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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Elections Show Emerging Trend Favoring Dems, Progressives

Thoughtful Republicans won’t find much to cheer in the results of Tuesday elections, while both moderate and progressive Democrats are hailing the results.
In the special election to fill the PA-12 congressional seat vacated by the death of Rep. John Murtha, Democrat Mark Critz, a Murtha aide, beat Republican Tim Burns, who Critz will oppose again for the November general election. With 70 percent of precincts counted in the potential bellwether election, Critz lead Burns by a margin of 53-45 percent, according to Paul Pierce’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article.
Democrats were encouraged by the victory in the swing district (2-1 Democratic registration edge, but a Cook PVI rating of R+1), as DNC Chairman Tim Kaine noted:

Tonight’s result demonstrates clearly that Democrats can compete and win in conservative districts, including ones like Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District, which was won by John McCain in 2008…The Republican Party’s failure to take a seat that they themselves said was tailor-made for them to win is a significant blow and shows that while conventional wisdom holds that this will be a tough year for Democrats, the final chapter of this year’s elections is far from written.

Dr. Melanie Blumberg, a poly Sci professor at California University of Pennsylvania, quoted in Pierce’s article, added,

I think the GOP’s attempt to nationalize the election by all the references to (House Leader) Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama failed miserably. Critz read the district better, and he apparently knew their conservative leanings from working with Congressman Murtha

Former half-term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and House Minority Leader John Boehner, stumped for Burns, as did Sen. Scott Brown and former Speaker Newt Gingrich. Former President Clinton and Sen. Bob Casey campaigned for Critz, a “pro-life, pro-gun” Democrat, who made jobs his top policy priority. Critz’s win suggests that candidates who articulate a convincing vision for job-creation and economic recovery will have an edge with working class voters.
Joe Sestak’s decisive win (8 percent) over Arlen Specter is getting lots of national attention, and soon perhaps, contributions from Democrats who see him as a rising star. (For an interesting map depicting the geographic breadth of Sestak’s win, click here). Let it not be lost on Dems that his win was also an impressive demonstration of the power of media over Specter’s well-established ground game — Sestak’s uptick in the polls tracked the emergence of his sharply-focused attack ads. In a tough economy, it appears that well-done attack ads have more resonance than the warm and fuzzy ‘I love my family and my country’ ads of more prosperous times.
Perhaps one lesson of the May 18 elections is that making primary endorsements is not such a good idea for a sitting president, who after all, is the leader of his party. I understand the argument for rewarding a Senator who made an important party switch — to show others who may be considering a switch that they won’t be left out on a limb. Obama reportedly backed off some as more recent polls showed Sestak gaining. Primary neutrality may give the President more leverage as a unifying force in the party and in campaigning for the primary victor in the general election, especially when the winner may not have been his first choice.
Sestak, a retired rear admiral with 31 years of naval service, is a mediagenic candidate of considerable promise, a rust-belt progressive with strong national security cred. Dems, including Obama, should work like hell to get him elected.
In the Arkansas Democratic primary, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, who is supported by many progressive Dems, forced Sen. Blanche Lincoln into a run-off. Democratic voters cast more than twice the number of Republican ballots in the Arkansas Senate primaries, and both Lincoln and Halter out-polled Republican primary winner Boozeman. The so called ‘enthusiasm’ gap favoring Republicans did not materialize in the May 18 elections.
Even in KY, Dem Senate candidates Jack Conway and Daniel Mongiardo both received more votes in the Democratic primary (226,773 and 221,269 respectively) than did MSM and tea party darling Rand Paul in the GOP primary (206,159). Nearly half a million Kentuckians voted for Democratic U.S. Senate candidates, compared with less than 350 thousand who voted for Republicans.

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