Of Bases and Bases

In their latest poll, ABC News has a handy chart on this subject. The change since the start of Bush's second term has been remarkable:

Strong Approval and Disaproval, By Party, Jan 2005
      Approve    Disapprove    Gap
Dem      7%         68%          -61
Ind     25%         31%            -6
Rep     69%          4%          +65

Strong Approval and Disaproval, By Party, April 2006
      Approve    Disapprove    Gap     Shift in Gap
Dem      2%         78%        -76         -15
Ind     13%         51%        -38         -32
Rep     50%          8%        +42         -23

Fifteen months ago, Bush approval intensity among Independents was split nearly even between strong approval and strong disapproval. Since that time, it has shifted dramatically, and now Independents that strongly disapprove of Bush outnumber Independents that strongly approve of Bush four to one. 51% strong disapproval among Independents, and only 13% strong approval?!

Almost as striking as the numbers among Independents are the numbers among Republicans. At the start of Bush's second term, Republican strong approval of Bush exactly cancelled out strong Democratic disapproval of Bush. However, now strong Democratic disapproval of Bush is 28% higher than strong Republican approval of Bush. Along with the swing among Independents, this now means that 47% of the country strongly disapproves of Bush, and only 20% strongly approves.

Now, one could easily look at these numbers and conclude that the Republican base is far less fired up than the Democratic base. However, an important distinction needs to be made between the Democratic activist base and the Democratic voting base, as there also needs to be a distinction between the Republican activist base and the Republican voting base. Voting and activist bases are two different animals. A "voting base" refers to people who never split tickets and who vote in both midterm elections and primary elections. When it comes to voting bases, the Democratic base is clearly more fired up than the Republican base. However, the activist base refers to people who go a step further. The activist base refers to members of the voting base who also make campaign contributions, volunteer for GOTV, attend rallies and political meetings, and otherwise serve as an extension of a party's political and electoral apparatus. The activist base is smaller than the voting base, but it is extremely influential in helping to determine a party's chances in turning potential victories into real victories at the ballot box.

I think that one of the great successes of the progressive blogosphere has been to expand the size of the progressive activist base. Generally speaking, you have to at least be a member of the voting base in order to even bother to seek out a progressive political blog, and once people start reading blogs they have frequently been agitated into moving from the voting base to the activist base (unless they were already in the activist base to begin with). Now, nationwide telephone polls can do a good job of measuring the intensity level of voting bases, but it can't do a very good job of measuring intensity levels among activist bases. However, because we are talking about small nationwide populations numbering only a few million people, such polls cannot do a good job measuring the intensity level among activist bases. The sample sizes are just too small to poll accurately without making around 20,000 calls in a single survey. For now, on the progressive side, the best way of measuring the intensity level of the progressive activist base may be to read the progressive blogosphere.

It is entirely possible that the progressive activist base is more fired up for 2006 than the conservative activist base. However, there is no way of knowing this for certain. Only 20% of the country may strongly approve of Bush, but that 20% may include pretty much everyone who is a conservative activist. It is also entirely possible that every progressive activist strongly disapproves of Bush, but there is no guarantee that many of them will feel strongly enough about the Democratic Party in 2006 to not slip out of the activist base and back into the voting base. We don't really know what the intensity level is like among the activist bases, and even my reading of the blogosphere can easily lead to conflicting conclusions. Thus, we return to perhaps the most important, though unanswerable, question of 2006.  I've written this before (here and here), and I will write it again. The issue is not whether or not Democrats have won Independents, but whether or not the Democratic political and electoral machine can turn what is clearly a potential Indycrat governing realignment into a real governing majority. Do we have that ability? I don't know. I would hope, however, considering everything that I listed in my previous post, that there are at least a few progressives wavering between the voting and activist bases who will stay firmly in the activist column knowing everything that is at stake in 2006.

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CTG on tour in the North Wet

OK, Markos and I just got done signing over 100 copies at Powell's bookstore. So, if you want to make sure that you have a singed copy by the two of us, you can order it online at Powells.

We just got through a couple of semi-wet days on the tour in Seattle, Olympia, and another in Portland. One more day in Portland before we go onto the next stop. And just to clarify, Markos is going on every stop, but I am only able to do about half of them (I do have a couple of day jobs besides blogging). I'll be out on the CA tour from the 20th to the 21st, and then rejoin the tour with the Raleigh NC stop in May, through the Boston stop (that's gonna be a long east coast run), and then out to Las Vegas and SF Bay in June.

