Change is Gonna Come

What a day. After the spending the morning in Hoeffel HQ, seeing Joe speak to start his Change is Gonna Come tour of every county in Pennsylvania, and narrowly missing meeting Atrios, (the picture on the right was taken by Atrios--afterward I found out that I was standing behind him when he took it), I hopped in the press van. The press group included myself and two other writers, Laura Jakes Jordan of the AP and Carrie Budoff of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Half an hour later, I was inside the Hoeffel RV on the way to an event in Doylestown, interviewing Joe right alongside the other two writers. As the morning progressed, when I wasn't thinking about how improbable it was that I was in such a situation, the now famous article by Alex Jones about bloggers and the conventions came to mind:

[T]his moment of blogging legitimization -- and temporary press credentials -- doesn't turn bloggers into journalists.(...)

[B]loggers, with few exceptions, don't add reporting to the personal views they post online, and they see journalism as bound by norms and standards that they reject. That encourages these common attributes of the blogosphere: vulgarity, scorching insults, bitter denunciations, one-sided arguments, erroneous assertions and the array of qualities that might be expected from a blustering know-it-all in a bar.

At the time, it certainly seemed to me that Jones was absolutely wrong. After all, for most of the morning, I was, without doubt, a full-fledged member of the press. Not only had I asked questions right alongside the other two writers, the campaign had contacted me personally about riding on the bus. While I was clearly more intimidated than the other two writers, I was still there. (I will be adding a picture of the interview on the bus if and when it becomes available).

Joe is very personable and articulate. In his speech to staff and press at campaign headquarters, he spent a significant amount of time tying Specter to Santorum and Bush using Specter's own advertisements during the primary against Toomey (Santorum: Arlen is with us on the votes that matter to move our agenda forward). He also pointed out that if Specter is elected, he will become the chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, and that Specter has never voted against a Bush judicial nominee. In his stump speech at Doylestown, Hoeffel said that the first act of a Democratic Senate should be to repeal the Medicare bill that was passed last year. He also warned voters that he expected Specter to employ typical Republican culture war tactics such as playing the flag burning card in order to distract people from GOP failures on pocketbook issues. On the bus itself, responding to a question about the purpose of the tour by Laura Jakes Jordan, he said the following:

What is important is the message of the campaign, but you can't get that message out without traveling around the state and reaching the smaller media as well as the statewide, regional papers. Frankly, there is no statewide press, other than the AP. There is no central spot. So, in order to reach the voters, and have the media drive the message, you need to get out and about. Joe conceded that the tour will not be as effective as television advertisements in raising name recognition and making the race competitive. As such, he did not expect the polls to show a tight race until they went on the airwaves over the next two months. Still, he argued that this tour is part of a cumulative process of having his message reach voters and that "it will all come together very quickly." After stating that the campaign was more reaching its fundraising targets and that fundraisers with Clinton and Gore were coming up in the next month, he joked about the pundits who repeatedly noted that he needed to raise his name recognition, as though he didn't already know that. When I told him and the high level staffer who was with him about Herseth's tremendous success using blogads during the South Dakota special election, they seemed very interested.

After the interview was over and we arrived in Doylestown, I was growing convinced that Alex Jones was wrong about blogs. However, what happened in Doylestown made it clear to me that he actually was right: bloggers are not the same as journalists, no matter what credentials we have. However, I also realized that this difference does not necessarily reflect badly on either them or us.

For starters, bloggers are comparatively very low budget. The tape recorder I used both for the Hoeffel event today and my interview with Ginny Schrader two weeks ago was borrowed from the place where my brother / roommate works, and the tape was an old Phish mix tape that accidentally played once during the interview (much to everyone's amusement). My "business" cards are handwritten on the back of non-individualized cards I received from the AFL-CIO during my four-month stint in Chicago as a union organizer. My bag is the old British Army backpack I bought from a friend during the year I spent studying in England, because my "professional" over the shoulder bag developed one too many holes around one year ago. My cell-phone is two and a half years old, making it possibly the oldest functioning model on the planet. Overall, compared to the other people covering the event, I was clearly operating on a shoestring. This was probably emphasized by the fact that I have never taken a single journalism course in my entire life.

