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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Purple-ing of the Democrats

By Thomas Riehle
The size of the Democratic majority in the 110th Congress will alter the shape of American politics for the remainder of President Bush’s term, into the 2008 Presidential contest, and beyond — and because of the demographics of the districts electing all those new Democrats to Congress, it will alter the character of the national Democratic Party as well. Majority Watch conducts polls of 1,000 or more voters (margin of error ± 3.1) in each contested House race, and if current trends continue, Democrats will hold 222 to 230 seats in the 110th Congress (218 is a majority).
Whether that new Democratic House majority extends beyond 230 seats — and more importantly, whether that majority extends beyond the 110th Congress — depends on how well Democrats adapt themselves to the new demographic realities of the party’s broadened geographic base. Democratic House members will represent constituencies and trends that will force the House Democratic Caucus and the national Democratic Party to put up a wider tent than it has housed itself in these past six years.
Democrats will win:

  • Suburban seats that are home to corporate managers, where one-third or more of the voters have a bachelor’s degree or better. In Majority Watch (MW) polls conducted by RT Strategies and Constituent Dynamics in October, the Democratic candidates had solid leads outside the margin of error, and in many cases already claimed 50% of the vote or more, in places like Ohio 15th near Columbus, where 38% of households boast adults in managerial positions, and Pennsylvania 6th and Pennsylvania 7th, where more than 40% are managers. Democrats are making competitive races in other places where managers make up 40% or more of the electorate: Washington 8th south of Seattle, and in suburban seats bracketing New York City on all sides (New Jersey 7th, New York 3rd on Long Island, and Connecticut 4th). The Chicago suburbs (Illinois 6th, 8th and 10th) have not swung as enthusiastically to the Democrats, however, and remain no better than close contests.
  • Small-town, working-class seats where half or more of the adults pursue their goals in life with, at best, a high school education. In MW polls, Democrats had leads of 7 points or more in races in both central and western North Carolina, in small-town upstate and western New York and northeastern Pennsylvania, both northern and southern Indiana, and in southeastern Ohio. Across the Ohio River, Democrats are giving Republican incumbents all they can handle in Kentucky’s northern House seats, where adults are about twice as likely (or more) to have a high-school education than a college degree; districts with similar educational patterns in northern Wisconsin, and in West Virginia, Iowa and Texas are all either easy Democratic elections in Democratic seats once deemed potentially vulnerable, or close races where Democrats are trying to take over Republican seats.

The appeal of Democratic House candidates in some places will transcend barriers that have kept Democrats locked in the House minority since 1994:

  • The marriage gap, where married people vote Republican and singles vote Democratic, cannot persist if Democrats hope to hold onto their gains. In MW polls in October, Democratic candidates were leading by 7 points or more in only one seat where 63% or more of the adults are married, but if the Democratic victory expands in the final weeks beyond the 222-seat majority MW polling projects today (with Democratic leads outside the margin of error), it will be because of victories in many places where 63% or more of adults are married (and the races are within the margin of error in MW polls today): Wisconsin 8th (Green Bay), Illinois 8th (a Democratically-held district), New York 3rd (Rep. Peter King’s Long Island district), Illinois 6th (Retiring Rep. Henry Hyde’s district), Florida 16th (Rep. Foley’s former district), Minnesota 6th (where the Democratic candidate’s background led her to focus on what the Foley scandal says about the commitment of Republican leaders in Washington to protect children from predators), and New Jersey 7th and Washington 8th, suburbs south of New York City and Seattle, respectively.
    The Democratic Party’s northeastern base will be solidified, while in-roads will be made in other places as well.

  • The blue tide is a northeastern tide, with strength all down the Ohio River and in scattered places out West as well. This blue tide rises in Connecticut, where Democrats will take at least one and maybe as many as three Republican seats, carries across New York, where Democrats will win at least three and possibly as many as six Republican seats, through far northeastern Pennsylvania (a state where Democrats will see at least two and possibly three pick-ups), then down the Ohio River where almost every contiguous seat on both sides of the river clear down past Indiana is an open seat or a vulnerable Republican-held seat and Democrats could win most of them (at least on the river’s northern bank, and very possibly on the southern bank in Kentucky, as well). It does not stop there: Democrats are competitive in northern Wisconsin, southern Minnesota, central and eastern Iowa, as well as in the suburbs of Denver and Seattle and in the New Mexico 1st House district.
    Most importantly, in Florida, North Carolina and New York, Republicans say they will cross over to vote for the Democratic House candiCATEGORY: Editor’s Corner