At MSFT, thanks to Tamara. In Portand, shout-outs for Kari Chrisholm of Blue Oregon and Lefty Blogs for stepping up to the last minute plate and picking us up two hours early, and Carla of Preemptive Karma for hanging around a couple of extra hours to give us a ride to the next tour stop.

As for Seattle & Oly, big shout outs go to David over at HA's, and Andrew over at NW Portal, for taking on the Seattle organizing, and Drinking Liberally for the Labor Hall event. Meeting up with Dave of Ornicus was a treat, and seeing Natasha from Pacific Views was great as well as a lot of other terrific NW bloggers like Lynn of Evergreen Politics. And yes, I got to meet Gen JC, the Patriot Boy himself, and he let me know that I was his blogfather (hell of an offspring).

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PA-07: Joe Sestak for Congress

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In 1998 and 1999, I spent eight months living in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, and what now is the Pennsylvania 7th congressional district. Living just four miles outside the district now, I have kept close ties to the area, which I have visited over one hundred times in the last seven years. These personal ties alone give me great pleasure to announce that Vice-Admiral Joseph Sestak has been added to the netroots ActBlue page.

As I noted yesterday, the Pennsylvania 7th is the eight most Democratic district in the nation held by a Republican. It currently sports a partisan voting index of +3.6% Democratic, with the trend lines pointed firmly in our direction. In 2004, with only $25K and 90 days to campaign, Paul Scholes received 41.4% of the vote here. And that was in a Republican year, not a year when Democrats hold double digit leads in congressional generic ballots. Yet, despite all of this, the NRCC does not list the PA-07 as one of their top twenty-one defenses. I think it is time for that to change, and to add to the ever growing list of seats they need to be very concerned about.

Of course, there is almost no way to talk about this district and not mention that it is currently represented by just about the craziest person in all of southeast Pennsylvania, Curt Weldon. This is a man who attended, spoke at, and organized a "coronation" for Sun Myung Moon as "humanity's Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent." Of course, Weldon denied everything, until more and ore evidence appeared proving that he spoke at and organized the event. This is the same man who decided to play politics with Joe Sestak's four-year old, cancer stricken daughter. This is the same man deep in the bowels of "Able Danger." And how, exactly, did Curt Weldon's own daughter move from being a special education teacher to starting a foreign relations consulting firm? Read more about this here.

But this isn't just about how winnable the district is, or how crazy Curt Weldon is. Here is a quote from Joe Sestak's website that I particularly like: One of the primary reasons I entered this election is that I believe invading Iraq was not the right decision. In between my visits to Afghanistan, I led a navy Carrier Battle Group that flew air strikes over Afghanistan into the Persian Gulf, and carried out combat flights over Iraq in preparation for the war. It was obvious that Iraq was not a threat.(...)

The choice that citizens of this great country have is not an unpatriotic one. If my 31 years in the military taught me anything, it was that we serve in this all-volunteer military to defend Americans' freedom to think as they please, and to say what they think, even if they disagree with their leaders. A democracy is based on freedom of expression, and those who join the military do so to fight, if necessary, the wars which defend that freedom--hoping that our use will be to a wise end.(...)

I firmly believe in a planned end to our military engagement in Iraq within the next year as the primary catalyst for change in Iraq. This timeline should only be extended if our military experts deem that a few more months are necessary in order to safely execute a complete withdrawal. I understand the Vietnam-like arguments that military disengagement may mean dominoes will fall, resulting in more regional strife and the further waning of U.S. credibility and power. But I counter those assertions with the real likelihood of a prolonged occupation with rising death, injury and cost for an unknown number of years. It will be an occupation that will continue to have goals that are ever changing as they remain elusive. The result will be continued loss of U.S. military and diplomatic international credibility. The reality-based community has a candidate. Joe Sestak is a fighting Dem who can win this race, and knock off a long-term Republican who clearly has nothing to do with the reality-based community. With your help, we can quickly turn this race into a very problematic pressure point for Republicans, forcing them into an extreme defense mode in the Philadelphia region. In 2004, the NRCC alone spent $5 million in the Philadelphia media market to Swift Boat Lois Murphy and Ginny Schrader. How much money can they spend to try and hold three seats? They only have $19.7 million in the bank. Considering that we have put a lot more seats in play this time, either they will be forced to blow almost half of that in the Philadelphia media market alone, or they will have to pull back on their 2004 efforts. Any pullback could easily mean that all three suburban Philadelphia seats, the 6th, the 7th and the 8th, will all flip to Democrats not to mention the impact on the Senate and Governor's races).

