Stan Greenberg has an important TPM Cafe article, “For Democrats, Time To Seize The Moment” that should be a huge wake-up call for Party leaders. Greenberg argues that there is an historic opportunity for Dems to win not just a majority, but a working majority — if adequate funding is provided for a larger list of winnable campaigns. Read the whole article and discussion thread. Here’s an excerpt:
These moments come once or twice in a political life time. When the Republican built a 26 seat majority, they used their incumbency and their social networks to hold on to Congress for over a decade. We have the chance to build a comparable majority, which will impact politics for the next decade.
The risk is that our activists and donors and party leaders are satisfied with winning when there is an opportunity for a real majority. The difference between governing with a 5-seat majority and a 25-seat majority is night and day. In one scenario you spend your life trying to keep the 5 moderate Democrats from voting with the Republicans; in the other, you are able to achieve a unity that can really enact progressive things.
The last thing we want to see the day after the election are 10 seats where the Republicans were able to hold on by a 100 votes.
I don’t spare anybody in this call for change. The big donors from 2004 haven’t stepped up; the DNC is hardly a player; activist on-line groups are doing impressive things but operating in fewer states and districts. The two party committees have raised historic amounts of money and now have to make choices about how much debt and how broad a playing field.
The key is for all involved to look at this as an historic election and make choices now that reflect the moment.
This is also a moment for Democrats to let voters know what they stand for and what they want to do for the country. There are a lot of voters ready to vote for change who would be relieved to discover that Democrats want to rise above the partisan polarization to do the people’s business. That means Medicare, negotiating lower drug and health care costs, raising the minimum wage instead of congressional salaries, a new direction in Iraq and working for energy independence.
That is the missing piece for voters who want change.
If the polls are correct this time, and let us be clear that they are not always on target, it appears that the battle to win a Democratic majority of the U.S. Senate may come down to the four closest races, as Democratic candidates are pulling ahead in other key Senate contests. The two closest in the polls as of today are in Virginia and Tennessee, where the polls are showing a dead heat. Next are Missouri and New Jersey, where Democrats hold a very slight lead.
One of the simplest ways to help Democrats win a majority of the Senate is to make a contribution to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Or, support the four Democratic candidates locked in the closest races:
Harold Ford for U.S. Senate
Jim Webb for U.S. Senate
Bob Menendez United States Senator
Claire McCaskill for U.S. Senate
Between now and November 7th any of the four races could become less competitive. Or other races could suddenly become toss-ups. But it is likely that these races will stay pretty close. Time is short, so a quick contribution to any of the aforementioned links would be a much-needed investment in winning a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate.
The good news is that Democrats have expanded the number of congressional seats they can pick up on Nov. 7 beyond what most insiders thought possible six months ago — as many as 41 in the House, according to DCorps strategist Stan Greenberg, and 7 in the senate. The bad news is that they are far short of the cash needed to run competitive campaigns. According to Jim VandeHei’s WaPo article “Funding Constrains Democrats: Party Chiefs See Chance to Take 40-Plus Seats With TV Push,” Dems face some painful choices over the next two+ weeks:
Some Democratic officials and donors want their money concentrated to maximize the chances that the party captures the minimum number of seats necessary to gain majorities in the House and the Senate, rather than having resources spread too thin by spending on second-tier targets….It would be virtually impossible to expand the number of House seats with fully competitive races without taking some money away from efforts to win back the Senate.
…The DCCC is likely to go deep into debt, perhaps topping the $11 million deficit it racked up in 2004. The committee can borrow as much as a bank is willing to lend. The other option is to take money out of Republican districts that the party is confident it is almost certain to win.
This approach carries a big risk, however. If the party pulls ads in districts such as the Indiana base of Rep. Chris Chocola, who is trailing by double digits in private Democratic polling, it might allow an established GOP incumbent to creep back up in the race.
VandeHei points out that big donors, including George Soros, are not giving as much to congressional campaigns as in 2004, prefering to invest in long-term growth. DCorps strategists Stan Greenberg and James Carville and are now calling on Dem campaigns to borrow as much as they can to close the cash shortfall. As James Carville puts it:
I am saying this is a twice-in-a-lifetime environment… You try to maximize it.
For both parties, it’s all about saturating districts with TV ads over the next two plus weeks, and the GOP has a strong advantage at present. Smaller contributors will probably decide how large the Dems’ margin of victory will be in the House and whether or not Dems win the Senate. Everyone who wants to see a Democratic majority in Congress should make a contribution NOW.