A far more important difference, however, was what happened when we reached Doylestown for the second Hoeffel event. Instead of hanging out with the other journalists at Starbucks, I hung out with Ginny Schrader's staff on the steps outside the offices of the Bucks County Democratic Committee (Ginny also spoke at the Doylestown event). Instead of being guarded, they freely gave me inside information about the campaign, including the scoop printed below, and urged me to post it as soon as possible. Later on, when Dana Miller, Joe Hoeffel's events coordinator, was giving me a ride home, she told me that a senior staffer said it was okay to tell me anything because I "was one of us." In other words, by making no pretensions about being objective and by openly appearing casual, I was privy to more information about both the Schrader and Hoeffel campaigns than were the two writers from prominent, well-respected news organizations. In many ways, it was actually an advantage to be a partisan amateur with a soapbox.

Whether or not this makes blogging better than journalism is irrelevant. Instead, it points the important function that blogs serve and that will allow us to continue to increase in prominence. We are, after all, not just a community of talkers, but also one of action. As long as we continue to connect our analysis, reporting and confessionals to action, we will continue to grow in stature and importance. After all, what campaign would not want an essentially free reservoir of activist support?

Change is gonna to come in Pennsylvania. Change is well under way is journalism and political activism. Act for Joe now.

Joe Hoeffel is for Real

To date, many have noticed that the biggest problem with Hoeffel's campaign to unseat Arlen Spector has been Hoeffel's lack of name recognition. However, starting tomorrow, that will change: Between the Human Rights Campaign and Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police endorsements, all the excitement over planning Joe's all-67-county tour of Pennsylvania and all the energy in our office from our volunteers, last week was an action-packed week.

This week, even more, and we could use your help again. Not only do we want your help in suggesting where Joe should go, you can be a part of naming the tour itself.

Further, the campaign is inviting bloggers along for the ride on his bus tour, which will hit every single county in Pennsylvania. Tomorrow, I will be riding on the bus from the first tour event at campaign HQ in Philly to the second event in Doylestown. I hope to catch a couple of more rides when the tour returns to the Philly area next week.

With an event at every locale in Pennsylvania in an 18-day stretch, Hoeffel's name recognition will soar. He has carefully managed his money so that he will be competitive will Spector on the airwaves during September and October. Also, Spector will be facing a significant challenge from the Constitution Party that will appeal to many Toomey voters (the Constitution party candidate has surpassed 10% in three statewide races in Pennsylvania over the past decade). Top it all off with Kerry's powerful standing in PA and the help of groups like ACT on canvassing and GOTV, and this will become a very close race very soon.

I'll have a report from two Hoeffel events tomorrow, including pictures of the bus, which I am told is funkadelic. Hopefully I will have a chance to talk to Joe himself. Stay tuned.

