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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Is Small Package Legislation a Wiser Strategy?

These days, most blogging about political strategy is understandably focused on the mid term elections. But longer-term strategic thinking merits more attention if Democrats want to make the party more effective. Michael Lind’s Sunday WaPo article, “Comprehensive reform is overrated. For real change, Washington must think small” is a thoughtful contribution in this regard, and he provides a number of insightful observations that merit consideration. The problem, acocrding to Lind:

Washington has fallen in love with “comprehensive reform” — legislation aimed at solving all aspects of a big problem in one dramatic and history-making move. We saw it with health care. Now comprehensive financial regulatory reform has passed in the House, with a Senate vote expected soon. Up next may come energy legislation, following President Obama’s Oval Office speech last month proclaiming a new “national mission” to wean America off fossil fuels. Comprehensive immigration reform, which failed back in 2007, waits in the wings, with the president calling for such an effort in a July 1 address. And a push for comprehensive fiscal reform will surely come on the heels of the recommendations this fall from Obama’s deficit commission.
…But it does not follow that each complex, giant problem must be addressed by one complex, giant bill. If anything, history shows that piecemeal reforms are often more lasting than a legislative Big Bang.

Lind adds “Politicians are seduced by comprehensive reform because history tends to glorify presidents and legislators who pass big, definitive laws.” He cites smaller, incremental legislation, such as the Glass-Seagall Act of 1932, the Securities Act of 1933, which required public disclosure of corporate information to shareholders, followed by the 1934 Securities Exchange Act and 1935 Banking Act — a series of individual laws adding up to an impressive financial reform package, but over time, not all at once.
The question arises whether a piecemeal enactment of the health care reform provisions in the Obama reform package might also have included a public option, if it could have been tackled as a separate proposal, with no other distraction. Or alternatively, whether an incremental strategy would have bogged down into even longer debates with no resolution. it’s possible that the comprehensive packaging of health care reform was an asset because it encouraged supporters to sign on, despite doubts about particular provisions.
Lind acknowledges the frequently noted argument for big package reform — that the interconnected nature of many social problems, such as health care or immigration reform may require more complex legislative solutions than in earlier eras. Breaking the packages down into a series of individual reforms and debating and fighting over them one-by-one might be even more exhausting for politicians and the public.
He sees three “critical problems, however, with choosing a comprehensive reform strategy over piecemeal, or incremental reforms: 1. “Excessive leverage” and “bargaining power” to influence legislation against the collective will of a bill’s supporters are given to individual Senators, such as we have recently seen with Sens, Joe Lieberman and Nelson; 2. Big Package reform presumes an absurd amount of accurate foresight on the part of mere mortals who happen to be elected officials — “The longer the time horizon, the greater the hubris of those who claim to be solving problems not just for today but for generations to come.” and; 3. There may not be legislative solutions to all problems — “…Some challenges are not problems to be solved, but situations to be ameliorated or endured.”
Lind argues further,

Instead of striding boldly into the future, we should grope our way cautiously forward, ever ready to back up upon encountering an obstacle and always prepared to consider an alternative path if the road is blocked…Instead of aspiring to achieve irrevocable, comprehensive reform by the second Monday of next month, let’s consider reforms that are piecemeal and reversible if we discover they do not work.

I would add that piecemeal/incremental reform doesn’t have to be slow-paced, although it can be, when necessary. Perhaps enacting the “lower-hanging fruit” in a reform package first, building up to the more contentious proposals, would be more effective than trying to sell it all at once.
Lind is undoubtedly right that a little humility would serve reform advocates well. Or at least, a little more candor in admitting that reform legislation can be tweaked later to adjust to changing conditions or mistakes.
He touches on the important point that smaller packages are smaller targets, and “less vulnerable to attack” and distortion. Coming at it from a slightly different angle, smaller packages can be explained more coherently to voters — a simple reform that serves both justice and good economic sense is easier to understand than a complex package with myriad bells, whistles and moving parts.
Lind quotes FDR’s remarks during the 1932 campaign to compelling effect: “The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation…It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” Amazing, that 78 years later, that sounds like a credible approach for our times, coming from the Democratic Partys’ most effective champion of reform.