  • The Democratic takeover is a reaction against Bush, Bush policies, and the Republican majorities in Congress that enabled Bush. Voters in the first 74 MW House polls (a total sample of 74,448) disapprove (53%) rather than approve (39%) Bush’s job performance. Since all but 7 of those 74 polls were conducted in seats held by Republicans, the failure of Bush to score better than his weak national numbers for job performance indicates why these particular seats are the most vulnerable for Republicans.
  • In some House races, the weakness of a Republican candidate or incumbent in a Republican-held seat is in part a reaction of Republican voters against the national Republican Party. Disaffected Republican voters in those districts will send a message to the national Party by voting against the Republican candidate in their House election. Overall, across the 74 polls, 67% of Republican voters approve but 22% disapprove of Bush’s performance. Among those Republican voters who disapprove of Bush, only 41% will vote for the Republican House candidate, 53% the Democrat. The districts where disaffected Republican voters who disapprove of Bush are most likely to vote Democratic in their House election are North Carolina 8th (69% of Republicans who disapprove of Bush will vote for the Democratic House candidate), North Carolina 11th (70%), Florida 13th (85%), Florida 16th (70%), Florida 22nd (69%), New York 26th –the home of NRCC chairman Reynolds (75%), and New York 24th –the open seat of departing Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (64%). In New York, North Carolina and Florida, Republican disgust with national Republican policies or behavior will benefit the 2006 House candidate — then it will be up to that Democratic winner to retain the loyalties of some of those disaffected Republicans (and Democrats are significantly ahead in MW polls in the New York and North Carolina races).
    Politics (beyond the organization of the 110th Congress under a Democratic Speaker) will resonate to the sound of this political earthquake for years to come.

  • Politics will be altered by the ability or inability of political leaders to help themselves by helping others. Sen. Hillary Clinton in New York will get credit for an assist when a handful or more of new Democratic House Members arrive from New York (and National Republican Congressional Campaign Chairman Tom Reynolds of New York will prove, if proof was needed, that it is a bad omen for a party when the congressional campaign chairman’s own race is irretrievably lost before the trees in the mid-Atlantic forests even turn colors for the fall). Sen. Evan Bayh will be more plausible as a national Democratic candidate in 2008 if three of his state’s nine House seats change hands from Republicans to Democrats in 2006. Republican Presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain of Arizona will not be strengthened as Arizona 8th became a hopeless cause for Republicans in early October and two other Arizona seats (1st and 5th) are in play as well.

In the final three weeks of the campaign, longtime leading Democratic strategists such as Stan Greenberg and James Carville urge the party to maximize the once-in-a-generation opportunity the 2006 election offers Democrats by reaching out for every seat that is even conceivably contestable. Netroots newcomers, however, are not so ambitious, preferring to see the Democrats focus their attention on locking in their potential gains rather than reaching too far and “blowing it.”
That reflects an ironic turn of events for internal Democratic Party strategic debate. Netroots newcomers, throughout 2000, 2002 and 2004, complained bitterly about the cautiousness of Democratic campaign insiders in Washington. Now the tables are turned. Political guru Charlie Cook calls it a generation gap in perceptions of what is happening in 2006. Old-timers who lived through 1974 and 1994 have felt all year that 2006 could develop into an enormous, earthshaking Democratic sweep—they’d seen this kind of thing before, and this felt like that. Netroots activists, in contrast, have not seen that kind of sweeping election victory before — their experience has been largely a series of narrow, nail-biting elections with winners and losers determined by a handful of seats in a 50-50 political world.
Because of their different experiences, netrooters have dismissed talk of a sweep as so much old-timer mysticism. Old-timers have been unable to believe the netrooters do not see what is clearly before their eyes. As a result of their different experiences, netrooters are also more focused on carefully bringing home every victory that’s clearly in reach and leaving nothing to chance in any race, while the old-timers are wondering whether a bank would loan the DNC $5 million or $10 million against future contributions to expand their reach from 30 targeted seats to 50. Old-timers are also speculating about whether they should count as won the top ten prospective take-overs and shift resources from those seats to the Tier 3 opportunities.
Whichever direction the party takes in the final weeks — whether a cautious, button-down strategy designed to make no mistakes and lose no birds in the hand, or a more “all-in,” go-for-broke strategy that seeks every possible bird in every possible bush — one outcome is certain: A very different, more mainstream, more suburban and small-town, greatly expanded House Democratic caucus will present a new face of the Democratic Party to the country as the 2008 Presidential election gets underway on November 8.

Thomas Riehle is the co-founder of RT Strategies, a bipartisan polling firm in Washington D.C. Majority Watch is a joint project of RT Strategies and Constituent Dynamics, a non-partisan automated recorded-voice polling firm in Seattle Washington. Majority Watch is designed to track trends in the fight for control of the U.S. House of Representatives by means of polls of 1000 or more likely voters in each contested House race.