This is a huge strategic pressure point, a winnable race, a solid, reality-based fighting Dem, and a crazy, quite possibly corrupt Republican incumbent. This is a race worth targeting. Support Joe Sestak today.

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Democrats Set To Break Post-1994 Recruiting Record

This week, Democrats will reach a milestone of real importance: they will break their record for the most House seats challenged since at least 1992. Barry Welsh's Fifty-State strategy page hasn't been updated in a while, but MyDD diarist BENAWU has been picking up the slack (although s/he could stand to drop a few capital letters from his or her titles and tags).

Dating back to 1994, Democrats have lost the last six elections for the House. In each of those six elections, we ran fewer candidates than Republicans. Our best effort was in 2000, when we ran candidates in 403 districts, and Republicans ran candidates in 404 districts. This was both our highest district total, and our smallest deficit to Republicans in the last six elections. Perhaps not surprisingly, we also received our highest share of the national popular vote in 2000, coming in at 47.9%.

Right now, however, we have 402 candidates set, even though just under half of all filing deadlines have passed. Recent deadlines included Missouri, South Carolina, and Arkansas. In all three states, we fielded a full slate of candidates. In fact, to date, there are only five districts where we have failed to field a candidate and the deadline has passed: CA-42, MS-03, PA-09, PA-15, and TX-11 (I'm pretty sure we have a candidate in IA-02). Even then, it appears that we can still field candidates in PA-09 and PA-15, if local candidates and parties can get their acts together.

On Thursday, the filing deadline for Alabama will pass. With five of the remaining thirty-three seats for us to challenge coming in Alabama, Thursday will almost certainly be the day when we break the record. It is just impossible to believe that there will not be at least two or three more Democratic candidates to file in Alabama. While the rest of the nation challenges every Republican, it is hard to imagine that the Alabama Democratic party would let every Republican in their state go unopposed, especially with a potential Gubernatorial pick-p looming in November. We will break the record on Thursday (then again, in an earlier diary, BENAWU argues that we may have already broken the record, and that we now have 406 seats challenged).

Just as importantly, it looks like Republicans will field a surprisingly low number of candidates in 2006. In California alone, Republicans are not challenging seven districts, more than the total number of districts Democrats have so far left unchallenged nationwide. In 2004, Republicans only failed to challenge three seats in California. We are clearly witnessing an upswing in Democratic recruitment, and a downturn in Republican recruitment. Not only will we challenge more seats than we have in any of the six most recent elections, we will almost certainly challenge more seats than Republicans for the first time in at lest seven elections. In fact, with early returns like these, we could challenge far more seats than Republicans.

Not only is this a sign of a Democratic year, this recruiting will become a cause of a democratic year. With fewer Democratic incumbents facing serious challenges, or any challenges at all, they will be able to funnel more money into competitive districts. With more Republicans facing serious challenges, fewer Republican incumbents will be able to funnel money into competitive districts. Research by Project 90 suggests that this could result in a swing of up to $21M in favor of Democrats in swing elections. Our greater number of challenges will stretch Republican defenses to a point they have not been stretched since they took over Congress in 1994.

I do not believe that the netroots did much in the way of actually helping more Democratic candidates run in 2006 than is past years, but I do believe that we at least planted the seeds in the minds of many activists and potential candidates that this was an important step to take in order to regain power. A seed planted by Dr. Dean, and brought into bloom by the netroots and the blogosphere, has resulted in the fifty-state strategy becoming conventional wisdom for Democrats nationwide. In these remarkable, record-breaking recruiting numbers, we can now see the flower of this idea. Come November, it will be time to reap the harvest.

2008 Primary Challenge Decision Rules

Matt Stoller at MyDD is thinking intermediate term on how to force a fight within the Democratic Party on what it means to be called a Democrat, especially one from safe blue seats.  He was riffing on Chuck Shumer, and ripping into him pretty effectively, but at the end drops this tidbit:

Assuming that progressives care about taking power or even being relevant, it's soon going to be time to make lists of candidates who deserve primary challenges in 2008.

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