And Who Says Jim Webb Doesn't Scare George Allen?

For the better part of the last year Virginia's junior Senator, Republican George Allen, has been trolling for votes, an activity that befits a Senator running for reelection. The problem for Allen is where he has been trolling for votes: New Hampshire and Iowa. But now that Virginia Democrats have settled on their Senate nominee -- a remarkably strong candidate in the form of former Reagan Navy Secretary Jim Webb -- it looks like Allen won't have much time to campaign for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination anymore, as Mike Glover reports for the AP.

Allen, who faces a Senate challenge from Democrat Jim Webb, said he probably would not return to Iowa, where precinct caucuses launch the presidential nominating season, before the November election. He dismissed suggestions that other potential White House candidates would have an edge because they are free to roam Iowa. [emphasis added]

A year ago, the Virginia Senate race was not even on the map of most politics-watchers, save, of course, for the speculation that Mark Warner might make a go against Allen. But today, not only is this race competitive, but the Democrats are actually in striking distance of knocking off George Allen. Just ask George Allen.

Allen had worked hard in recent months to show everyone just how out of touch he is with Virginians. In March, for example, he told potential Iowa caucus-goers that he wished he had been born in their state; that same month he told another group in Iowa that he was, in effect, bored in the Senate. But with Jim Webb emerging out of the Democratic primaries, however, not only is Allen no longer pandering to Iowans in the most obvious of ways, he is in fact not even going to go to Iowa any more before election day.

Some might say that forcing George Allen to actually campaign for reelection is a victory in and of itself. To an extent, these people are correct. But the time for moral victories has since passed for the Democrats, and real victories must be secured on election day. Luckily for the Dems, Webb has the political acumen, the resume and the gravitas necessary to win this fall, and with just a little bit of help from the establishment and a bundle of backing from the netroots (not to overlook a great grassroots effort), Webb just might be able to pull off a squeeker this November in Virginia.

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From the Senate to the Presidential Hustings

In this morning's issue of The Los Angeles Times, Janet Hooks notes one of the more interesting facts about the race for the White House in 2008: more than 10 percent of the United States Senate is currently running.

The Senate has always been an incubator for presidential aspirations, but the bug is now especially widespread. No fewer than eleven senators have announced they are considering a presidential bid.

[...]

[Bill] Frist is not alone in eyeing higher office. Other Republicans with presidential hopes include Sens. John McCain of Arizona, George Allen of Virginia, Sam Brownback of Kansas and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. Democrats thinking about the White House, in addition to [John] Kerry and [Chris] Dodd, include Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Evan Bayh of Indiana, Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin. Some Democrats are hoping that Barack Obama of Illinois will also join the fray.

After watching dozens of Senators over the past few decades try to make the jump from the upper chamber to the White House -- a move completed successfully by only Warren G. Harding and John F. Kennedy -- one would think that Senators would realize that their position is not a great starting point for a Presidential run (or at least that the American people are loath to send Senators directly to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue). Apparently, though, the current cadre of Senators has not yet learned history's lesson.

And Hook brings in another aspect that is often overlooked when talking about the fact that close to a dozen Senators are currently running for President: with so many members grandstanding all of the time on the Senate floor -- that is the few days when they're in Washington and not Iowa and New Hampshire -- it's extremely difficult for the business of the United States Senate to get done.

Look, every one of these Senators has the right to run for President, and there's no use in begrudging them for their genuine desire to improve this country from the most important and powerful job in government. But some of these men (and they are, by an overwhelming margin, men) need to get over their egos and realize they are wasting time, money and -- perhaps most problematically -- the attention of the American voter.

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Movement to Render Electoral College Obsolete Gains

This is exciting news:Seeking to force presidential candidates to pay attention to California's 15.5 million voters, state lawmakers on Tuesday jumped aboard a new effort that would award electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote nationwide.

As it is now, California grants its Electoral College votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote in the state. Practically speaking, that means Democrat-dominated California spends the fall presidential campaign on the sidelines as candidates focus on the states -- mostly in the upper Midwest -- that are truly up for grabs.

Under a bill passed by the Assembly, California would join an interstate compact in which states would agree to cast their electoral votes not for the winner in their jurisdictions but for the winner nationwide. Proponents say that would force candidates to broaden their reach to major population centers such as California.

