by Jonathan Singer, Thu May 15, 2008 at 09:37:09 AM EDT
This is rather interesting. Congressional Republicans, in the wake of their embarrassing and downright depressing loss in the special election in Mississippi's first congressional district, are talking about downplaying the things that currently make the party so unpopular with the American people while trying to embrace as tightly as possible their presidential nominee, John McCain. McCain, however, will have none of it, report Adam Nagourney and Carl Hulse.
But Mr. McCain's advisers said the Mississippi race underlined his intention to distance himself as much as possible from Congressional Republicans. Mr. McCain has already been openly critical of some of President Bush's strategies.
Times are tough when a party's presidential nominee is afraid to being affected by the taint that surrounds his party's membership in Congress. But it's not the first time that we've seen this before. During the run up to the 1948 presidential election, Harry Truman ran as much against the "Do-Nothing Republican Congress" headed by the unpopular Robert Taft of Ohio as he did GOP presidential nominee Thomas Dewey. What's more, Truman drove a wedge right down the middle of the Republican Party, introducing legislation in Congress seeking the implementation of the moderate policies upon which Dewey was running his campaign -- policies, however, that were anathema to the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill (particularly Taft).
There's a possibility that the Democrats could do the same thing here -- split McCain off from his base, and from the Republican leadership in Congress. The problem, of course, is that unlike Dewey, who was genuinely a moderate and even had some progressive tendencies, McCain is a hard right conservative. Luckily, however, even as McCain finds himself well to the right of center on most issues, his party's leadership and much of its base is even more conservative than he is. On at least a few issues, there is some light of day between McCain and folks like John Boehner.
What could the Democrats do to exploit this? Bring up some of those policies upon the back of which McCain pretends to be a moderate but which he would never exert any real political capital trying to pass if president and dare the Republicans to vote for them. For instance, look at the issue of immigration. Because Republicans on Capitol Hill would never support a serious solution to the problem that attempts to stop the flow of those unlawfully crossing the border while at the same time figuring out a path to legalization for the millions already here who are so important to the American economy, if the Democrats introduced such legislation they could illustrate to the American people that while McCain might talk a good talk, when push comes to shove he (a) can't get it done when it counts, and (b) doesn't command the respect of his own party.
Americans don't want someone who won't or can't get things done to be President. Do nothing Presidents, just like do nothing Congresses, just aren't popular. So although attempting such a move carries at least some risks -- most notably the possibility that McCain comes off as more of a moderate than he actually is -- the potential upsides of such a move, including outing McCain as someone who when push comes to shove will not be able to achieve many if any of the policy proposals where he is slightly less conservative than the rest of his party, just might make it worthwhile.
by Jonathan Singer, Wed May 14, 2008 at 06:03:15 PM EDT
Down in Mississippi, the Republicans ran a campaign where they targeted Democrat Travis Childers as being a pawn of Barack Obama under the theory that if they could mention Jeremiah Wright often enough they could scare voters into keeping the state's first congressional district in Republican hands. This wasn't their first attempt at such a move. Next door in Louisiana the Republicans tried to make another special election earlier this month into a referendum on Obama right at the time Wright was saturating the news -- only to lose a seat that had been in Republican hands for more than three decades.
Not only did Republicans lose last night in Mississippi, they lost bad. In a district that George W. Bush carried by 25 percentage points in 2004, Childers won by 8 points -- a swing of 33 points. That's right, 33 points. A great part of this is that voters are beginning to approach congressional elections more like they were parliamentary ones, backing the party instead of thinking just about the candidates themselves. Indeed, the results looked a lot more like the generic congressional ballot in which the Democrats hold a lead approaching 20 points than they do a contest simply between two well-matched candidates.
But it goes beyond voters saying yes to the Democratic Party in corners of the country where the Democrats didn't even seriously try to run in as recently as even a few years ago. This is at least in part a reaction to the deliberate attempt by the Republicans to obfuscate the real issues facing this country and attempt to make this election about the Reverend Wright and all that entails.
This tactic does not work. It did not work in rural Louisiana. It did not work in rural Mississippi. And it will not work elsewhere. Voters, whether suburban, urban or rural, do not want to be condescended to by elites in Washington, DC who think that they can be swayed by ethnic and racial and just pure dirty politics. Just because an election is held in a conservative part of the South does not mean that voters think about race like Jim Clark did in 1965 or Orval Faubus did in 1957 or Strom Thurmond did in 1948. Voters do not like being treated like they are racists by anyone, particularly by a party to whom they have given their support in recent elections.
