Time to get serious about expanding the field (AL-03, NJ-05, CA-46, KY-01, IA-05)

Americans appear ready to sweep a lot of Democrats into office on November 4. Not only does Barack Obama maintain a solid lead in the popular vote and electoral vote estimates, several Senate races that appeared safe Republican holds a few months ago are now considered tossups.

Polling is harder to come by in House races, but here too there is scattered evidence of a coming Democratic tsunami. Having already lost three special Congressional elections in red districts this year, House Republicans are now scrambling to defend many entrenched incumbents.

In this diary, I hope to convince you of three things:

1. Some Republicans who never saw it coming are going to be out of a job in two weeks.

On a related note,

2. Even the smartest experts cannot always predict which seats offer the best pickup opportunities.

For that reason,

3. Activists should put resources behind many under-funded challengers now, instead of going all in for a handful of Democratic candidates.

Allow me to elaborate.

1. A lot of seemingly safe incumbents have lost in wave elections, even in districts tilted toward their own party.

The Republican landslide of 1994 claimed my own Congressman Neal Smith, a 36-year incumbent who had a senior position on the House Appropriations Committee. Democratic House Speaker Tom Foley spent "what aides say may total $1.5 million to $2 million, a staggering amount for a House race" in 1994, but he still lost to George Nethercutt in Washington's fifth district.

Many of you probably remember long-serving House and Senate Democrats in your own states who were swept away in the Reagan landslide of 1980.

By the same token, a lot of entrenched Republicans lost their seats during the 1974 post-Watergate wave. That was the year Iowans elected Tom Harkin and Berkley Bedell in the fifth and sixth Congressional districts, where both candidates had lost elections in 1972.

2. Even the political pros and the best analysts cannot always handicap Congressional races accurately, especially House races where public polls are scarce.

In 2006, could anyone have predicted that Lois Murphy (who almost beat Republican Congressman Jim Gerlach two years earlier) would fall short again in PA-06, while the massively under-funded Carol Shea-Porter would defeat Jeb Bradley in NH-01?

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee poured millions into IL-06 in 2006, only to see Tammy Duckworth lose to Peter Roskam. Meanwhile, Larry Kissell didn't get the time of day from the DCCC and came just a few hundred votes short of beating Republican incumbent Robin Hayes in NC-08.

My point is that we can't always know where our best chances lie. Sometimes a stealth candidate can catch an incumbent napping in a race that hasn't been targeted by either party.

Look at the seats Republicans are now worried about, according to Politico:

GOP Reps. John B. Shadegg of Arizona, Lee Terry of Nebraska, Henry Brown Jr. of South Carolina and Dan Lungren of California are all fighting for their political lives, a reversal of fortunes that has caught even the most astute campaign observers by surprise.

Markos commented on the Politico piece,

Shadegg's AZ-03 is R+5.9.
Terry's NE-02 is R+9.0.
Brown's SC-01 is R+9.6
Lungren's CA-03 is R+6.7.

We haven't had any public polls in Iowa's fourth or fifth district races, but last week Republican incumbent Tom Latham (IA-04, D+0) released his first negative television ad, suggesting that his internal polls may show Becky Greenwald gaining on him.

I can't tell you today who will win on November 4, but I guarantee you that some Democrats in "tossup" seats will lose, even as other Democrats take over "likely Republican" or "safe Republican" districts. Which brings me to my third point.

3. We need to expand the field of Republican-held districts we're playing for.

Thankfully, the bad old days when the DCCC would target 22 races, hoping to win 15, are just a memory. The DCCC has put more than 60 Republican-held seats in the "Red to Blue" category. Not all of those seats have seen media buys or other significant financial investment from the DCCC, however.

Plus, as I mentioned above, Dan Lungren is sweating bullets in CA-03, which isn't even on the Red to Blue list.

In 2006 we won at least two seats that were not in the Red to Blue program (IA-02 and NH-01) and came oh, so close in NC-08.

The bottom line is that a lot of Democratic challengers with the potential to win are not getting the support of the DCCC. This post at Swing State Project lists lots of seats once thought safe for Republicans, which are becoming competitive.

Where can netroots fundraising have the most impact? In my view, it's in the winnable districts where there will be no influx of hundreds of thousands of dollars from the DCCC or other outside groups. Many of these are districts where an additional $50,000 or even $25,000 can make the difference.