The bill is part of a 3-month-old movement driven by a Bay Area lawyer and a Stanford computer science professor. The same 888-word bill is pending in four other states and is expected to be introduced in every state by January, its sponsors say. The legislation would not take effect until enough states passed such laws to make up a majority of the Electoral College votes -- a minimum of 13 states, depending on population. I sincerely hope this passes in enough states to make the Electoral College useless. I grew up in a non-swing state (New York) and live in an extremely important swing state (Pennsylvania), and I can say for certain that the electoral college means that the votes of people who live in swing states are considered far more important in Presidential elections than those in non-swing states. Don't get me wrong--I enjoyed living in a city where the top and bottom of both tickets would regularly visit, where canvassers would actually come to my door to talk with me about my vote, and where I knew my local activism would make a difference. However, that really should not be the case in just places like Philadelphia, while places like Upstate New York are left to rot. Both major parties should be forced to run fifty-state strategies where all voters across the country are considered equally important. The entire country should have an equal say in determining who becomes President, not just states that happen to be closely split between the two major coalitions. Considering that the number of swing states has reached an all-time record low, this bill is more important than ever in making sure that our potential Presidents consider everyone's vote worth courting.

DLCers Talk Up Indie Run by Bloomberg

In today's issue of The New York Times, Diane Cardwell discusses the possibility of a presidential run by Michael Bloomberg. How fitting, then, that the pundits apparently most open to talking about a potential independent candidacy by the billionaire and New York City mayor come from the DLC.

As Democrats and Republicans argue over the future of their parties and the national debate remains polarized, there are signs that voters are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with President Bush and the Republican leaders of Congress, and that they aren't necessarily energized by the Democrats, either.

"Most people are not satisfied with their politics and would very much like to see more politicians who just got things done," said Al From, founder and chief executive officer of the Democratic Leadership Council, a centrist policy group. "Most people really aren't about ideology. Most people really are about, 'Let's get something done that's going to make my life better.' "

[...]

Marshall Wittmann, a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, which is affiliated with the Democratic Leadership Council, said that in many ways Mr. Bloomberg had been building on the political legacy of moderate New York Republicans like Nelson A. Rockefeller and Jacob K. Javits. "It's hard-headed, but liberal on social issues and fiscally responsible," said Mr. Wittmann, who has worked for Senator John McCain. "He very much fits that mold that's been dormant, even in the Democratic Party." [emphasis added]

I'm not sure to which Democratic Party Marshall Wittman belongs, but it's certainly not the one I'm a part of. Almost by definition, the Democratic Party -- particularly in the past two decades -- has been about fiscal responsibility and liberalism on social issues, the two planks Wittman says Bloomberg has going for him. In other words, that winning formula that Wittman proffers is simply the Democratic Party platform, though not in so many words.

What Wittman and the folks at the DLC like about Bloomberg is his policies, per se, but rather that he's a Republican who's really a Democrat -- or perhaps that he's a Democrat who became a Republican. With this "bipartisan" resume, how could Bloomberg possibly lose?

In a three-way race for the presidency, Bloomberg would likely split the center-left vote, handing the White House to conservative Republicans. Even if John McCain were the Republican nominee, it's not clear to me what conservative would vote for Bloomberg over McCain as the mayor is far to the left of McCain on social issues.

Things might get more complicated in a four-way race for President, with a Democrat, Republican, nativist/religious conservative and Bloomberg all in the mix. However, it's not clear to me that the Democrats -- or even someone on the center-left -- would end up victorious in this scenario.

I have no problem with Wittman, From and all of the DLCers working within the Democratic Party to enact change; after all, this is exactly what the netroots are attempting in a number of primary and general elections. That said, when they seek to undercut the party by peddling the possibility of a centrist independent like Michael Bloomberg for the presidency, they have no place in Democratic politics.

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Los Angeles Rally

I ended up attending the rally today, not necessarily by choice, but because I live at the epicenter of the end of the march, La Brea and Wilshire Blvds., and couldn't get into work this morning.

I've blogged at the Bar & Grill, so go give it a look, and check out the pictures.

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Diaries

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