And yet the leadership of the Republican Party appears determined to continue this strategy, pledging to continue to run ads making the election about Obama, talking about immigration as a "tar baby" for Obama and others, and generally acting in a way that would make Abraham Lincoln roll in his grave. Perhaps when Tom Davis said today that his party was "below the floor" he should have said that the Republican Party is in the much, in the gutter, in a place where the American people simply do not want to go. If this trend keeps up, Republicans will be lucky to only lose 20 seats in the House come November.
by Jonathan Singer, Tue May 13, 2008 at 07:05:45 PM EDT
Per NBC News, Democrat Travis Childers will win the special election in Mississippi's first congressional district!
Update [2008-5-13 22:13:44 by Jonathan Singer]: !!!!!!!!!!!!!
Update [2008-5-13 22:23:57 by Jonathan Singer]: Short, simple, to the point from the AP: "Democrat Travis Childers wins special election for Mississippi's 1st Congressional District."
Update [2008-5-13 22:33:14 by Jonathan Singer]: Two quick thoughts on this...
- I don't want to go so far as to say that this is the end of the Republican Party, because it's not. But this is as bad news as the GOP could possibly get at this point. They lost a district that leans 6 points more Republican than the nation as a whole in Illinois in March. They lost a district that leans 7 points more Republican than the nation as a whole earlier this month in Louisiana. Now they lost a district that leans 10 points more Republican than the nation as a whole in Mississippi. If they can't win in Mississippi's first congressional district, where can they win?
- The Republicans tried to make this election about two people: Barack Obama and Reverend Jeremiah Wright. And despite running this type of campaign, they lost. While it is true that Childers distanced himself from his party (and implicitly from Obama), the fact is that the Obama/Wright smears simply DID NOT WORK. The Republicans are going to have to get a new game plan, and the establishment media are going to have to get a new meme. Sorry folks.
Update [2008-5-13 22:45:9 by Jonathan Singer]: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Chris Van Hollen have statements on this monumental victory over at The Stakeholder.
Update [2008-5-13 22:50:17 by Jonathan Singer]: Senator Ronnie Musgrove (D-MS). Make it happen.
Update [2008-5-13 23:5:45 by Jonathan Singer]: An 8-point victory for Childers. What a drubbing. I thought this could be a couple-point win for Childers, at best, but 8 points? In an R+10 district? Wow. Just wow.
by Jonathan Singer, Tue May 13, 2008 at 06:09:34 PM EDT
Here are the results so far:
7,697-vote margin for Childers
Greg Davis (R): 49,285 votes (46 percent)
√ Travis Childers (D): 56,982 votes (54 percent)
99.8 percent of precincts reporting at 10:55 PM Eastern
Update [2008-5-13 22:16:35 by Jonathan Singer]: The AP calls it for Childers!!!
Update [2008-5-13 22:3:44 by Jonathan Singer]: Childers' lead is down to just 700 votes with a little under three-quarters of the vote in. Weirdly enough, though, this might actually be good news for the Democrat. Why? Almost all of the vote (about 95 percent) from DeSoto County, which is by far the biggest GOP stronghold in the district, has reported, so there isn't a whole lot of favorable territory left out there for Davis. What's more, while Davis won DeSoto by an 81 percent to 17 percent margin last time, he only leads 74 percent to 26 percent at this point. With none of Democratic-friendly Prentiss County reporting (though none of the last GOP county, Tate, reporting either), this one will go down to the wire.
Update [2008-5-13 21:47:56 by Jonathan Singer]: A big chunk of DeSoto County just reported, pushing Davis up closer to Childers. Tate County, which is the other key for Davis' success, has not yet begun reporting. But Prentiss County, where Childers netted about 3,500 votes in the last round of balloting, has not yet begun to report, either, so expect these numbers to continue to jump around.
Update [2008-5-13 21:36:54 by Jonathan Singer]: More than half of the vote has reported and Childers' lead is larger than it has been at any other point in the night, over 3,600 votes. It WELL worth remembering, though, that in the last round of balloting here (as well as the election a week and a half ago in Louisiana) the Republicans led for much of the night only to be overtaken by the Democrats when it counted. So stay tuned...
Previous updates below the fold...
by Jonathan Singer, Tue May 13, 2008 at 12:04:55 PM EDT
Do it now!
We need your help with a critically-important special election that could increase our Democratic House Majority on May 13th.
In Mississippi's 1st Congressional District, we are closing in on what could be our third straight special election win that turns a red seat blue. Our candidate, Travis Childers is running neck-and-neck in a special election to fill the seat vacated by Roger Wicker.
Can you spare some time today to call fellow Democrats and encourage them to vote?
Click here to start
Polls close at 8:00 PM Eastern, so get to it now if you can. This is a win-win situation for the Democrats. Forcing the National Republican Congressional Committee to spend money it didn't have to spend on a race in a district that leans 10 points more Republican than the nation as a whole is a win in and of itself. But putting Travis Childers in Congress would be an even sweeter victory. So start making calls now.