40 comments on “The Purple-ing of the Democrats

  1. Susan H on

    Whether the netroots “got it” (they did understand how the party needed to change, but they can perhaps be forgiven for being afraid to hope, after 2004) is no longer the issue. Or it shouldn’t be. The Democrats have to come to peace with their netroots. Too many people contribute to MoveOn, read The Daily Kos, etc. for the party to be able to ignore this group. For James Carville to get into it with Howard Dean is just WRONG. The party has to hang together, or, as the man said, we shall surely hang separately! The Old Guard and the Net Rootists have to work together now.

  2. uncle_milton on

    Bill Broadhead for all your obvious success in your chosed field, you are simply repeated accepted truth as if its a revelation. AGAIN, no one is disputing that the netroots (and “kos” is some guy?!?! I hope thats hyperbole) are not prepared to declare victory. The question at hand is whether or not the netroots, at any time, ever, suggested that we (Democrats) should ease up and focus on certain races. The idea that you can’t see that is simply gobsmacking (or you are simply refusing to argue in good faith). Which is it?

  3. Bill Broadhead on

    Wait, your evidence of broad Netroots caution is one post Bowers wrote which he retracted a few minutes later?

    Evidence? Obviously the netroots are far from monolithic, but here’s one guy I’ve been reading…

    by kos – Sep 14, 2006

    Constitutent Dynamics, the new outfit that polled 30 House races a week or so ago, has its Indiana numbers (PDF). And while quite delicious and with a low MoE of 3%, they seem a tad, well, optimistic.  
    by kos – Oct 12, 2006
    Quick analysis? 1) I think this is too optimistic for the Dems, but encouraging, 
    by kos – Oct 18, 2006
    Majority Watch has six new polls out. … These numbers feel a bit too optimistic.
    by kos – Oct 30, 2006
    I can’t tell whether the Majority Watch polls are too optimistic for our side, or merely reflective of a terrible environment for Republicans. 

    This kos guy wasn’t just skeptical of how well democrats were performing in our research. When Charlie Cook predicted a wave in August, he hedged. 

    “I think Dems will make significant gains, but I’m not ready to predict a Democratic House (or Senate) just yet.”

    In truth, this is a stupid debate. Some insiders and bloggers have been predicting a wave. And some insiders and bloggers have been more skeptical. There’s plenty of “evidence” for all sides.
    Who was right? We’ll know on Tuesday night.

  4. uncle_milton on

    Bill Broadhead

    your’re kidding right? the entire thrust of the article is that “one paragraph” that simply isn’t true. One (immediately) recanted statement doesn’t “netroots newcomers” make. Bowers is the man of ALL men here, but to make 20 minutes of doubt (of one person) into “netroots newcomers” is ridiculous. Just say you were wrong, edit the essay and then we call all play in the sandbox. Again with the changing of subject, has anyone disputed that the netroots are more circumspect re: declaring victory. We all did in 2004, you “insiders” blew it. So sure, we aren’t declaring victory yet, just everything else.

  5. kos on

    Wait, your evidence of broad Netroots caution is one post Bowers wrote which he retracted a few minutes later?
    And Thomas Rhiele’s “response” above fails to support his claim that, “Netroots newcomers, however, are not so ambitious, preferring to see the Democrats focus their attention on locking in their potential gains rather than reaching too far and “blowing it.”
    You guys are ridiculous.

