A strategy behind the politics behind the firings?

"Karl Rove stopped by to ask you (roughly quoting), `How we planned to proceed regarding US Attorneys, whether we were going to allow all to stay, request resignations from all and accept only some of them, or selectively replace them, etc.,"'
-- e-mail from Colin Newman, a legal aide in the White House counsel's office, to deputy counsel David Leitch, Jan. 6, 2005
Has anyone else wondered exactly why replacing most or all U.S. attorneys (practical or not) would occur to Karl Rove and the Bush White House in January 2005?

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Is the Tide Turning Back Towards the Democrats in Florida?

After more Floridians who went to the polls in November 2000 backed Al Gore than George W. Bush, Republicans set to the task of boosting their party infrastructure in the state so that they could win elections in the state without the aide of the United States Supreme Court. And by and large they were successful, reelecting their GOP Governor, Jeb Bush, with 56 percent of the vote in 2002, helping boost George W. Bush's share of the vote in the state by three points from 2000 to 2004, and electing a Republican, Charlie Crist, to succeed Jeb Bush in 2006 by a seven point margin.

Yet could the tide be turning in the other direction in the state. Even as Crist won in a race that never got quite as close as it could have, Democrats picked up two congressional seats last November and probably would have won a third had it not been for faulty electronic voting machines in the 13th district. And the momentum towards the Democrats in the state may still be building. Just take a look at new general election head-to-head numbers from Florida found by Quinnipiac University.

Candidate
Pairing
2/20075/20064/20062/2006
Giuliani47494250
Clinton44424141
McCain43484853
Clinton47424238
Romney3439
Clinton5250
McCain42
Obama40
McCain43
Edwards42

It's not just a matter of Republicans underperforming expectations in potential head-to-head matchups against Democrats in Florida that should have the GOP leaders in the state worried about their nominee's chances at carrying the state in the 2008 general election. Quinnipiac pegs President Bush's approval rating in the state at just 35 percent -- an all-time low in the state, as measured by the pollster -- with 60 percent disapproving. On the question of the surge, a similar 60 percent of Floridians stand opposed while 34 percent voice support. And given the fact that a Republican loss in Florida would make it near impossible for the party's nominee to win a majority in the electoral college in today's political map, these numbers should have Republicans inside the Beltway and around the country mighty worried.

The Surge: A Political Strategy

"This might all be a show. Because I think, at the end of the day, Bush may be the last neoconservative in office. And he seems, to me, to truly believe that this Iraq thing is not just a great idea, but it's actually working. `If you look outside Baghdad things are much better, we just need to get through this hump. Convince the American people to hang in there, and it's all gonna work out.' In other words, all these consultations - I think it may well be a charade. He just wants to double down."
 - Fareed Zakaria, The Daily Show, December 12th, 2006

Unfortunately, Fareed Zakaria's prediction has proven correct. President Bush is absolutely willing to ignore the will of the American people. "Stay the course" is alive and kicking in the Oval Office. But what are the Democrats doing?

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McCain's Move Off Deep End Having Real Consequences

By many accounts John McCain is succeeding in his goal to position himself as the frontrunner for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. He has hired GOP insider (and lawbreaker) Terry Nelson as his campaign manager. He has brought on a professor from Jerry Falwell's* Liberty University, Brent O'Donnell, as an advisor. He is tapping Henry Kissinger to serve as his honorary campaign co-chair for New York state. He is even apparently securing the financial support of many Bush contributors.

Yet at the same time McCain's standing among the broader electorate is declining. This is not a coincidence. This should not come as a surprise. This morning Josh Marshall picks up on new polling from ABC News and The Washington Post that shows McCain sinking fast among independent voters, who Marshall rightly notes " are McCain's big constituency."

In contrast, McCain's favorability ratings have declined over the past nine months. Among independents, his support has dropped 15 percentage points since March. Independents were his strongest supporters when he sought the Republican nomination in 2000. The decline comes at a time when McCain is calling for sending more troops to Iraq and has aggressively reached out to conservative groups and Christian conservative leaders.

That's not all. By now, no doubt, you've seen (despite the efforts of the editors of the magazine) the Newsweek poll showing Hillary Clinton (sans "Rodham" -- an important point given other recent polling) would defeat John McCain by a 50 percent to 43 percent margin. In that same poll, Barack Obama, about whom only 41 percent of registered voters know "a lot" (14 percent) or "some" (27 percent), is statistically tied with McCain, with the Arizona Senator at 45 percent and the Illinois Senator at 43 percent. (Update [2006-12-19 16:34:36 by Jonathan Singer]: In the comments, reader demiowa points to the recent Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll that shows John Edwards also statistically tied with McCain, with Edwards at 43 percent and McCain at 41 percent.)

While these numbers are no doubt at least as indicative of the degree to which the current political environment is generally more favorable to the Democrats than the Republicans as it is the race for the White House in 2008, these numbers -- both the head-to-head and the favorables among independents -- should strike real fear within the McCain team and, indeed, among the Republican ranks. But that's not the only piece of data that should scare Republicans. Charlie Cook, looking at the meaning of November 7 and December 12 (the Bonilla-Rodriguez runoff in Texas) for his column this week, writes,

If Republicans don't increase their performance among either Hispanics, the fastest growing minority in the country, or among African Americans (neither happened this year), then they will have to perform much better among white voters simply to replicate their presidential victories of 2000 and 2004 and get their majorities back. Simply put, this Texas loss just added insult to injury for the GOP and gave party strategists even more to worry about as they look forward to 2008.