Southerners are often characterized as “my country, right or wrong” patriots who provide uncritical support for U.S. military intervention anywhere. But this perception may be simplistic and outdated, according to a recent poll now generating considerable buzz around the blogs. Among other findings, Facing South reports that the poll, conducted by Knowledge Networks for the Institute for Southern Studies/School of Public and International Affairs at N. C. State University 9/19-26 (PDF summary here) indicates:
57% of Southerners believe the U.S. “should have stayed out of Iraq,” compared to 44% who think the U.S. “did the right thing” by taking military action. Nationally, 58% of the public believes the U.S. should have stayed out and 43% now agree with military action.
…30% of those polled in Southern states say the U.S. should “withdraw completely” from Iraq. Those in non-Southern states were less likely to call for a total withdrawal of U.S. troops (26%), but more likely to think U.S. troop levels should be decreased “some” or “a lot” – 34% in non-Southern states, compared to 26% in the South. Put together, 56% of Southerners and 59% in other regions support a decrease or withdrawal of U.S. troops.
The poll suggests that a political earthquake is beginning to rumble, not just in the blue and purple states, but nation-wide. This should be very good news for Democratic candidates. The poll also raises interesting questions for ’08, nicely put in Devon’s Blog at TPM Cafe:
Is winning without the south possible? Maybe. Is it necessary? Maybe not
As usual, protecting the environment does not show up as a top five voter concern in the polls. But certainly there are voters for whom it is a pivotal issue, and in close elections they could make the difference between victory and defeat. To get up to speed on environmental issues at stake in the mid-terms, check out Amanda Griscom Little’s Alternet article “November’s Most Crucial Enviro Elections.” Turns out there is a lot happening at the state level, as Little notes:
Examples of ambitious state-level environmental initiatives are legion: Twenty-two states have implemented a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) mandating that a certain percentage of electricity come from clean sources such as solar and wind. Ten states have followed California’s lead in adopting clean-car legislation requiring new automobiles to have lower greenhouse-gas emissions starting in the 2009 model year. Seven states in the Northeast have joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative committing to carbon dioxide reductions of 10 percent by 2019. And California has, of course, outdone all the rest by becoming the first state in the nation to impose mandatory caps on greenhouse-gas emissions.
With virtually all of the cutting-edge environmental reforms taking place at the state level, the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters are investing heavily in gubernatorial races. Little also provides an insightful run-down of key Gov races and what’s at stake in NY, PA, MA, MD and FL. As always, Dems are in the best position to benefit from environmental concerns, since few Republicans support substantive environmental reforms.
David D. Kirkpatrick’s New York Times article “Voters’ Allegiances, Ripe for the Picking” includes some very good news for Democrats’ prospects regarding one of the most pivotal constituencies. As Kirkpatrick explains:
…the white working class has voted overwhelmingly for Republicans since Reagan. President Bush widened the Republican advantage among such voters from a margin of 17 percentage points in 2000 to 23 percentage points in 2004, according to exit poll data compiled by Mr. Teixeira, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation.
…Now, that security edge has all but disappeared. Among white voters with no college education, approval of the president’s handling of the war on terrorism had plummeted from a margin of 22 percentage points the summer of 2004 to just 7 percentage points last week, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll.
The reason is that the Iraq quagmire has obliterated the GOP’s cred as the ‘national security party’ and set off a kind of chain reaction. As Teixeira notes:
“Iraq is the squandering of the national security premium the Republicans have been living on,” Mr. Teixeira said. The Republicans’ failure at “standing up” to foreign threats, he argued, had diminished their credibility on a whole cluster of “values” issues like “standing up for what is right” as well.
That, he contended, is vindicating his argument for a Democratic ascendance: if the Democrats can cut their margin of defeat among white workers, they can build a durable national majority from their coalition of professionals, women, African-Americans and the fast-growing Hispanic population. Although Mr. Bush’s popularity with Hispanics at one time threatened to dislodge them from the Democratic bloc, the Republican moves this year to build a wall along the Mexican border has effectively pushed them back.
“That is fatal,” Mr. Teixeira said.
And the effects may reverberate for years, ventures DCCC chairman Rep. Rahm Emanuel:
Iraq has the potential to be to the Republican Party on national security what the Depression was to the Republican Party on economics.
The return of the white working class to the Democratic fold would insure Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. For now the trend line for this key constituency suggests a bright blue election.
Thomas Friedman’s column in today’s New York Times addresses the centrality of energy independence as a priority for both national security and winning elections. Friedman interviewed Democracy Corps’ James Carville on the topic, and got this savory spoonful of political wisdom:
It should “not be part of an expanding litany, but rather a contracting narrative,” explained Mr. Carville. “It can’t just be that we are for a woman’s right to choose, and education and energy independence. This is the thing we need to get done above and beyond everything else.” People should associate “energy security” with Democrats the way they associate “tax cuts” with Republicans, he argued. “This is not something to add to the stew — this is the stock.”