  6. Bill Broadhead on

    First, disclosure. I am a partner in Constituent Dynamics, a Seattle-based polling firm that is conducting the Majority Watch polling project with Thom Riehle of RT Strategies.
    Second, I don’t think Thom set out to diss the netroots, rewrite history or “steal the credit” from them.
    As he stated above, and any reasonable observer would conclude, the netroots have been out in front on expanding the playing field. And they’ve done more than talk. They have recruited candidates, raised money, run phonebanks…done the hard work to put districts in play that wouldn’t have otherwise been viable for Democrats. There’s no question. As has been pointed out, this strategy went against the conventional wisdom espoused by many insiders and professional prognosticators who earlier refused to believe there could be 60+ seats in play.
    The netroots were right. The wave grew and the number of competitive races increased rapidly. Because many of these districts had very viable challengers, the RNCC has been forced to play a rapid game of “whack-a-mole” as more and more strong Democratic challengers emerged in seats they had taken for granted.
    Given this backdrop, in mid-October, there was a debate. The Democratic campaign committees were weighing whether to deficit-spend in an attempt to take better advantage of the rapidly increasing number of seats in play.
    And there was a legitimate difference of opinion in the netroots and the Democratic establishment about the best course of action.
    Given the history, one would have probably thought that the James Carville’s and Charlie Cook’s of the world would have recommended a conservative approach and the netroots would have generally been on the side of go for broke.
    Ironically, however, Carville and Cook were arguing the Democrats should go for broke. Some in the netroots argued for caution. Others for all-in.
    This is the debate – and moment in time – that I think Thom was trying to highlight.
    It was a tough decision for Democrats. Chris Bowers of MyDD (one of the most reliable bloggers on our Majority Watch project) best illustrates the gut-check on this major decision.
    “Given the desperate need for long term infrastructure building and the definite possibility that this election represents a once in a decade opportunity, the DNC has adopted a strategy where they are continuing their current financing of the fifty-state strategy, and also taking out a large loan to help out a few key districts.
    “This is a risky gamble, one that I have to say I don’t like very much. If we come up short in any of these races, then that will be money the DNC could have spent on continuing to hire organizers in all fifty states. We will also have to pay back some debt after the election, instead of immediately working on 2008. Both of these are drags on our long-term goals.”
    20 minutes later, ironically in a post about our polling in six House races in NY and IL where we showed surprising Democratic strength, Chris wrote:
    “Also, forget what I wrote in the previous post. Take out the loans. Dump it all now, and dump it everywhere. We will pick up the mess after November 7th. With numbers like this, we need to throw everything we have into these elections, and then some.”
    There were compelling arguments on each side and, as Chris Bowers illustrated, it was a tough call.
    On September 9th, Charlie Cook published a column about the generational differences of election watchers. He compared those under age 40, who tended to look at each race individually and are less open to a sweep, with those over 40 who have lived through a couple of massive political waves and sense something big is coming this year. Clearly, Charlie was talking about professional political operatives and not the netroots. I found it to be a very interesting read.
    Finally, let me say something about Thom Riehle. When my business partner Chris Bushnell and I came up with the idea of doing self-funded, independent polls in every first, second and third tier House race, most traditional pollsters would have said we were crazy. Never before had someone tried to do so many polls – with such large sample sizes – in an election cycle. Moreover, we were using IVR technology, an anathema to traditional pollsters and DC insiders.
    But Thom heard us out. He asked lots of tough questions about our process and methodology. He suggested ways to make it better and when he was satisfied about the integrity of the project, he partnered with us.
    Our first test poll was in PA-10 in mid-August. The results came back showing Democratic challenger Chris Carney up six over the Republican incumbent. Previous Democratic polls had shown Carney down four and six points respectively. When we did our first batch of polling, the PA-10 results showed Carney up seven – almost exactly the same as the test poll.
    Most traditional pollsters and DC insiders would have bowed to conventional wisdom and said it was impossible for the Democrat to be leading. But Thom Riehle urged us to let the numbers speak for themselves.
    When we released the PA-10 numbers in September, nearly everyone said we were crazy. No way could a Democrat be winning against Sherwood. But Thom stuck to his guns. Today, CQ moved PA-10 into the “lean Democratic” column.
    Pissed at Thom for one paragraph in a long article? Fine. Ask him tough questions. Hear him out. Then decide for yourself.

  7. Ed Fitzgerald (unfutz) on

    Ah… did the miss the part where Riehle apologized for mischaracterizing the netroots, and crediting others with its position? Or the part where the netroots (via Chris Bowers’ “Use It Or Lose It” campaign) came up with a way for the Democratic establishment to spend more money without necessarily borrowing it all?
    Did I miss those things? Because what I believe I just read is a pretty pathetic version of “Why can’t we all just get along?” instead of a substantive discussion of the errors inherent in his essay.
    I probably read it too quickly — ya think?

  8. uncle_milton on

    ‘Netroots newcomers, however, are not so ambitious, preferring to see the Democrats focus their attention on locking in their potential gains rather than reaching too far and “blowing it.”‘

    Mr. Reihl, you seem to be completely missing the point. There is simply no basis anywhere for this statement. And your quote at the end,

    “Two different groups of Democratic strategists, arguing from two different sets of experiences, and now a week from the election, in agreement on what the Democratic strategy should be. Isn’t that the whole point of The Democratic Strategist?”

    is true, but has nothing to do with a single comment that has been posted, and is not a response. Its literalness is true, but its implication is not. Do you not see that?

