TX-28 Postmortem, Part II: Qualitative and Strategy

Well, it looks like our first primary challenge against an incumbent Democrat didn't work out. To my knowledge, there haven't been any official concession yet, but no matter what happens, I would like to point out that Republicans still haven't won anything new on the electoral front since 2004. While we it looks like we were unable to defeat a Democrat who sucked up to Bush, over the past year we still have a pretty good streak going of defeating Republicans who suck up to Bush. This is not even to mention that Republicans are still too gutless to even try to run someone in this majority-Latino district. I'd like to se how close they would come to defeating Henry Cuellar.

There is no way to prove this, but I still bet that if this was a closed primary and Republicans and Independents had been unable to vote, we would have at least forced a run-off, if not won outright. The margin was so close, I can easily imagine a few thousand registered Republicans and Republican-leaning indepdents wanting to vote for Cuellar because of his connections to Bush. The Texas primary system would have allowed them to do so. Update: Check out the NCDem in the comments for a more accurate description of the Texas primary system.

Also, considering the wildly different vote totals for each candidate in different counties, it seems fairly safe to assume that "voting for the home-boy" was probably the number one voter issue in this campaign. It wasn't the only issue, but it was probably the biggest issue. As one pro-Ciro commenter on the ground noted yesterday: Zapata County is made up of good, hard working, blue collar folks. They voted overwhelmingly for Ciro, before Laredo was put into the mix by DeLay. They voted for Ann Richards by far, over Bush. They voted overwhelmingly for Kerry 2 years ago. (...) They're voting for Cuellar besause they are part of Laredo's orbit. They are simply voting for the home boy. They are nor conservatives -- socially or otherwise. They're poor folk, mostly Mexican-Americans trying to get by. They are progressive-liberals, and good Democrats. We shouldn't get too mad at Cuellar's voters. Most of them are with us a lot more often than Cuellar himself is.

Further, as Steve Gillard pointed out over an email tonight, it is important to remember that the netroots doesn't actually run campaigns--we just have the ability to offer resources that can give candidates the chance to win. The rest, ultimately, is up to the candidate, the campaign, and the voters. I'm not saying this to throw Ciro under the bus, but rather so that we all get a little more perspective on the role we play online. We are not an alternative party apparatus unto ourselves.

As for tactics, it seems to me that we should have moved into this race earlier--probably as early as November. There was a large gap to overcome in this district, and six weeks proved to not be enough time. We even won the voting on Election Day voting, but we lost because of the early voting. Had we spent more time on this campaign, we could have made it closer earlier, and we could have kicked up a lot more media. As Matt Singer noted over email:Campaigns also need these resources earlier. When it ends up coming down to a good ground effort, it just can't spring up overnight. And mail/TV ads need to be planned in advance, too. True dat. In the future, we need to develop a target list for primaries much further in advance. Too often we jump on board campaigns when it is already too late, as I complained about in my Edjamacation post. We have to start moving in earlier.

Of course, even had we come in earlier, defeating federally elected incumbents is a difficult game. Even on the Republican side, for all of their vaunted ability to run primary challenges against their sitting incumbents, the only real win they have against a federally elected incumbent is Sununu over Smith in New Hampshire in 2002. We may be 0 for 1, but they are 1 for 100. Primary challenges are almost always failures at the ballot box.

However, even in electoral defeat the Republican base has often succeeded in forcing some incumbents to start toeing the conservative line. If Cuellar becomes a more reliable vote as a result of this primary, then we will have succeeded anyway. If Cuellar makes fewer appearances with Bush, then we will have succeeded anyway. We won't know if that has happened right away, but we do know that even if things don't change, we can always run another primary challenge against Cuellar in 2008. Netroots electoral wins may seem few and far between (Chandler, Obama, Herseth, Dean for DNC), but the only way we are going to get more of them is if we keep trying.

Hope that is enough qualifiers for you. Make sure you read Ciro's statement to the netroots. I know you are disappointed, but you helped turn what would have been a blowout election that no one noticed into a real fight. Never give up hope. It's on to CA-50.

Update: I just received the following statement from Ciro:“Last night we didn’t receive the outcome we had hoped for. The end result was true to the intentions of Tom Delay when he carved out this district for his friend — geographic rivalries won out over a true discussion of the issues for working families.

I congratulate Mr. Cuellar on his victory, however, and I hold no bitterness or ill will.

I do hope, however, that he takes seriously the message sent by over 47% of the voters — and by a community of progressive donors from across the country — that a Democratic congressman’s first responsibility is to stand up for the needs of seniors, of children and of working families.

Especially in South and Central Texas, where so many mothers and fathers have sacrificed their whole lives for their children, and so many veterans have answered the call of their country, we need a Democratic congressman to put his personal political ambitions aside and take a stand for Social Security, for quality, public schools, and for affordable health care for all.

The driving force behind our campaign was a group of volunteers who took such a stand — students, retirees, and working people from all parts of the District. For their commitment and dedication, Carolina and I will be forever grateful.

And I believe I speak for all our supporters and campaign team when I say that we were profoundly touched by the thousands of regular working families from throughout the country who helped fund our effort with their checks of $5, $10, and $20. They looked beyond geographic and cultural differences and sent a message that we are all Americans and that we must stand and act together to reclaim our government.

