"No Safe Seats"

As we all know, reading the blogs is like getting the paper three days, months, or even years early. But lately it's also like reading Republican talking points months in advance, at least as it pertains to Republican chances is November.

In March, after Democrat Bill Foster won Dennis Hastert's old seat in congress, Markos wrote the following in a piece entitled No Seat Safe For GOP in The Hill:

The message of 2008 so far is that no Republican seat is safe this November. A Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) memo detailed the GOP's dire picture: "[Eighty] percent of the Republican open and Republican incumbent seats the DCCC is targeting this cycle have better Democratic performances than Illinois-14." That percentage encompasses 40 of the Democrats' 50 top targets.

And in May, after the Democrats won 2 more special elections in deep red Louisiana and Mississippi, Howie Klein wrote a post entitled IN NOVEMBER THERE WILL BE NO SAFE REPUBLICAN SEATS at Down With Tyranny in which he tells us about a dream he has:

I have a dream. It isn't as worthy or as grand as someone else's but it's my dream. It's based on the 1936 congressional elections. The reactionary, obstructionist Republicans were reduced to 16 seats in the U.S. Senate. And in the House the reactionary, obstructionist Republicans were reduced to 88 seats (which was 20%).

What's funny is that, despite the GOP's laughably defiant refusal earlier this year to acknowledge that the loss of special elections in red districts DOES portend bad things to come in November, they've now embraced what was once a progressive blogger talking point. They're really making it their own.

Remember this admission by the NRCC from back in June?

Karen Hanretty, communications director for the NRCC, reacted to the private report by acknowledging the difficulties confronting her party.

"This is a challenging environment," she said. "Any Republican running for office has to run basically on an independent platform, localize the race and not take anything for granted. There are no safe Republican seats in this election."

And here's NRSC spokesman Scott Bensing on Monday speaking about how worried they are about Jim Slattery's challenge to Sen. Pat Roberts:

"We have no safe seats right now...In a normal election year, we would not be concerned at all. But those are the cards we're dealt. We're not taking any states for granted."

But, of course, the idea of no safe Republican seats is much more than a talking point for progressive bloggers, it's been a defining goal that's been central to the 50-state strategy as far back as 2004 when Chris Bowers wrote this call to action:

In the 2004 election, Democrats contested 398 House seats, even though there are 435 House seats. [...]

Most, but not all, of these districts [ignored by Democrats] have horrible demographics for Democrats. I freely admit that had Democrats run in these districts, they all would probably have lost, and many, if not most, would probably have failed to come within 20%. However, even knowing this, I have had enough of the argument that even spending time to find a sacrificial lamb to run in these districts is a waste of Democratic Party resources. The fact is that for around $360,000, one-quarter the cost of a competitive congressional district, we could have found a candidate for each of these districts and raised $10,000 for that candidate's campaign. That $360,000 would have been the best $360,000 the Democratic Party would have spent at any level this entire election cycle. Combined throughout these districts, it probably would have resulted in another 1-2 million votes for Democrats for Congress. And that is just this election cycle and just in those congressional elections.

He concluded:

We need a candidate on every congressional ballot, period. When it comes to the House, 2004 is now a lost cause. However, starting in 2006, we must never let this happen again. I say we start by recruiting T-Mac for the NY-25, and build an infrastructure that guarantees no congressional district will ever be left behind again.

Just two years later, in 2006, we filled 425 out of 435 and so far in 2008, Democrats are challenging in 419 (h/t BENAWU.)

So when you hear a Republican lamenting that there are no safe seats in November, remember that it's no accident, it's a direct result of the ethic that has propelled us forward for several years now. That's our talking point, hell that's been our mission, and now it's a reality acknowledged by even the GOP.

There's more...

GOP 2008 Strategy: Pretend To Care

After their third special election loss in a row, Republican House leaders set up a 6-member panel to figure out what Republicans were doing wrong and what they need to do better moving forward to improve their chances in November. On Thursday, House leaders met to discuss their findings.