  9. Thomas Riehle on

    Aren’t we talking about two different things here? It goes without saying that throughout 2006, the 50-state strategy and the calls for individual contributions that might raise Tier 3 challengers to the upper tiers came most often (to their credit) from outsiders, based on their experience of extreme dissatisfaction with the passivity of Democratic strategies in 2000, 2002 and 2004. The recommendation in October for the Democratic Party itself to borrow a lot of money and even shift resources out of Tier 1 races to Tier 3 races came from a pair of insiders, arising from a different set of experiences–they had been involved at the highest levels in the rare circumstances of this kind of wave election, and had a suggestion about how to take advantage of circumstances developing in 2006. Two different groups of Democratic strategists, arguing from two different sets of experiences, and now a week from the election, in agreement on what the Democratic strategy should be. Isn’t that the whole point of The Democratic Strategist?

  10. Jason on

    I completely agree with Charles an MNPundit, etc. This is clearly yet another attmept to discredit the netroots despite the fact their work laid the foundation for the success we’re seeing now (everyone who is even slightly familiar with progressive blogs konw that the 50 state strategy is a wholly owned product of blogs and their candidate in 2004 Howard Dean, anyone who says different has an agenda). How could something this spectaularly black-is-white wrong not inspires a little paranoia regarding Riehle’s motives in progressives who have been politically marginalized their entire life. A retraction and apology is in order, the sooner the better!

  11. MNPundit on

    Look I just want to add that leaving this piece up as is when it is demonstrably and extremely wrong stains the image of The Democratic Strategist as a whole.
    I would highly recommend to the editors that they either 1) have Mr. Rhiele add an apology or at least an acknowledgment of his numerous mistakes of fact or 2) place links to the refutation of his thesis about the netroots at the bottom of the article–with numerous posts on sites like MyDD and DailyKos it would be very simple to do…
    …or The Democratic Strategist could continue to knowingly and unfortunately soil their image and credibility.

  12. Charles on

    I sure would like for Mr. Riehle to respond. Every one of the comments debunks the article. A response, a culpa mea would prove that this isn’t revisionism in advance of a huge sweep so as to not let the netroots claim credit for what they’ve done.
    Call us paranoid, but we’ve seen this all before and so have reason to be paranoid.

  13. Dan on

    Ok, obviously Riehle is blatently wrong. But not, I believe, because he lives in bizarro world. I think it’s because he has bought into the DC insider “perception is reality” bit.
    When, for example, the front pagers on mydd.com talk about how it won’t be a massive sweep election, but then ask people to work to make it so… that means they don’t want it to be so, since they said it won’t. What matters to them is rhetoric, not reality.
    So, in other words, people who are optimistic and see a sweep “caused” the sweep, never mind that they advocated against the policies and strategies that actually caused the sweep. On the other hand, those who are pessimists obviously will cause a massive defeat.
    Compare it to the right wing on Iraq and Vietnam.

  14. InsultComicDog on

    See what happens when you misrepresent the netroots?
    The fact is, the netroots were way out in front of the “strategists” and the evidence for it, still in the blog archives, is very overwhelming.

  15. TheBlaz on

    I wrote about this on dailykos, via discovering it from digby.
    Well, maybe this means the netroots driven strategy is working, since otherwise, why would they be so obviously trying to steal the credit?
    More research next time, please!

  16. Mimikatz on

    Mr. Riehle, we do appreciate all the polling your organization has done in the House races. However, in that part of your analysis dealing with the netroots you are seriously off-base and out of your area of expertise.
    While most of this post is interesting, Riehle is just dead wrong about the netroots. Obviously he is not a regular reader of blogs, but was given this information. Or else, he read one of Chris Bowers’ posts about not getting too enthusiastic.
    Riehle has clearly confused these cautious predictions with actual netroots activity, as evidenced by the fundraising pages and constant efforts to get the DCCC to expand the field. No group has been more tireless than the netroots in beating that drum, along with TDS’s own Ruy Teixeira.
    Furthermore, it is the netroots who has been begging the DCCC to put money into races like NE-03, WA-05, ID-01 and WY-AL for weeks now. Just go to Daily Kos and check the tags for these races.
    He may be correct about the geneational lack of belief in a wave, but some of us are old enough to have voted in 1964 and 1974, and on that basis have predicted that the Dems could take the House by a wide margin for weeks.

  17. Gray on

    While his skills at reading polls are impressive, Mr. Riehle seems to be totally out of touch with the netroots. Every regular reader of liberal blogs, even foreign ones like me, knows that the left wing blogosphere pressed for a broader attack on GOP candidates for several years. John Dean election to the helm of the DNC was the result of netroots supporting his ideas for a new approach. Consequently, his 50-state-strategy was enthusiastically received by bloggers and netizen.
    But many established Dem leaders and consultant vehemently opposed him because their favorite candidates would receive less money from the DNC. Now they all have egg on their face, the great progress of the campaign 2006 is clear evidence that Dean and the netroots were right.
    However, it is much too early to bragg about success, this bears the danger that victory will be taken for granted and the GOTV effort will suffer. And once again, the netroots are right in insisting in fighting until the last minute. But while bloggers and activists do the hard work, some of the Dem establishment don’t seem to have anything better to do than adorning oneself with borrowed plumes. Pathetic.