Don’t Sweat Independents So Much

Michael Hais has an interesting myth-buster, “Democrats, Not Independents or Republicans, Will Decide Who Wins in 2010 and Beyond” at ndn.org. Hais, a fellow with the New Democratic Network and the New Policy Institute, reasons,

Like the constant buzz of the vuvuzelas during the World Cup, leading members of the inside-the-Beltway punditry like Chris Cilliza and Chuck Todd have generated an ever louder chorus of warnings recently that “angry” independent voters will determine the outcome of the 2010 midterm elections and, in so doing, threaten the Democratic Party’s current congressional majorities.
Actually, however, it is not what independent-or even Republican-voters do that will determine what happens in this November’s elections. It is what Democrats do, or perhaps not do, that will be decisive. This is true for two reasons. First, a significantly greater number of voters now identify with or lean to the Democratic Party than to the GOP. Second, only a relatively small number of politically uninvolved and disinterested voters are independents that are completely unattached to either of the parties. As a result, the big election story in 2010 will be the extent to which the large plurality of Americans who call themselves Democrats shows up at the polls this fall, and not the voting preferences of unaffiliated independents or Republicans.

In stark contrast to 1994, when a major poll indicated that Dems and the GOP each had 44 percent party i.d. support from the public,

This year…the Democratic Party holds a party identification advantage over the Republicans. In a June national survey conducted for NDN by highly regarded market research firm, Frank N. Magid Associates, 47% of voting age Americans identified with or leaned to the Democratic Party, well above the 33% who identified with or leaned to the Republican Party and the 19% who claimed to be unaffiliated independents. Even among registered voters the Democratic advantage over the GOP was 11 percentage points (47% vs. 36% with unaffiliated independents dropping to 17%). These numbers were replicated in an early July Pew survey showing the Democrats with a 49% to 42% party ID lead over the Republicans among registered voters.

So how do these favorable identification sympathies square with voting intentions?

As is the case in virtually every U.S. election, almost all of those who identify with or lean to a party plan to vote for the candidates of that party this coming November. In the NDN poll, about 95% of both Democratic and Republican identifiers who have made a choice say they expect to vote this fall for the congressional candidate of the party with which they identify. Meanwhile, among the presumably decisive independents, almost two-thirds (61%) are as yet undecided in the race for Congress. The remainder is split almost evenly between the two parties, with 21% preferring the Republicans and 18% the Democrats.

Hais concedes that the GOP does have an edge in voter registration among the polled identifiers, and in measures of enthusiasm for midterm participation — Republicans have an 11 percent advantage among those who say they are certain to vote. He applauds the DNC decision to budget $50 million this year to energize turnout among “first time voters” — young voters, African-Americans, Latinos and single women.
He also advises against Dems embracing a centrist timidity, since polls indicate strong support for progressive policies:

Democrats also need to resist advice to turn to the right as some pundits suggest. Conservative columnist, George Will, is certainly correct in noting that the Democratic disadvantage this year in voter enthusiasm and commitment could hurt the party in November. But his assertion that the lack of enthusiasm among Democratic voters stems from their party’s being “at odds with an increasingly center-right country,” is challenged by recent poll results.
The NDN survey portrays a country that is anything but center-right. A solid majority of Americans prefer a government that actively tries to solve the problems facing society and the economy (54%), rather than a government that stays out of society and the economy to the greatest extent possible (31%). Three-quarters of Democrats (76%), and just over half of independents (52%), favor an activist government, while 60% of Republicans want a laissez faire approach.
Similarly, a clear plurality of the electorate (49%) wants government to ensure that all Americans have at least a basic standard of living and level of income, even if it increases government spending. Only 34% supported the alternative approach of letting each person get along economically on their own, even if that means some people have a lot more than others. A solid majority of Democrats (69%), and half of independents, opt for governmental policies aimed at increasing economic equality, something that is opposed by two-thirds (65%) of Republicans.

Hais advises “highlighting, not downplaying” Dems legislative achievements under Obama. And he slams a final stake in the heart of the “Independents are the key” strategy for Dems:

Democrats would also be well advised not to base their campaign on pursuing independent voters, angry or otherwise. For one thing, the much-vaunted independents are far less likely to be registered (72%) and certain to vote (52%) than are either Republican or Democratic identifiers. While aiming at unaffiliated and uninvolved voters may be a good idea for a party that has fewer, or even the same number, of identifiers as its opponent, it is not the best strategy for a party that holds a clear party identification lead within the electorate. Doing everything that it can to mobilize its own supporters makes far more sense, and is likely to be far more effective…

If Hais is right, a stronger emphasis on leveraging Democratic resources toward turning out the base, instead of winning the support of the amorphous group called “independents,” could determine who controls Congress next year — and which Party is better positioned for 2012.

