Laying Down a Netroots Marker in the Texas Senate Race

Digby wrote something yesterday about primaries that I think is a good starting point for this diary:

The truth is that I think primaries are vital and necessary. And I also hate them. It goes against my grain to be trashing someone repeatedly and then have to make nice when they get the nomination, which is how the system works. I accept this, and I honestly can't think of a better way to air out all the differences, but it's temperamentally difficult for me to get down and dirty in races where I actually like the opponents and may have to advocate for them in the end.

There's a primary starting in the Texas Senate race. And unlike Digby, Texas Democrats don't have any "temperamental difficulty" in getting down and dirty in a primary. Like all Texans, we like to fight and we're famous for our circular firing squads. But this year there is a primary fight brewing over a matter of principle, a matter of "Crashing the Gates" if you will.

Over the decade I've worked in Texas politics, the insiders have used one criteria -- and one criteria only -- when selecting which candidates to support for state-wide office. Money.

And even though we haven't won a top-of-the-ballot statewide election since 1990, the insiders are trying to make money the sole qualifier for the 2008 Senate nomination.

The lessons of the Jim Webb and Jon Tester campaigns have not yet made an impact in Texas. But they can and with your help we can apply those lessons and win.

Lieutenant Colonel Rick Noriega

There is a clear choice in the Texas Senate primary. State Rep Rick Noriega has the unique mix of qualities and qualifications that can transform the political landscape. Even in Texas.

As Kos said, "Noriega would be the first real people-powered candidate to emerge this cycle setting up a dynamic somewhat similar to what we saw in Montana in 2006 (populist state legislator versus well-liked institutional-backed rich guy with all the "right" connections)."

Veteran. Progressive. Proven legislator. Favorite of the Netroots but also the favorite of his colleagues in the Texas Legislature.

Here's what Charles Kuffner, the dean of the Texas netroots has to say about Noriega:

I don't expect to ever have to say "Yeah, but" to a fellow Democrat about Rick Noriega....I think he can be a game-changer, someone who can alter politics in this state in a fundamental way, and in doing so alter Texas' image nationally.

I think Rick Noriega is exactly the right candidate to run against John Cornyn. Noriega spent a year in Afghanistan on the front lines of the "war on terror". He's also been deployed to the Texas border to train National Guardsmen on matters of border security. What are the two biggest issues these days? John Cornyn can talk about these things. Rick Noriega has actually been there and done them.

Last week Noriega officially launched his campaign and the Texas netroots launchedan effort to recruit 800 donors to support his campaign. The number 800 was chosen because that's how many big money donors his primary opponent had last quarter.

Now if I were running the show, I would not have begun the campaign asking for money. But like I said, Texas is an expensive state. There are 19 media markets in the huge state. This race is literally the biggest challenge the netroots has ever taken on. We're backing a grassroots candidate against a primary opponent who has already pledged to put $10 million into the race and after we beat him we'll be taking on Karl Rove product John Cornyn deep in the heart of Texas.

So forgive the Texas bloggers if they're a bit audacious in their plans, it's kind of a Texas tradition to take on  challenges against overwhelming odds and you know what, sometimes we win.

Show the Texas insiders that the Netroots is changing the game. Join the Noriega Express.     

Background info in the extended entry.

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Senate 2008 Guru's Week in the Senate Races

There was a time, I like to call it "2005," when all Republican Senators yearned for were up-or-down votes.  Now that they find themselves in the minority, far be it from them to conduct themselves according to their own standards.  Senate Republican "Leader" Mitch McConnell is looking to institute a permanent filibuster on all things Iraq.  In fact, it is looking like Mitch McConnell will be the most obstructionist Senate minority Party Leader in history, and by a wide margin, according to McClatchy:

Republican Obstructionism at a Record Pace

This year Senate Republicans are threatening filibusters to block more legislation than ever before, a pattern that's rooted in -- and could increase -- the pettiness and dysfunction in Congress. ...

Nearly 1 in 6 roll-call votes in the Senate this year have been cloture votes. If this pace of blocking legislation continues, this 110th Congress will be on track to roughly triple the previous record number of cloture votes -- 58 each in the two Congresses from 1999-2002, according to the Senate Historical Office.

Senate Republicans' obstructionism was on display during the Senate's all-night session Tuesday night.  Senators voted to proceed to a vote on the Reed-Levin amendment by a margin of 52-47, a majority of Senators but not enough to clear the 60-vote threshold, so Republican obstructionism won out over the will of a majority of Senators and a majority of Americans, not that you'd know it from some of the sloppy reporting done following the vote.

Despite all of this (or, perhaps, because of all of this), McConnell's expectations for Election Day 2008 are sinking:

"It would take an extraordinarily good day to get back up to 50," McConnell said. "So our goal is to stay roughly where we are."

That's not too shocking. McConnell's unwavering support for Bush's Iraq debacle has taught us that if there's one thing Mitch McConnell can get behind, it's the status quo.

Much more below the fold.

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Senate 2008 Guru's Week in the Senate Races

From Republican Senator David Vitter's scandal to second quarter fundraising numbers to Iraq to news from Senate races around the country, a lot happened this week.

First and foremost, the Vitter scandal is not simply a caricature of a seedy politician screwing around.  It's another reminder of the hypocrisy endemic to the Republican Party at the national level.  For those who don't know, Republican Senator David Vitter confessed to having been a client of the infamous DC Madam after his phone number was found in her found records.  He claimed to have received the forgiveness of his wife and his God (I don't know how he confirmed that one).  As a side note, his wife did once intimate that if her husband ever cheated on her, she'd more likely castrate than forgive.  Just when we thought that was all there was to the story, it turns out that he also frequented a New Orleans brothel.