Carville and DCorps’ Stanley Greenberg have more to say in the column about energy independence as critical for our national security and a leading priority with voters. All of which adds up to a huge advantage for Dems, especially given the GOP’s shameful track record on auto mileage standards, alternative energy and energy conservation.
From the Managing Editor:
The following essay by Scott Harris marks the first in what we hope will be a regular feature on the Daily Strategist blog and the TDS website: Strategy from Young Democrats. The editors and I are interested in well-written, empirically based pieces from college students and other young Democrats. Please send submissions — with some information about yourself — to firstname.lastname@example.org. -sw
Institutional Corruption and the Midterm Elections
by Scott Harris
Political handicappers all over the country were scrambling in the early days of October to be the first to predict how the new rush of scandals, from a pedophilic Congressman to a book by Bob Woodward depicting a systematic deception of the American people and deliberate manipulation of Iraq facts by their president, will impact the 2006 midterm elections. Of course, our gut feeling tells us that scandal is bad and the public will react negatively against the people in power when things in government go poorly. While there has been no dearth of polling to back up a lot of the analysis that is about to be made here, with common political reasoning alone, some strong inferences can be made.
Since the beginning of instant politics, there have always been a few golden tools that candidates stick to in the art of campaigning. The first and foremost is television advertisements. Positive ads are known to increase turnout and harden support from the candidates’ base and leaners. Negative ads are known to depress turnout and soften an opposing candidate’s support among unaffiliated and undecided voters. You can bet that the GOP is worried about these effects of Foley and Woodward’s Iraq book.
First, examine with specificity how a depressed turnout is likely to affect swing districts in November. The GOP was already nervous about how two years’ worth of bad news was going to affect their GOTV operations so the Democrats started with an advantage. Based on my analysis, depressed Election Day turnout of Republican voters puts at least a dozen seats in play that ordinarily wouldn’t be.
In order for the Republicans to pull off a victory in contests like the one in Nebraska – where populist Democrat Scott Kleeb is facing off against Adrian Smith for an open seat – the Party has to turn out the group that has been its most valuable asset in the past three elections: evangelical voters. Kleeb to some extent has reinvigorated the Nebraska Democratic Party and, with some help from the DNC, the campaign is swinging into a high-gear voter-targeting outfit. Baron Hill (IN-09), Brad Ellsworth (IN-08), and Joe Donnelly (IN-02) are part of a revival that has the state party poised to do the impossible in Indiana – give Democrats control of the Congressional delegation and the state House. The Partisan Voter Index (PVI) of those districts is R+7, R+9 and R+4, respectively. Simply put, Democrats ordinarily should not be favored to win those three seats. Shuler in NC-11, Space in OH-18, Kilroy in OH-15, Burner in WA-08 and Weaver in KY-02 are a few more examples. And, by the way, the same is true for Democrats currently holding onto red seats. In most other elections, John Barrow (GA-12), Jim Marshall (GA-8) and Chet Edwards (TX-18) would be campaigning in hyper mode to ensure they weren’t bounced by an upstart conservative Republican.
Democrats are competitive because GOP turnout is predicted to be dampened in deep red country, and the scandals of Foley and the handling of the Iraq war will only serve to make the situation worse. Christian conservatives were already flirting with the suggestion that evangelicals stay home to punish the Republicans for failing to pursue their agenda fiercely enough and have written a string of editorials, including several from prominent and influential members of the Republican cause. In the latest Hotline poll, the approval rating of Congress was 28%. In another recent L.A. Times poll, Democrats bested Republicans as the party that would be more equipped to govern, 44% to 38%. Does anyone think those numbers are going to get better for the Republicans?
Second, examine more generally how a negative political environment will impact the likelihood that already competitive seats become Dem-favored and how October uncertainty would force the GOP into bad or just plain stupid decisions. The Foley scandal and other recent revelations, even in this early media stage, have put a few GOP leaders on alert for re-election and, thus, have disrupted the Republican media machine.
Going into the last month before the elections, Bush was providing the Republican Party something of a redemption. His approval ratings ticked back up into the 40s, after a summer of mid-30s and the Party’s marks on terrorism and the War in Iraq also enjoyed modest bumps. Then Bill Clinton faced off with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, and Woodward’s book came out. And in the next media cycle, attention was turned to Bush’s efforts to combat terrorism (or lack thereof) before 9/11. The Foley sex scandal broke loose on Washington a few days later and no one wanted to talk about Iraq, terrorism or pre-9/11 efforts to kill bin Laden. They wanted to talk about how the GOP leadership mishandled having a child predator in their midst.