Florida US Senate primary

With the Senate primaries decided in Georgia and Colorado, the only high-profile & competitive Senate primary remaining is in Florida. On the Dem side, the favorite is Betty Castor (check it out, the online fundraising goal was met!), though Peter Deutsch had about $4M he is blowing through this month attacking Castor, and Alex Penelas, who has faded, both in the polls, and the fundraising numbers. The primary is on August 31st, and if you are still undecided, take advice from the good doctor:Governor Howard Dean says, "I'm a doctor and I know something about health care. Betty Castor's vision brought health care to 300,000 Florida children through her Healthy Kids initiative. Her plan to transform Healthy Kids into Healthy Families will offer quality, affordable health care to more Americans. We need her ideas and experience in the Senate to improve America's health care system. I strongly endorse Betty Castor for U.S. Senate."On the Republican side, here's a few clips from recent NJ Hotline remarks:The four leading GOP candidates "fired jabs and tried to outmuscle one another on a host of bedrock conservative issues" 8/10. House Speaker Johnnie Byrd (R), businessman Doug Gallagher (R), ex-HUD Sec. Mel Martinez (R) and ex-Rep. Bill McCollum (R) all expressed their support for a "hardline stance against terrorism and in favor of the war in Iraq."... Gallagher made sure to tell the audience that Martinez was once a personal injury lawyer and past head of the trial-lawyer lobby who doesn't support the GOP leadership's proposed cap in pain-and-suffering cases. Gallagher: "As a personal injury lawyer you made a living by suing the likes of Disney and Sea World and even the first Baptist Church of Orlando in slip-and-fall cases. ... Yes or no, Mel, will you join Mickey Mouse, Shamu, me and even the Lord Himself by finally endorsing a $250,000 cap on medical malpractice?" Martinez: "Gosh, Doug, I liked it better when (the debate moderators) were asking the questions."...

"With polls showing more than a third of likely voters undecided," the outcome "could turn on which candidate is on TV the most with the most appealing pitch at a time when many TV sets are tuned to the Olympic games." Martinez has reserved $2M in TV ads over the next three weeks, including $1.3M in the final week. McCollum bought nearly $500K in ads during that same period, (although "McCollum's camp said the numbers are too low and do not accurately reflect his strategy."). Gallagher "has not made advance TV ad buys. His personal checks to his campaign have diminished over the past few weeks, with the most recent installment" of about $249K last weekend...

The election, on a summer Tuesday before Labor Day weekend, while the GOP has their convention in NYC, is likely to be a very low turnout event. If Martinez wins the Republican nomination, I'd expect he'll be up on the convetion stage the next day in NYC. McCollum could win with a plurality if the three top candidates are all above 20%, and Byrd takes just enough votes to takeaway a Martinez victory.

Keyes color in Illinois

I got this earlier today from Arch Pundit, and now the DSCC is passing it around:


Over on TPM, Josh Marshall has been making entries on Keyes that'll make you laugh, start with that link and scroll down.

Ann's Weekly Rant today

I am telling you again, Ann's Weekly Rant from the DSCC is worth the spam in your box, here's some:The DSCC's got a Hoeffel is taking it to Arlen Specter's Hide -- Get'em Joe

Folks, it's been a big week in the Pennsylvania race and the momentum is on Congressman Joe Hoeffel's side. In a week, Joe has stolen two high profile endorsements away from "Snarlin'" Arlen -- the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) -- both of which have endorsed Specter in the past.  The FOP in particular took it to Specter in announcing their endorsement of Joe:

"Arlen Specter may have been a district attorney three decades ago, but over the past four years, he's clearly allowed ideology and politics to get in the way of fulfilling his responsibility to police in Philadelphia," said Robert Eddies, president of Philadelphia Lodge No. 5.

While Specter was whining about losing the endorsements, Joe was preparing a two and a half week bus tour which will take him to all of Pennsylvania's 67 counties.  In fact, you can help Joe by submitting you idea for a name for the tour by going to his website at: http://www.hoeffelforsenate.com/blog (I'm sure he could use your financial support as well).

And, as if things hadn't been bad enough recently for Specter, get this: while President Bush and Rick Santorum received a standing ovation from a Republican crowd at an appearance in PA last week, Specter was booed.  Poor guy -- dissed by the police, dissed by HRC and dissed by his own folks.  Folks, when it comes to this race, JOE HAS THE MO!!

As was mentioned in the latest Senate Outlook, Hoeffel getting closer to being real: Through April 7th, Specter had outraised Hoeffel by an 8:1 clip. Through June 30th, that's now down to a 6:1 margin. Cash on hand is a even closer, Specter with $3.3M to $1.3M. Especially with the way things are going for Bush in PA.

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