The hypocrisy that exists in this sordid tale exists on many levels.  First is the standard that Vitter himself set.  Vitter called for President Bill Clinton's resignation when Clinton's marital infidelities came to light.  If Vitter held himself to his own standard, he'd have already resigned.  Vitter discusses the "moral fitness to govern" readily when it is someone else being judged.  Heck, forget about moral fitness to govern; how about the presence to govern?  Vitter apparently received phone calls from the DC Madam during roll call votes while he was a House member.  And, amid the current scandal, he opted to go into hiding rather than actually do his job, leading him to miss seven roll call votes between Wednesday and Friday on such minor issues as Iraq, Iran, and al Qaeda.  He was even more than happy to lie to constituents back in 2002 when asked explicitly about one particular prostitute by name.

The second level on which the hypocrisy exists is the level of "family values." Vitter ran on a platform of "family values," making his wife and kids the stars of his campaign ads, inserting them into the public sphere and inserting his personal values and private life into public scrutiny.  He also explained to us immoral heathens that "marriage is truly the most fundamental social institution in human history" while legislating how others should live their lives and regard the institution of marriage.  All the while, he had debased his own marriage.  To say that Vitter is falling short of his own standard is an understatement.

The third level on which the hypocrisy exists is the level of the rule of law.  Soliciting a prostitute is a crime in Washington, D.C. and Louisiana.  As much as some Republicans might scoff at the idea, the rule of law still applies to them.  Vitter committed a crime, and simply receiving the forgiveness of one's wife does not qualify as legal absolution.  Any legal researchers want to dig up what the statute of limitations is in both Washington, D.C. and Louisiana on soliciting?

Much more below the fold.

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Senate 2008 Guru's Week in the Senate Races

After a brief respite not achieving any progress on the immigration front, the Senate's attention is turning back toward not achieving any progress on the Iraq front.

A few Republican Senators have lately begun voicing (though not yet voting) their discontent with the way things are going, and have been going for quite some time, in Iraq.  What Republicans were dismissing as "cut and run" not so long ago is becoming a more acceptable policy among the GOP, especially to those Republican Senators who are approaching re-election bids in what is shaping up to be another cycle, like 2006, hostile to not only pro-war Republicans but, in many parts of the country, potentially anyone with an R next to their name.

As a renewed push on Iraq is expected, the Senate is expected this week to take up the Iraq Study Group Recommendations Implementation Act, S 1545, or as mcjoan has dubbed it "The Salazar Distraction," as it is questionable whether this measure would do anything to actually further U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.  Nevertheless, in a powerful editorial this morning, the New York Times calls for just that, immediate withdrawal:

It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit. ...

It is frighteningly clear that Mr. Bush's plan is to stay the course as long as he is president and dump the mess on his successor. Whatever his cause was, it is lost. ...

Continuing to sacrifice the lives and limbs of American soldiers is wrong. The war is sapping the strength of the nation's alliances and its military forces. It is a dangerous diversion from the life-and-death struggle against terrorists. It is an increasing burden on American taxpayers, and it is a betrayal of a world that needs the wise application of American power and principles.

But is it principle or mere political posturing that has led the few Republican Senators who have recently spoken out on Iraq to do so?  While Dick Lugar is considered safe, George Voinovich is up in 2010 in Ohio.  While that may seem a long way off, Ohio is where a scandal-plagued state Republican Party is still recuperating and where two-term Senator Mike DeWine got beat by then-Congressman Sherrod Brown 56-44 last year.  Voinovich might simply retire in 2010, as might John Warner in 2008, but whether they are looking ahead to impending retirement or the motivation is fear of retribution from voters seeking an end to Bush's Iraq debacle, freedom from the shackles of allegiance to the Bush Administration is being sought.  Pete Domenici is perhaps the clearest case of political posturing.  Domenici, up for re-election in 2008, has seen his approval rating plummet from 68-25 in November 2006 to 51-42 last month, primarily as a result of his role in the Attorney Purge scandal.  He could use a pick-me-up, and with George W. Bush's approval in New Mexico at 31-66, this could be a quick way for Domenici to score some points.

Much more below the fold.

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Senate 2008 Guru's Week in the Senate Races

There were two big buzz words in the Senate and 2008 Senate races this week: obstructionism and immigration.

A long, long time ago, when the Republicans were in the majority in the Senate, they decried Democrats daring to get in the way of their agenda.  Now that they find themselves in the minority, Republicans are all too happy to hypocritically engage in any and all obstructionist maneuvering they can conjure up on a whole host of issues from lower prescription drug prices to workers' rights and much, much more.

Well, Democratic leadership has taken notice and began an offensive with this powerful video taking aim at those hypocritical, obstructionist McConnell Republicans:

The 2008 election will be a referendum on George W. Bush and a referendum on Iraq, but it can also be a referendum on a progressive, American agenda that Democrats are trying to advance and Republicans are trying to, well, obstruct.  Any Democrat running for Senate can point to this agenda and say, "A vote for me is a vote for progress, a vote for affordable health care, a safer America, a fairer, stronger economy.  A vote for my opponent is a vote against progress, a vote to obstruct this agenda." Pretty simple.

Much more below the fold.

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