A strong, united campaign message has been the centerpiece of the Republican strategy since the Contract with America. What about the scandal has knocked Republicans out of their usually disciplined message operation?
First, the Foley scandal has put two seats of GOP leaders in jeopardy. Tom Reynolds (NY-26), the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, or the man responsible for electing Republicans to Congress, is trailing his challenger (Jack Davis). Many people in Washington and in his district see the writing on the wall and understand this is a seat they just lost. Very unexpectedly, the seat of House Speaker Dennis Hastert is suddenly a prize to be won. No polling has been released on this race as of this writing, but you can bet that both the NRCC and the DCCC have one in the field right now and depending on the results, we should see whether or not the Speaker has just made himself a prime target for the midterm elections. There is little doubt that last week was the worst press week for Hastert in his political career.
Second, out of fear that they could be next on the chopping block, Republicans are turning on Republicans. Kirk Fordham, a now former aide to both ex-Rep. Foley and Rep. Reynolds, told the AP that he warned Hastert’s office three years ago about Foley’s inappropriate contact with pages. That seems to back up the account of Majority Leader Boehner. The denials coming from the Speaker’s office aren’t really denials, which leaves it to speculation that someone is going to find out that these meetings did take place, the Republican leadership did discuss Foley, and chose to do nothing. No one wants to have their career in Washington end because they couldn’t place the blame on someone else.
Scott Harris is a freshman at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and is studying political science. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Facing South‘s Chris Kromm blogs on an article in Hastings Wyman’s ‘s Southern Political Report predicting a net pick-up of seven southern House seats for Dems. Wyman, identified by Kromm as a “former Republican operative,” says Dems will pick up FL 13, 16 and 22; Ky 4; NC 11; TX 22; and Va 2. He rates FL 8 and NC 8 as toss-ups.
If Wyman is right, the south may contribute a healthy portion of the Democrats’ expected margin of victory. And with Harold Ford and James Webb running highly competitive campaigns in TN and VA respectively, it’s possible the South could also make a significant contribution to winning back the Senate.
Kromm quotes the subtitle of Thomas Schaller’s forthcoming In These Times article “Where the Seats Are,” making a very different prediction: “The Democrats are going to gain seats in the 2006 midterms, and those gains will come from outside the South.” Schaller’s view gets a little boost from an article in yesterday’s New York Times “Georgia Home to Two of a Rare Breed — the At-risk Democrat” about the possibility of Dems losing two House seats, GA 8 and 12.
June Kronholz article “Uphill Climb: Registering Hispanics to Vote” in today’s Wall St. Journal provides a discouraging update on efforts to register Latino voters. If Kronholz is right, and we need to hear from other sources on this, Hispanic registration and turnout will fall well short of optimistic goals bandied about in the wake of this year’s massive demonstrations in support of immigrant rights. The stakes are high, and the immigration issue could be pivotal in specific races, as Kronholz notes:
Hispanics are the largest minority group in the U.S. and account for more than half of all foreign-born immigrants. But historically, most of them can’t or don’t file for citizenship, and most of those who do file don’t vote. For example, during a recent week, 28,000 immigrants became citizens. If past patterns hold, 6,160 are Hispanic, and just 3,572 of them will register to vote.
The untapped potential means both political parties have much at stake in the immigration debate. The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, an advocacy group, estimates there are 9.4 million immigrants — both Hispanic and non-Hispanic — who are eligible to become citizens and vote. That is almost three times the popular-vote margin for President Bush in the 2004 election.
In a half-dozen swing states, the immigrant vote this year could be decisive for the party that can harness it. The Illinois Coalition says that in Florida, there are 870,000 potential votes among immigrants eligible to naturalize and their voting-age U.S.-born children. An additional 77,000 U.S.-born children of immigrants will be old enough to cast ballots in Florida in the 2008 election, it adds.
The WSJ article has an interesting chart noting that, while Hispanics are the largest demographic minority, they remain a distant third in eligible voters and voter turnout. There are 148.2 million white citizens over the age of 18, compared to 23.3 million African Americans, 16.1 million Latinos and 3.3 million Asians nationwide. But the 2004 voter turnout percentages show an even greater gap that cries out for a more aggressive voter registration program by Democrats: white 67; Black 60; Hispanic 47 and Asian 44.
Voter registration deadlines for ’06 have passed in most states, but it’s not too late to put more resources into increasing turnout. And on the morning after the election, Dems should begin planning for a stronger registration program for ’08.