The mother of all moneybombs dumped three-quarters of a million dollars into Elwyn Tinklenberg's campaign in 24 hours over the weekend. It was a strong statement against the intolerance and bigotry Michelle Bachmann (MN-06) displayed on Hardball.

While I respect the enthusiasm, I can't agree with those who are still asking the netroots to give to Tinklenberg, even after he's collected more than $750,000 and the DCCC has promised to put $1 million into this race. Tinklenberg now has the resources to run an aggressive paid media and GOTV effort for the next two weeks. He probably has more money than he can spend effectively with so little time left.

Raising $50,000 for each of ten good challengers would be a better use of our energy than continuing to push activists to give to Tinklenberg.

Remember, few challengers are able to match incumbents dollar-for-dollar, but that doesn't mean they can't win. They don't need to match incumbent spending, but they do need the resources to improve their name recognition and capitalize on the Democratic wave.

Which House races should we target for a moneybomb? I would suggest looking at the list of candidates on the Blue America '08 page at Act Blue, as well as the candidates endorsed by Russ Feingold's Progressive Patriots Fund. We have good reason to believe that those candidates will stand up for progressive values.

I would then pick a few Democrats on those lists who are not benefiting from large independent expenditures by the DCCC or others. Some of the late additions to the Red to Blue list deserve more help from the netroots, such as Josh Segall in AL-03, whose Republican opponent recently bragged about his plans to be "the biggest pain in Nancy Pelosi's ass."

Our money will go further in districts with relatively inexpensive paid media. On a thread at a different blog, someone suggested GA-10, where the Democratic candidate is Bobby Saxon.

I would also favor candidates taking on particularly odious incumbents, such as Dennis Shulman (running against Scott Garrett in NJ-05) and Debbie Cook (facing Dana Rohrbacher in CA-46). RDemocrat has written a book's worth of material on why we should support Heather Ryan against "Exxon Ed" Whitfield in KY-01.

And what kind of Iowan would I be if I didn't mention Rob Hubler, who is taking on Steve King in IA-05? My fellow Iowa blogger 2laneIA published this comprehensive diary showing that if we're talking about the most ignorant and bigoted wingnuts in Congress, King gives Michelle Bachmann a run for her money. Click the link to read all about King's "greatest hits," including his suggestion that we electrify the border fence with Mexico like we do "with livestock," his prediction that terrorists will be "dancing in the streets" if Obama becomes president, and his pride in working to scale back funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (which he calls Socialist Clinton-style Hillarycare for Illegals and their Parents). King considers his work to reduce SCHIP funding a "key moment" in his Congressional career.

Amazingly, there's even more to dislike about King than 2laneIA had room to mention in that piece. For instance, while still a state senator, King was a leading advocate for Iowa's "official English" law, which was adopted in 2002. Then he filed a lawsuit in 2007 to stop the Iowa Secretary of State's office from providing voter information in languages besides English. It's not for nothing that Ann Coulter calls King "one of my favorites."

Hubler is a good progressive who spoke out against the FISA bill and supports the Responsible Plan for Iraq. I just found out recently that during the 1980s he was INFACT's national director of the boycott against Nestle. Hubler also happens to be running a great campaign, but he is not getting much outside help except from Feingold's Progressive Patriots Fund, which has sent an organizer to work on the campaign.

Two dozen House Democrats already represent districts with a partisan voting index of R+5 or worse. We should be able to increase that number in two weeks and send home Republicans who didn't even realize they were in trouble.

Few people have enough money to donate to every worthy Democratic candidate. But if the netroots could raise more than three-quarters of a million dollars for Elwyn Tinklenberg in just over 48 hours, we ought to be able to raise $50,000 each for ten good challengers, whose races are relatively low-profile.

Who's with me on this, and which districts should we target?

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Turn Alabama True Blue, Progressive Blue in AL-03 with Josh Segall

Want to help defeat conservatism right in the heart of Red America?  How about Alabama, Heart of Dixie, where 29 year old attorney Josh Segall is the latest addition to the DCCC's Red to Blue list.  If elected, Segall won't be just another Blue Dog Democrat -- he's a true progressive, a better Democrat in a place where merely more Democrats would be welcome.

