Rendell Weak Among Pennsylvania Democrats

By now, we have all probably seen the polls that show Ed Rendell to be in some trouble against newly minted Pennsylvania Republican Gubernatorial nominee Lynn Swann (see polls on the Governor's race at Zobgy, Rasmussen, and Strategic Vision, all conducted within the past couple weeks and all showing a close race). While not a head to head trial heat, I think a recent Pennsylvania presidential primary poll by Republican firm Strategic Vision might show just how deep Rendell's problems actually are: (I have included a recent Wisconsin poll on the same subject for the sake of comparison):

Who is your choice for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2008? (Democrats only)


            PA, 1/25        WI, 2/01
Clinton        35              28
Gore           15              16
Edwards      10               6
Kerry            7               4
Feingold        7              23
Clark            5               4
Warner          5               3
Biden           2               2
Rendell         2               1
Bayh            1               1
Richardson      1               1
Vilsack         1               1
Boxer           1               1
Undecided       8               9

That is, um, not good for Rendell. Sure, everyone loses to Clinton in their home state, but not everyone gets blown out, as you can see from the recent Wisconsin poll. Also, not everyone finishes in a tie for eighth in their home state with 2%. In particular, how can Rendell possibly finish behind Feingold, Clark and Warner in Pennsylvania? What sort of name ID do those three have among Democrats in PA? Is it even 30%?

Rendell is not the first choice of Pennsylvania Democrats. He isn't the sixth choice, even when people aren't very familiar with many of the names offered. I think this shows he will clearly have problems firing up the base, a problem the Republican base may not have with Santorum on the ticket. Considering how many other important elections are taking place in Pennsylvania this year, this is a very bad sign indeed. In order to GOTV, we are going to have to run an anti-Santorum campaign around here.

While never great, it wasn't always this bad for Rendell. In August, he managed 6% of the vote in a similar poll. In September, he managed 5%. Still not great, but better. I hope Rendell still thinks endorsing Alito and repeating Republican talking points about Democrats while doing so on Fox News was worth it.

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John Kitzhaber for President? (w/Poll)

(Note: This diary was cross-posted at Kos)

I was very interested to see mention of John Kitzhaber, the former two-term Oregon governor, on Breaking Blue the other day (see entries http://www.mydd.com/... and http://www.mydd.com/...).  

It seems that the popular ex-Governor and former emergency room doctor recently opted against a bid to reclaim his spot in Salem in favor of a project to promote health care reform, a project described as the Archimedes Movement (http://www.archimedesmovement.org/).

What really piqued my interest however was the rumor, first reported at Political Wire (http://politicalwire.com/...) and cited at the above MyDD links, that Kitzhaber had recently met with former Dean adviser Joe Trippi.  Could Kitzhaber have his mind on an even higher office?

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A Look Underneath The Straw Poll

Vote in the MyDD February Straw Poll

In truth, the MyDD Straw polls just can't compete with the Dailykos straw polls. Typically, we haul in around 2-3,000 votes over the course of a week, while the Dailykos polls bring in around 11-12,000 votes over the course of a day. This makes the Dailykos polls significantly more immune to poll stuffing, as stuffers have less time to alert their email lists and / or repeatedly change their IP addresses / cookies so that they can personally stuff a poll. By way of contrast, I'm pretty sure that there are at least three major poll stuffing groups on MyDD. Interestingly, I think they show up at different times: Feingold stuffers come first, then the Clark stuffers show up, and near the end Edwards stuffers take over. I've seen this pattern operate like clockwork since at least September.

While the Dailykos straw polls probably have a more accurate finger on the pulse of the netroots than the MyDD polls, one advantage we have at MyDD is that our polls are done via Instant Runoff. This allows MyDD polls to give a deeper sense of netroots support beyond just who is the current favorite. I spent this morning looking over the results of the last four MyDD straw polls trying to see if the lower portions of people's ballots held any surprises or indications of future trends.

For starters, here are the second-choices for supporters of various candidates:

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My Plea To Dems: Stop The Navel-Gazing

Okay. Once more for the cheap seats. When Republicans criticize us, it's not enough to say, "yes, that is their criticism and we will prove it wrong." That doesn't get you anywhere. First, reject the premise of the criticism. Next, show why the criticism is invalid. Even if you want to skip that first step because you think the criticism has some validity, skip to step two. Just answer the damn criticism.

