, as I and others continue to make the argument against the first thrust- namely Obama has coattails-- the arguments have started to shift quite a bit.  Growing up to me means by the way that I should question what I am being told until I am satisifed with the answer or I realize there isn't one. I am not sure what it means to you.

by bruh21 2008-03-09 01:31PM | 0 recs
Re: re

Um, the is a +5 at least GOP district.

by Socraticsilence 2008-03-09 04:11PM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins First Big Surrogate Fight Ag
Love them voting machines 092
by nogo war 2008-03-09 01:50PM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins First Big Surrogate Fight Ag

That's another lesson:  Win big!  It makes it harder for them to steal it from us.

by Timetheos 2008-03-09 11:02PM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins First Big Surrogate Fight Ag

I am in the neighboring district.  Foster won in part because the Democratic primary turnout was so high. This gave organizers an expanded list of Democrats to target to turn out.  This bodes well for Democratic chances in the Fall in those states which, like Illinois, do not have party registrations.  Usually only one third of the voters turn out for primaries but this year it was 50% on the Democratic side. This makes GOTV much more effective for the General.  

by MikeWalk 2008-03-09 03:47PM | 0 recs
Re: IL-14: Obama Wins First Big Surrogate Fight Ag

Having been in the district for a few days, I think 1) it's clear that Obama helped Foster by recruiting tons of E-day volunteers through his website and by cutting a commercial, 2) Obama probably helps candidates in IL, which does have some key House elections this year, and 3) this IL race doesn't shed light on whether Obama will have coattails outside Illinois. As Bill Foster, Ph.D., might say, it'll take further experiments to test the hypothesis that Obama has coattails nationally.

by bschak 2008-03-09 05:35PM | 0 recs


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