This observation struck me as particularly, well, spot on:

While the review said the national political environment was largely to blame for the losses, it also said Republican candidates themselves were less than optimal and their campaigns were flawed.

Understatement of the year.

And then there was this:

House Republicans lost three recent elections when customary campaign themes failed to sway voters and their candidates could not overcome the "negative perception of the national party," according to an internal review that underscores the potential for widespread losses this fall.

Umm, ya think?

But what's even richer is their prescription for what ails them:

GOP candidates on the ballot in November must show "deep empathy towards the voters" and rely on local rather than national issues, according to the report, ordered by party leaders after the loss of formerly safe seats in Illinois, Louisiana and Mississippi that stunned the rank and file.

In other words, pretend to give a shit. But that is a particularly uphill battle when all evidence is to the contrary. After all, it's the Republicans who vote against expanding healthcare for poor children, against college benefits for returning veterans, against an increase in the minimum wage and against the extension of unemployment insurance benefits for those hardest hit by the economic downturn. They actually don't care and voters know it.

What makes this even sweeter is that Democrats chose yesterday, the day the Republicans were wallowing in their own failure, to shoot a warning shot across the bow:

House Republicans on Thursday reviewed the defeats as Democrats signaled an intention to spend heavily in three competitive seats in New York, Oregon and Colorado. Officials said the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had reserved a combined $4 million worth of television advertising time.

The races in question:

The DCCC has reserved $2.1 million for advertising for a seat in New York City in which Republican Rep. Vito Fossella intends to retire. Fossella, who is married with children, recently acknowledged fathering a child out of wedlock.

Democrats also said they will spend $1.2 million in the Portland, Ore., area, hoping to hold the seat of Democratic Rep. Darlene Hooley, who is retiring.

The third target is the seat held by Republican Rep. Marilyn Musgrave in Colorado, where Democrats said they had reserved nearly $700,000 in advertising time.

Flaunting our financial advantage and kicking them while they're down. Love it.

There's more...

IL-13: Scott Harper Organizes Labor Support

Scott Harper Speaks to Labor
a year ago, i am told, harper sat in a room full of illinois bloggers at yearlykos and started thinking about what he could do to help defeat bush republicans.  thursday, scott harper, democratic candidate for il-13, met with a room full of labor leaders to talk about his campaign to defeat judy biggert.  it was clear that not only scott, but dreams for throwing out a dupage gop congress, had come a long, long way.

labor leaders representing iam, the carpenters,unite-here, the building trades,ibew and others came to hear scott speak about his race and his take on various labor issues.  before the meeting began, scott worked the room vigorously, introducing himself to those he did not know, saying hello to those he did, and engaging everyone in conversation.  people talked about the war, biggert's support of check card legislation, recent democratic and labor meetings, how scott's fund-raising is going.

scott was given a lengthy introduction by his host from iam.  he talked about the importance of grassroots activity and fundraising to winning campaigns.  "that's how we win," he said simply in his remarks.  he talked about judy's distance from union issues, that she has a 13% support rating on union issues and that "she won't even talk to us, even local union members." unions are basically shut out in the biggert office.

There's more...

DCCC's 40 Seat Target List

Last month, DCCC chair Chris Van Hollen outlined the essence of his 2008 strategy: go on offense against 40 or so Republican seats that they deemed vulnerable. Today Roll Call (behind subscription firewall) is reporting that Van Hollen has gotten more specific:

Among the 40 Republican-held seats the DCCC is targeting generally, Van Hollen acknowledged that not all of them are exceedingly vulnerable to a Democratic takeover. But he said they all exhibit potential, and include a mixture of the following factors:

* The demographics of the district benefit the Democratic candidate.

* The Democratic presidential nominee won the district in 2004.

* The Democratic presidential nominee performed reasonably well in the district in 2004, and the 2008 Democratic House candidate is particularly strong.

* The Republican incumbent running for re-election in the district is damaged -- either ethically or in some other manner.

