How the Democrats Can Win the House: By the Numbers

There has been a great deal of hand-wringing and despair about the Democrats' chances in November since Francine Busby lost to Brian Bilbray in the special run-off in CA-50 by 4.5% or some 7,000 votes. But is this justified? That there were simultaneous party primaries for a spot on the November ballot, and a run-off for the remainder of Duke Cunningham's term, allows some unique perspectives. From the numbers we can conclude that Busby did well among Democratic voters and overwhelmingly took the independent voters, while in the run-off Bilbray barely exceeded the total of Republicans voting in his party primary.  Busby's problem was that there were far more registered Republican voters, by a nearly 12% margin. Perhaps a more charismatic candidate could have won, but perhaps not. With a relatively middle-of-the-road positions, Busby came close in a very conservative district.

Far from portending defeat, Busby's results actually suggest that Democratic challengers have a good chance of success in districts where Republicans exceed Democrats by a much smaller margin, say up to 3-5%, and especially where Democratic voters actually exceed Republican voters. The Dems need 15 seats to take the House. There are at least 15 seats where a capable and reasonably well-funded challenger would seem to have a good-to-reasonable chance of winning, and several more seats where special factors would seem to give the Dem candidate a sufficient edge even though the margin of GOP voters is greater. There are additional seats where either Dems predominate or the GOP registration edge is small enough not to be an unsurmountable obstacle, or where the potential weakness of the GOP candidate may create an opening for the Dems, for a total of 32 competitive seats. Finally, there are 16 seats that at the moment must be considered long shots, but may be worth an investment of resources to broaden the playing field.

By contrast, no Dem incumbents seem genuinely endangered at this point, and Dem fundraising is well ahead of prior years, considerably narrowing the GOP's traditional financial edge. With the Dems' lead in the "generic" ballot running in double digits, there is cause for optimism that the Dems can take the House.

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What We Can Learn From The CA Governor's Race

The Westly-Angelides race held steady the whole night--Angelides won by 4.2%. This race should be very instructive for those trying out themes and strategies.

Angelides, the State Treasurer and former Dem Party Chair, is the more traditional Democrat on the issues, but as soon as Schwarzenegger was elected, Angelides positioned himself as the voice of fiscal responsibility, opposing Arnold's $15 billion debt bond and arguing that the state needed to face up to its fiscal problems. Westly, the State Controller, campaigned at Arnold's side to pass the debt bond.

Last year, when Arnold veered hard right at the suggestion of some White House operatives and qualified a bunch of anti-union, anti-Dem-supporters measures, Angelides once again was the voice of the opposition. The measures went down to defeat; and the teachers, firefighters, police and other public employees and service workers did not forget--they came out strongly for Amgelides.

Westly, the eBay multimillionaire, positioned himself as a "different kind of politician" or "different kind of Democrat"--ie, not beholden to the unions. He tried to project an air of competent centrism. Much more telegenic, he also argued that he was the more electable, that voters would reject Angelides' recognition that we need higher taxes, at least on the wealthy (whose rates were cut in the late '90s).

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Katrina's economic effects: Worse than 9/11

[editor's note, by Ben P] Thank You, Mimi

Necessarily, we have all been focused on the almost unimaginable tragedy that unfolded in New Orleans and our Gulf Region.  Soon, however, each and every one of us will begin to feel the indirect effects of Katrina.  Initially, they will be largely economic.  Although the media has so far concentrated on potentially rising fuel costs, there is much, much more to the story.

When the markets closed on Friday, September 2, the Dow was up 50 points for the week, and oil futures, which had peaked at over $70 dollars a barrel on Wednesday, closed thee points lower.  It seemed that the markets' collective judgment echoed that of the White House, that Katrina would be at most a minor setback in a robust economy.

There were some ominous signs, however.  Coffee futures were up 10 percent and the price of sugar rose, while farmers' prices for corn and soybeans fell, according to the Financial Times.  Most discussions of Katrina's economic effects highlighted oil issues. Others made comparisons to the bounceback after 9/11, concluding that we would experience only a short, sharp shock.  But commodity price fluctuations point the way to the real story.  We are all about to find out what Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson knew almost instinctively:  New Orleans may be the most important city in America--and it is now largely under water.  

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