As educators, that inspiration will forever stay with Carolina and I as we take the next step in our lifelong commitment to public service.” Thank you Ciro. And I hope that Cuellar takes this message seriously too.

Rodriguez-Cuellar: Limits of netroots

 Many on the lefty blogosphere have trumpeted the "netroots" - the use of blogs and web-based activism to push our side over the Repukes.  Rodriguez-Cuellar provides a little reality check.  The lefty blogo-sphere contributed a lot of money to Rodriguez (Admission: I did not contribute), and he did not win.  

There's more...

A Rant

This has been building up for a long time, and is directed a wide number of people online, rather than anyone in particular.

Just looking at the comments to a post of mine from earlier today reminds me just how ugly a place the blogosphere might be during the Presidential primary season. I am generally an optimist who believes that you can engage just about anyone online in a reasonable discussion. However, whenever I bring up Hillary, I honestly can't believe how many idiotic progressives there are who will clearly stop at nothing in order to assist the long-term Republican goal of making sure that no potential Democratic leader has a favorable image nationwide. I am absolutely flabbergasted by the level of stupidity and denial of reality who many progressive who trash Hillary Clinton in particular. As much as many people on the left would like to believe, the right does not have a monopoly on idiocy. I honestly think I am reading FreeRepublic sometimes when she comes up. There is absolutely no way I am voting for her in the primary, but I simply can't believe the number of patently false, easily disprovable arguments many "progressives" use against her no matter what evidence is shown to contradict said arguments. I have written about this before, but I am now of the opinion that there is simply no evidence that will ever convince a small but vocal and anti-social chunk of the netroots that she is anything short of the AntiChrist. Even if she is the nominee, these people are going to close the triangle on Clinton in exactly the manner Republicans desire, and Tom Tancredo, or Bill Frist, or Condi Rice, or whoever will be the next President. As long as there is no shortage of Democrats who are willing to say the same things about Clinton as Republicans do, anything Republicans say about her will be reified in the established news media, and the narrative against her will be forged in steel (this is exactly how the Lieberman wing of the Democratic party destroyed the left in the 1990's, by the way). For the love of crap, if you are going to write against Clinton, do so in a way that Republicans never would. Good arguments would include her being too hawkish, too insider, too centrist. Bad arguments would include her being too ambitious, having too much baggage, being unelectable, and being too insincere, since that is the narrative Republicans have long sought to tie her with. Then again, I don't even know why I am bothering to say this, because the people who froth at the mouth against Hillary in our comments probably honestly believe that there is no difference between Hillary and Tom Tancredo.

Absolute fucking morons. I am not going to come within several miles of working or supporting Hillary Clinton in the primaries, but I will not, ever, repeat Republican arguments about a fellow Democrat, especially when such talking points are designed to tear down Democratic leaders. We might as well just start saying that Howard Dean is an incredibly angry member of the far left who will say anything that comes to his mind, or that Al Gore is a pathological liar with no personality and nearly insane. If you say that Hillary Clinton an insincere, overly ambitious, scandal-ridden woman who can't get elected but will say or do anything in order to get elected, you are exactly the same as DLC losers like From or Reed who happily repeat Republican lies about Howard Dean. If you can't recognize that, then you will do nothing but drag the progressive movement further down the festering rat-hole that we seem to perpetually find our electoral fortunes mired in. If you can't recognize that, I will also tell you, now that we are only eight months out from the start of the primary season, that I don't want you coming within several miles of making a comment or writing a diary on MyDD. This is one blog where Republican narratives will never be reified.

Jerome on MSNBC

MSNBC has a big story on Jerome up now. Here is an excerpt: If Jerome Armstrong succeeds in refining the art of political warfare, Virginia's ex-governor Mark Warner will be taking the presidential oath of office in front of the Capitol on Jan. 20, 2009.

Armstrong is an evangelist for Democratic Internet activism, the founder of the blog Mydd.com, an alumnus of the Howard Dean campaign, and the co-author of a new book called Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics.

He coined the word "netroots" to describe a 21st century version of the grassroots, door-to-door, union-local politics that used to work so well for the Democrats in the last century. Lots of stuff on Dean, Warner, Hackett, and other topics on the article. Check it out.

Afternoon Thread

Here are some quick stories. You can always find lots more of these over in Breaking Blue.This is an open thread. Matt here adding new links.
  • The Agonist talks to Col. Ken Allard on the Civil War-like conditions in Iraq.

  • Jane criticizes NARAL for its lack of accountability.

  • The NRSC is attacking Robert Byrd for advertising on Kos.

  • New Yorker public affairs consultant and all around great guy Mike Klein blogs about visiting New Orleans.

  • Benjamin Simon has a great piece in the Yale Daily News on Ned Lamont.  It's funny, I didn't really read my college newspaper in college, but with the internet becoming mainstream, it seems my information diet is widening across many more sources.

  • DownwithTyranny has a great post on a self-righteous Lieberman chilling the music industry for political gain.

  • Lindsay Beyerstein muses about the NYU Grad student strike.

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