These numbers are not intended to instill triumphalism or foster a false sense of optimism. Far from that. But at the same time they do show that John McCain is not nearly the unstoppable force that many believe him to be, that he his support among independents is not nearly as strong as it is assumed to be or that it once was, and that even a supposedly divisive Democratic nominee or a not-very-well-known Democratic nominee could give him at least a run for his money in a general election campaign.

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Be Inspired. Seek Transformation

If there is one thing I have learned in my four years in the progressive netroots, it is that we are at our best when we eschew the practices and norms of the Washington, D.C. media and political establishment, and instead strive toward new ideas, new organizations, and new communities. The fifty-state strategy is a new idea for Democrats that does not merely replicate the narrow targeting of the soft, unreliable "swing" in a small number of districts. The silent revolution is a new strategy where the grassroots and netroots refuse to simply fall in line with the Democratic Party, and where we also refuse to adopt the old, self-defeating practices of splintering via either third parties or apathy. The small donor revolution works not just to support Democratic candidates, but as an aggressive approach to freeing the Democratic Party from corporate money. New progressive media is not around just to influence established media structures, but also to keep the base excited on a daily basis, and to build new media and activist communities of our own. When we support Democrats like Howard Dean and Russ Feingold, as Glenn Greenwald brilliantly notes it is not just so that we can forward their political ambitions and make them more "electable." It is, instead, because we seek the most radical transformation of all in American politics: an America where our leaders take actions because of strong conviction and belief, not simply to get another leg up in the great beltway game that seeks to scam the American people into voting for them.

A smart political scientist friend of mine, Matthew Kerbel, once told me that every revolution in American media has been followed by a realignment in American politics. In this tradition, I firmly believe that a long-term, progressive transformational realignment of American politics is the promise of the progressive netroots. As a movement, I have always believed that we should shoot for nothing less than a full-scale realignment of the media, the pundit-ocracy, the Democratic establishment, and indeed of American politics as a whole. I believe that looking at what we have achieved in just the last four or five years, we should expect nothing less of ourselves. We clearly can make this transformation happen.

Nothing saddens me more then when I see people in the netroots trying to play Washington insider. When I see netroots activists talking about which vice-presidential candidate someone should choose in order to better scam certain national demographic groups into voting for the Democratic ticket, it really bums me out. Whenever I see netroots activists declaring their support for a candidate based on his or her "electability," it really bums me out. Whenever I see netroots activists deeming candidate X or candidate Y "un-electable" for one of the many clichéd and utterly discredited reasons that the established has always used to deem candidates unelectable ("doesn't play in the heartland,""too liberal,""can't swing the South or the border states,""not enough military credentials") I almost start shaking with rage. Since when did we become the same losers we are trying to replace via the silent revolution?

What Democrats need in 2008 is a candidate who can truly inspire people. That is the only way we are going to achieve the transformation that the progressive movement promises. It is not going to be done through narrow targeting. It is not going to be done through resume boasting. It is not going to be done through risk aversion and "electability." In fact, in all likelihood, it will be done in spite of all the old rationales. The transformati0on will probably only happen when we have a winning candidate who wins despite supposedly not appealing the swing, despite supposedly not having the right credentials, despite supposedly being too "liberal," and despite supposedly being "unelectable." When a candidate like that wins, then the transformation will truly have taken place. Since World War Two, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan were two candidates who defied all conventional wisdom in their runs to the Presidency. However, they shared a key trait: they inspired large numbers of people who otherwise would simply have fallen in line behind their party's candidate or stayed in the mushy middle. And there have also been transformation candidates who lost, but still had a profound impact on our national political culture. In that category, Barry Goldwater and Howard Dean come to mind.

I am writing this essay now that one candidate who I believed could enact the transformation promised by the progressive movement, Russ Feingold, has decided not to enter the campaign. I write this essay both to urge my fellow Feingold supporters to not quickly throw your support to someone else, unless you truly believe that someone else could also enact the sort of transformation Feingold promised. I also write to all netroots and movement activists, and urge them to do the same thing. In the primaries, don't fall for narrow targeting. Don't fall for resumes. Don't fall for electability arguments. Look for inspiration. Demand inspiration. I don't know who among the remaining pool of candidates is most likely to deliver that inspiration. Off-hand, Obama, Edwards and Gore seem like the best bets, but nothing is guaranteed at all. It might be none of those three. It might be someone else who has yet to find his or her true voice. Change can happen. Edwards himself was transformed during the 2004 primary process, when late in 2003 he began to find a way to articulate a powerful and progressive vision based on an utterly inspiring story of America. He didn't start the campaign that way. Actually, I think it could be argued that just like Howard Dean, John Edwards was transformed by his most earnest and fervent supporters. Both candidates were able to take the inspiration they drew from their supporters and use it to inspire wide swaths of America in return.

Stay on the lookout for transformation and inspiration. Shoot for the moon and reach for the stars. When beltway pundits tell you what you are doing is either wrong or hopeless, that means there is a very good chance you are on the right track. Ignore the people who don't believe in anything. Go with your hopes and your inspiration, because without our hopes and without our inspiration, the progressive movement has absolutely nothing.

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