Case in point, Evan Bayh. In a speech yesterday, Bayh acknowledged that Karl Rove, in accusing Democrats of having "a pre-9/11 worldview," had, in the words of MSNBC's Tom Curry"thrown down the gauntlet" on foreign policy and national security matters. That's certainly fair to say. But I strongly object to how Bayh chose to handle the matter from that point on.

"Some in my party are afraid of this fight," Bayh noted in a foreign policy address Thursday. But he said the voters would never trust Democrats to take care of education and other issues "if they don't first trust us with their lives. Who can best protect America in these perilous times is of paramount importance."...

Rove, he said, had thrown down the gauntlet. "We intend to pick it up.... I welcome this debate because it is one that we can win."

He explained that Franklin Roosevelt, and Harry Truman had strong records in defending America. "It has only been since the Vietnam War that Democrats have been viewed by the American people as congenitally weak, too soft to be entrusted with our national security," he said. "But that can change, and if we aspire to national leadership, it must."

I know I'm going to get bombarded for going after another DLC Democrat. Here's the thing... I don't care where Evan Bayh lands on the political spectrum. I would be saying this same exact thing if it was Rush Holt making this type of statement. Moderation and centrism are fine with me. My problem is representation of the Democratic brand as broken and weak. That's a self-fulfilling prophecy. If even Democratic lawmakers are telling the media that Democrats don't appear strong, they're helping to perpetuate that narrative. In other words, my frustration is not with the ideology -- it's with the stupid marketing.

Representatives from Procter & Gamble don't go on CNBC and talk about the fact that the perception exists that Tide could do a better job of removing stains. They just show evidence to the contrary. This kind of message craft, starting from a negative assumption, is unheard of in the corporate world. It's a lesson Democrats need to learn if they're serious about winning the hearts and minds here at home.

Rather than declaring that the Democratic Party intends to pick up the gauntlet, why not just pick the damn thing up right then and there? To his credit, Bayh actually went on to do just that. He criticized the Bush administration, saying that they have "undermined our nation's security and bungled the war on terror." On Iraq, he advocated "benchmarks for success, a timeline for progress, accountability for results, and candor about how we are doing." And he criticized the "caricature of our situation as a choice between spineless 'cut and run' and mindless 'staying the course.' " That last part is especially important, coming from someone who's considered a hawk.

Still, the media focus was all on the fact that Bayh began by accepting Rove's premise. It doesn't matter how great the substance of Bayh's speech may have been if it follows a convenient and juicy soundbite of him attacking his own party. Debates and discussion about how to overcome obstacles is great. But it doesn't need to take place in a public speech. The only thing a politician has to gain from that is showing that they're different, smarter, and strong than the rest of their fellow Democrats. And I understand that Bayh wants to make his case that he's the party's best hope in 2008. But it's just as easy to do that without prefacing it with all the public navel-gazing.

The Role of Electability In the Republican Noise Machine

Vote in the MyDD February Straw Poll

Looking through the Dailykos comment thread that was attached to the latest Dkos straw poll results, I started seeing an old topic of conversation rear its ugly head again: "electability." This was a topic that dominated the online discussion regarding the Democratic presidential primary in 2003, specifically in relation to Dean vs. anyone. In fact, it was a discussion that apparently dominated the off-line world as well, as somewhere between 35-40% of the Democratic primary electorate identified "electability" as their number one issue in 2004.

While I am sympathetic to those who would argue that "electability" should not be a factor in who someone supports in a primary, I cannot say that I believe "electability" should play no role whatsoever. Besides, even if I did believe that "electability" should not be a factor, there is really no way to ever keep it from being a factor. As I already noted, a huge percentage of the Democratic electorate votes based on electability, and electability has played a major role in Presidential primaries since at least Eisenhower in 1952. Whatever opinion we may have of the value of electability, it simply is not going away as a factor in primaries, especially presidential primaries.

Given this, I believe the important thing for Democrats when it comes to electability is to work as hard to possible so as to make sure that Democratic candidates who are defined as "electable" are not defined as such because of their relationship to Republican narratives about Democrats. Most media pundits, and many Democrats, already do severe damage to the progressive and Democratic causes by filtering out progressive narratives and reifying Republican narratives. The always brilliant Peter Daou, who I think I have non-sexual crush on, describes this in a recent post (emphasis in original):

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