"We're now letting our base know, our supporters around the country know, that it's critical that they now start directing resources to some of our key challengers," Van Hollen said. "We think we've done a good job putting our Frontliners in good shape."

The list includes the following seats listed with incumbent if there is one:

AK-AL: Don Young
AZ-01: Open
AZ-03: John Shadegg
CA-04: John Doolittle
CA-26: David Dreier
CA-50: Brian Bilbray
CO-04: Marilyn Musgrave
CT-04: Chris Shays
FL-08: Ric Keller
FL-09: Gus Bilirakis
FL-13: Vern Buchanan
FL-24: Tom Feeney
ID-01: Bill Sali
IL-10: Mark Kirk
IL-11: Open
IL-14: Open
MI-07: Tim Walberg
MI-09: Joe Knollenberg
MN-03: Open
MN-06: Michele Bachmann
MO-06: Sam Graves
NV-03: Jon Porter
NJ-03: Open
NJ-07: Open
NM-01: Open
NM-02: Open
NY-13: Vito Fossella
NY-25: Jim Walsh
NY-26: Tom Reynolds
NY-29: Randy Kuhl
NC-08: Robin Hayes
OH-01: Steve Chabot
OH-02: Jean Schmidt
OH-14: Steve LaTourette
OH-15: Open
OH-16: Open
PA-03: Phil English
WA-08: Dave Reichert
WV-02: Sheley Moore Capito
WY-AL: Open

This news comes as the committees' November receipts are reported and continue to show the Democrats in great position.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee continued its strong fundraising pace in November, hauling in $4.1 million in receipts for the month compared with $2.7 million for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

The DCCC spent $2.7 million in November, leaving it with $30.6 million in cash on hand, according to FEC reports. The NRCC, meanwhile, spent $2.9 million -- more money than it raised for the month. It lags way behind the Democrats in cash on hand, with just $2.3 million.

In somewhat of an understatement, Van Hollen said regarding the money disparity:

Van Hollen acknowledged that the DCCC's continuing wide cash advantage over the National Republican Congressional Committee was a key factor in his decision to shift his focus to aiding Democratic challengers.

"We don't have to spend all of our time worrying about what the Republican committee is going to be able to throw at our incumbents. There's no doubt that allows us some flexibility," Van Hollen told Roll Call. "It has given us some room to maneuver. Definitely."

Obviously many on this list are no surprise, the usual suspects, but I am particularly gratified to see CA-26 on there. I see Dreier as definitely a top target next year and if all goes well in the primary, we're going to have a candidate in Russ Warner who will be well worth the investment. Indeed, overall, we have an embarrassment of riches among our challengers next year, glad to see they're going to be well taken care of by the DCCC.

There's more...

IL-14 Roundup

each race has a lens through which a political campaign can be viewed.  in the il-03 race, the lens is the emergent scandal surrounding dan lipinski and whether any challenger can coalesce their social and political networks before the bombardment of advertising begins.  in the il-14 race, that lens is the concurrent special election.

denny hastert's resignation announcement last night sets up a special election, who's primary most likely will be conducted concurrently with the primary for the november 2008 general election.  in several ways, this sets back campaigns, because they basically have to start all over again.  illinois' election laws are (from my perspective) quite arcane.  by law, there was no vacancy until hastert's resignation takes effect.  "Dan White, executive director of the State Board of Elections, said he had yet to receive notice of Hastert's resignation." one assumes that this will come today.  this begins the countdown.  the governor has to call an election within 120 days of the vacancy for both the primary and the "general" (it's easier to call it a special election, and i will) elections.  the governor has five days to set a date for these two elections; the primary is expected to coincide with the february 5 primary in illiois.  apparently, as bill pascoe writes, "NO election (including a primary election) can take place fewer than 50 days after the creation of the vacancy."

But Illinois law also sets periods for collecting signatures, for filing candidacies, and for challenging candidacies. It's my understanding that when you add up these discrete periods, you end up with a time frame of 50-57 days as a minimum requirement before ANY election -- including a primary election -- could be held.

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