  18. Dumbo on

    Goodness gracious… It would help if the author actually learned what the netroots has been saying about the 50-state strategy before saying such silly things.
    I don’t consider myself “netroots,” but I do consider myself informed enough to know a canard when I see one.
    It seems to me that some people want to take credit for a policy that they demeaned by rewriting history. How many times did we hear people like Emmanuel and Schumer whining about how Howard Dean was wasting money on unimportant races?
    Just a week or two ago, Norah O’Donnel was on MSNBC, chastising Howard Dean for just that same thing again, taking her cues from the usual Bullmoose talking points.
    Presumably, the wiser, older, more established part of the party was looking beyond the immature emotionalism of wasting money on a broad front to the more practical strategery of focusing on the easy races.
    Winston Smith would be amused.

  19. Joyful Alternative on

    What’s this picking up two and possibly three congressional seats in Pennsylvania?
    Conventional wisdom has four and possibly five, and on the ground here in the state we know of some unpolled sleeper races that lead me to suggest a six-seat pickup. (Thanks to the fifty-state strategy, we have Democrats on the ballot to vote for in districts where we had no choice two years ago.)

  20. Califlander on

    Netroots newcomers, however, are not so ambitious, preferring to see the Democrats focus their attention on locking in their potential gains rather than reaching too far and “blowing it.”
    How many moons are there in the sky in on your home planet, Tom?

  21. Able on

    “Thomas Riehle is the co-founder of RT Strategies, a bipartisan polling firm in Washington D.C…”
    This canned analysis seems too pat by half. It’s clear the author has not researched the background behind his striking claims and self-congratulation… especially when given the objections pointed out above, as well as the free avalability of posts documenting the ‘netroots’ motivations and impressions of the political landscape while it unfolded these past years.
    Were I looking for a serious consultant, I would hire one that does his homework, who does not substitute glib assertion for actual fact. The author has advertised what sort of consultant he might make with this article. Congrats, Thomas.

  22. Nell on

    Thomas Riehle: Netroots newcomers, however, are not so ambitious, preferring to see the Democrats focus their attention on locking in their potential gains rather than reaching too far and “blowing it. … As a result of their different experiences, netrooters are also more focused on carefully bringing home every victory that’s clearly in reach and leaving nothing to chance in any race”
    Please name one.
    Also please explain how this view is compatible with the netroots campaign to get unopposed or safe-seat Democrats with more than $200K on hand to give 30% of their campaign funds to help elect House candidates.

  23. Toadvine on

    Good grief!
    Is Thomas Riehl serious? Or is this some kind of a joke?
    Let me get this straight…the “old school” people like Carville are the ones who have been pushing a 50 state strategy all along, while the netroots people have been advocating a more cautious approach.
    Up is down. Left is right.
    We have always been at war with Oceania.
    This is obvious bunk.
    The only question is, why was it published? Who benefits from this kind of lie?

  24. Amanda on

    I couldn’t agree with Bribes or Don more.
    The thesis here is contradicted by reams of easy to find with a bit of research blog posts, commentaries and activism campaigns — ie the Use it or Lose It effort led by MyDD; the progressive blog support of Paul Hacket, Jon Tester, Jim Webb, and numerous other candidates this cycle and last cycle; the progressive campaign to get Howard Dean elected DNC Chair and the overwhelming support ($ and otherwise) from the progressive grassroots for his 50 State Strategy.
    Not to mention — Ned Lamont, whose campaign was backed early by the progressive blogs and activists and stedfastly ignored/disdained by most of the Dem establishment — and that pattern basically still holds despite the fact that Lamont is the party’s nominee (with the noted exception of Kerry and Clark).
    Scott Kleeb in Nebraska. Angie Paccione in Colorado. Victoria Wulsin in Ohio. And on and on. Excellent candidates in normally not Dem friendly districts who have received overwhelming support from the grassroots and, up until several minutes/hours or a few days ago, have received close to nothing from the DSCC and DCCC, despite repeated pleas from the grassroots.
    A correction would be quite appropriate here.