The Democratic party can and should take back Alabama's 3rd District this year. The seat was held by a Democrat from 1875 until the 1996 election when Glen Browder retired and (now governor) Bob Riley won election to Congress as a moderate Republican. It was an open seat in 2002, a terrible year for Southern Democrats. The DCCC pulled out of the race late and Joe Turnham was completely off the air for a full two weeks before election day.  He lost by only 3800 votes. It's kind of poetic justice that the DCCC is stepping in to help Segall -- late, but not too late to make a critical difference in the race.

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There's Something Really Really Toxic in AL-03

Interesting development in the AL-03 congressional race. Some truly skanky dirt has come out on incumbent GOP Rep. Mike Rogers involving the most toxic compound on Earth, some suspicious contributions, Saddam Hussein and Hitler himself.

First some background on the race. The AL-03 is the most competitive district in AL, only +4 Republican in presidential elections. Rogers barely won the seat in 2002 and is facing his first serious challenge this year from Josh Segall. Segall's raised over $600,000 and has been named to the DCCC emerging races list.

Here's the report from the local paper (The Anniston Star, password required):

Money is at the heart of most political campaigns. Sometimes, though, it's not how much, but its source, that can raise questions.

Such could be the case with a donation to American Security PAC, a so-called leadership political action committee, set up by Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks.

Leadership PACs are used mostly by incumbents (more than 200 representatives in the U.S. House have such political action committees) to fund other campaigns and causes. Such PACs allow members of Congress to spread money and influence outside their districts and build alliances with fellow members.

Rogers set up American Security PAC last year. Since then, according to the Federal Elections Commission, it has helped fund the congressional races of fellow Republicans Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania, Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado and Jon Porter of Nevada. There is also a contribution to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Contributors to Rogers' PAC include Alabama Power's PAC, Washington Group International (a K Street lobbying firm) and the PAC of the insurance company AFLAC.

The only individual contribution to Rogers' American Security PAC was for $1,500 from Oxford resident Charles Wigley, the owner of Tull Chemical Company.

Tull is the only U.S. manufacturer of the pesticide sodium fluoroacetate, commonly known as Compound 1080. It is almost exclusively used in a few states in the American West where ranchers use it to control predators, in New Zealand where the government uses it to try to eradicate a non-native population of opossums and, according to Wigley, Australia and Israel.

Compound 1080 used to have many manufacturers, including Monsanto, but was banned in the early 1970s. The EPA reapproved it during the Reagan administration for limited use. Since it was developed decades ago, the National Institutes of Health has blamed the poison for 16 deaths, and the EPA lists Compound 1080 as a Category 1 Toxin. The number of reports of people growing ill from coming into contact with it is expanding.

Brooks Fahy, executive director of the Oregon-based Predator Defense, who is active in trying to ban the poison, said, "not only is Compound 1080 one of the most concentrated, deadly poisons on earth with no known antidote, it is also horrifically cruel, causing a long, agonizing death."

Compound 1080 has another controversy attached to it: In 2003, when American troops were storming through Iraq, looking for, and worrying about, chemical weapons, they stumbled upon someone who offered to show them some.

According to the final report compiled by the Iraqi Survey Group and released in 2005, investigators who were sent to Iraq to try to find evidence of weapons of mass destruction, spent a good deal of time looking into the workings of an entity within the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) called the M16.

Though in the end the survey group found little, there were a few exceptions, including a bottle of Compound 1080, with a label clearly showing its address: Oxford, Alabama.

Beside the photograph was this caption: "In early May 2003, a sensitive source gave coalition forces a box of chemicals he claimed the IIS M16 preparation division was researching. The chemicals were meant for assassinations or to assist in kidnapping."

Charles Wigley said the only record he has of a shipment of Compound 1080 to Iraq was to the Iraq Grain Board, in 1976.


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Listen LIVE to Josh Segall (AL-03) with me and clammyc!

Were you impressed by what happened in MS-01?  Well, then wait 'til you get a load of what's happening down in Alabama's 3rd district.

Proud Democrat Josh Segall is all set to take out Bush Rubberstamp Republican Mike Rogers in this northeast Alabama district, and you can hear me and clammyc interview him live today at 3pmEST/noonPST.  Now before you scoff and think this is just another vanity candidate running an unwinnable race in the deep south, <u>think again</u>.  I'll let Wikipedia do the talking for a bit here on this tightly contested, extremely doable race:

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