  25. MNPundit on

    What on earth? Netroots newcomers not as ambitious? Who was targeting races? Who was supporting longshot candidates, who was recruiting longshot candidates? Who had the list of all 435 districts and was screaming for weeks about filing deadlines?
    So far all I’ve seen on the blogosphere in regards to expenditures in races completely out in left field has been praise and support. Force the GOP to fight new battles on its own turf distracting and draining its resources.
    Now for the part of the piece that is slightly less that utterly wrong.
    Netroots are more cautious because while they are not teenagers, they average age of the readership is late 30s early 40s. The republicans have been in power for 12 years in Congress. The national discourse has been utterly poisoned for that long. Even the older average netroots people were 30 when this began.
    For the average person, when did you start paying attention to politics? Their entire political life has been one loss orchestrated by Democratic poobahs like Carville or Bob Shrum after another.
    Coupled with our understanding of the vast right wing machine, they have a healthy respect for the power of the GOP so from that perspective all they’ve seen are the mighty GOP machine and Dem losses and attempts to become Republican lite.
    Is it any wonder they remain cautious?
    But stop the offensive against the GOP? I have not seen anyone credible online argue that.
    Bribes you have a nice post.
    Thomas Riehle, perhaps you should check again to make sure you are telling the actual story and not what you wish were happening.

  26. bboyle on

    This is a bizarre misread of what actually happened. No offense, Mr. Riehle, but you clearly need to get out there and actually research this topic. As noted above, dig up Stu Rothenberg’s early-in-the-cycle dismissal of mydd and others work on a 435 district ’06 challenge.

  27. AWhitneyBrown on

    Thank you for your excellent writing and cogent analyis. I don’t read TDS as often as some other blogs, because it updates somewhat less frequently, but, on the other hand, the quality of the writing here is quite high.
    I would like to point out one small error in Riehle’s analysis above, which may have been mentioned already.
    In all the blogs I read, such as MYDD, DKos, Eschaton, TPM, etc, the netroots have unanimously taken the exact opposite approach ascribed to them by Mr. Riehle.
    They advocate nearly to a blog, that the field be expanded, money be borrowed, safe incumbents kick in more money, and so on.
    I actually favor a more cautious approach myself, but my views fall on deaf ears on the blogs, this I can assure you.
    I don’t know if the ‘old school’ guys have also taken the expansive approach, but on the blogs, the word is contest everything with all you got. Dean’s 50 state strategy is universally acclaimed among the netroots.

  28. Kimmitt on

    What the commenters above said — do you seriously have a single example of a prominent liberal blogger doing what you’re saying they’re doing? I think you’re just kinda making stuff up here.

  29. Joe Buck on

    I think that the professional strategists, like James Carville, are trying to save their own butts, by falsely claiming things that are just not so.
    You don’t have to take my word for it; look at the fundraising pages put out by top progressive blogs like Atrios, DailyKos, and Firedoglake. You’ll find plenty of red-state candidates that the Carvilles of the world had written off as hopeless.
    You’ve also got all those guys on the record trashing Howard Dean for his “50 state strategy”, putting money and energy into states where Dems traditionally don’t do well. It is partly thanks to those efforts, cheered on by the netroots and condemned by the party insiders, that we have a good shot at so many seats in traditional Republican strongholds. We might pick up a seat in Idaho, imagine that.

  30. Don on

    Are you insane? Lefty bloggers have done nothing but beg for the list of supported Dem candidates to be increased, for the range of funded candidates to expand, and for the expanse of Democratic commitment to span all 50 states. Can you provide even 2 examples of well-trafficked liberal bloggers who would say otherwise???

  31. Mike on

    It’s a good thing nobody suggested having staffers “wandering around Utah and Mississippi picking their noses.” A person who suggested building the party in deep red states sure would look like a fool now, huh?

  32. flounder on

    Excellent post…from bizarro world. Looks like the old-timers (not one of whom I can recall ever predicting any sort of tidal wave at any point before two weeks ago) are angling to get some credit for the hard work they scoffed at until a few weeks ago.

  33. EarthX on

    “In the final three weeks of the campaign, longtime leading Democratic strategists such as Stan Greenberg and James Carville urge the party to maximize the once-in-a-generation opportunity the 2006 election offers Democrats by reaching out for every seat that is even conceivably contestable. Netroots newcomers, however, are not so ambitious, preferring to see the Democrats focus their attention on locking in their potential gains rather than reaching too far and ‘blowing it.'”
    This has to be the most confusing paragraph on the Democratic election prospects I’ve seen yet.
    For months, it has been the newbies in the netroots that have proclaimed Dean’s “50-state” stategy to be the right way to go and begged the establishment to spend in nearly every district.
    It is the insiders that have been quoted in the press deriding that strategy as a loser, loved only by the “extreme left.” DCCC and DSCC leaders have complained about Dean spending money in red areas instead of their select battlegrounds.
    I’m not sure how it’s possible that anyone paying attention over the last 6 months could get it so completely backwards.
    What happened?

  34. Incandenza H on

    … and Carville’s PR team gets a raise for this, I suppose?:
    “In the final three weeks of the campaign, longtime leading Democratic strategists such as Stan Greenberg and James Carville urge the party to maximize the once-in-a-generation opportunity the 2006 election offers Democrats by reaching out for every seat that is even conceivably contestable. Netroots newcomers, however, are not so ambitious, preferring to see the Democrats focus their attention on locking in their potential gains rather than reaching too far and ‘blowing it.'”
    Smacks of pre-writing a revised kind of rah-rah Establishment history, doesn’t it? One in which the Old Guard turned out to be the brazen upstarts, snatching huge victory out of … well, a possibly more narrow victory (?!) — along with just the tiniest hint of the old, “we meant to blow the last few elections, so we could REALLY clean up in this one” strategy.
    Nice try, Mr. Riehle, but the Netroots made the call first. If victory does come for the Dems (and I surely hope it does), then it’s because the Netroots got the ball rolling and kept it in play — not because long-time Dem operatives got smarter all of a sudden. Let’s give the ‘Roots a hand, shall we… Rather than snatching credit away before votes are even cast?

  35. Bribes on

    Unbelievable. Thomas Riehle clearly has little grasp of what the netroots has advocated for the past two to six years. I’m rather surprised this came to publication since Ruy Teixeira should know better.
    Riehle’s central problem seems to be a correlation between dismissive talk of a sweep and advocating for a cautious approach. Just because the major netroots players are cautious about forecasting a sweep does not mean that they advocate “locking in” the secure seats and abandoning the rest of the country.
    In fact, despite the caution in predicting a sweep, the netroots advocate, and has advocated, an aggressive 50-state for years. Chris Bowers of MyDD.com wanted 80 serious challengers to Republican encumbands not two weeks ago, but years ago. It was the netroots and state parties who propelled Howard Dean and his 50-state strategy into power. It was the netroots who wanted to pound on Iraq while Democratic insiders like DCCC Chairman Rahm Emmanuelle would not mention it. During the 2004 election and interim elections like OH-02 , it was DailyKos and other major netroots sites that adopted candidates who looked like they never had a chance and almost always lost in their pursuit of pushing beyond the “safe” strategy of democratic insiders.
    That the younger political activists have not yet witnessed political sweeps is quite true. All their experience has centered around super-tight races. That makes for caution in predicting sweeps. On the other hand, the solution, as seen by the netroots, is to move beyond the centrist ideal of targeting only the swing districts. By netroots logic, it is exactly that type of closed mentality that has led to such limited opportunities for Democrats. This is exactly the opposite of Mr. Riehle’s assumptions.
    If Thomas Riehle wants some credibility in his future writing here, and if TDS wants credibility as well, there should be a prominent correction of this article. This is pitiful, badly researched reporting that gets basic facts wrong in the face of easily accessible research (at de minimus, Google, and every major netroots site has an archive of every post ever made).

  36. Priscilla, Queen of the Beach on

    I don’t know quite what to make of this post; I am quite puzzled by it, quite frankly. I am an avid follower of Hullabaloo, FireDogLake, the Daily Kos, Eschaton, AMERICAblog, etc. and for months now all of these (and every other “netroots” blog, for that matter) have been deeply supportive of and engaged in Dean’s “50 State Strategy” and have worked tirelessly to support off-the-DLCC-radar candidates. Are you aware of “Yearly Kos” or “Act Blue” or the MoveOn GOTV efforts? Or have you actually read any of the blogs coming from the netroots in the past year? The above-mentioned blogs have helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the campaigns of many, many candidates who aren’t even remotely supported by the DLCC or the DSCC, let alone other democratic officeholders and the national party. They have also done something which none of the experienced old guard election advisors have cared to do: provided a forum for these candidates to talk directly to the base and earn name recognition. Perhaps you are trying to take credit for what you perceive as an inevitable Democratic landslide next Tuesday? Whatever the purpose of this posting, it smacks of the Rovian strategy of taking your own biggest weakness and projecting it onto your opponent. The netroots aren’t going to be fooled and I doubt the base will be either. Credit for trying, though, I suppose. Now step back through the looking glass — we need you to work with us on the GOTV effort now.

  37. Douglas Weinfield on

    Well, it would be nice if either Charlie cook or Mr. Riehle actually identified these purported netroots activists who are so gunshy, or even the long-time activists who were talking about a “sweep” prior to say, August of this year, or even prior to September of this year.
    Opinions are a cheap; data is meaningful.


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