Sleazy Strategy to Hold TX Governorship May Backfire

If you were wondering how low could the GOP go in order to hold the governorship of Texas — yes, that Texas, the one that has the Governor who talks up secession — take a peek at Suzy Khimm’s Mother Jones article “Serial Butt-Biting GOP Operative Sinks Teeth Into Texas Race.”
You probably heard that Governor Rick Perry is in serious electoral trouble, which is no small achievement in one of the reddest of states. Perry, it seems is in a dead heat with Houston’s Democratic Mayor Bill White, who Khimm calls “the strongest gubernatorial contender that Texas Democrats have seen in years.” Here’s Khimm on the Perry campaign’s latest connivance in cahoots with Charles Hurth III, a GOP operative who has a somewhat bizarre personal history:

…Last month, Hurth and two other GOP operatives–one a former top aide to Texas Gov. Rick Perry–were implicated in a scheme to bankroll a petition drive to put the Green Party on the ballot. It is an apparent ploy to siphon votes away from Perry’s Democratic challenger, former Houston Mayor Bill White. He’s an appealing target: Tied with Perry in the latest poll…
…Hurth’s first claim to fame was being sued in 1987 for approaching a fellow law student in a bar and biting her on the buttocks so hard that she required medical attention. During the trial, Hurth admitted that he’d used the same toothy overture to approach two other women at fraternity parties–and he said that his latest victim should have taken the gesture as a compliment. The jurors didn’t buy it, and Hurth was successfully sued for $27,500. Since then, he has dedicated himself to being a persistent pain in the butt for Democrats, setting up shop in a tiny Missouri town to create a clearinghouse for Republican electoral schemes. The latest came this spring, when Hurth and his allies succeeded in getting the Greens on the 2010 ballot.

If that wasn’t sleazy enough,

…The Texas Democratic Party filed a lawsuit in early June against a Hurth-run nonprofit called Take Initiative America, as well as Arizona-based GOP consultant Tim Mooney and “unknown conspirators” for their role in the effort. Mooney has admitted that he funneled money through Hurth’s organization to pay Free and Equal Inc., a Chicago-based petition-gathering company that ended up amassing 92,000 signatures for the Texas Green Party’s ballot drive. According to a court document, Hurth’s group spent $532,500 on the effort.

Yes, there’s more:

…This isn’t the first time that Mooney and Hurth have resorted to such schemes to help Republicans at the polls. In 2004, Hurth set up an organization called Choices for America that furtively solicited help from Republicans to get then-presidential candidate Ralph Nader on the ballot in New Hampshire, Nevada, and Pennsylvania, among other states. Mooney assisted with Hurth’s 2004 effort, along with Dave Carney, George H.W. Bush’s former political director who’s now one of Rick Perry’s top consultants. At the time, Carney acknowledged to the Dallas Morning News that he was trying to gather signatures for Nader in order to help George W. Bush get reelected. According to the script for the petition drive, canvassers were instructed to tell Bush supporters, “Without Nader, Bush would not be president.”
Three years later, Hurth undertook yet another effort to manipulate electoral politics to the Republicans’ advantage. In 2007, Take Initiative America funded a California ballot initiative that would have distributed the state’s 55 electoral votes by congressional district instead of winner-takes-all. Had it succeeded, the effort would have greatly benefited Republican presidential contenders in the state. Hurth similarly refused to reveal the donor behind the effort, who finally came forward after Democrats accused the group of money-laundering and California officials vowed to investigate. Paul Singer, a hedge-fund manager and major Giuliani fundraiser, admitted that he gave $175,000 to the effort…

Khimm goes on to report that the Texas Green Party accepted the money, probably knowing that it could be coming from Republicans and that the state Democratic Party is continuing its legal challenge to ascertain exactly who funded the GOP-backed petition drive. It would be ironic indeed if the fallout is such that Perry narrowly loses because the efforts of Republican activists to divide the Democrats ends up winning them the majority of swing voters who don’t like underhanded ballot manipulation games.

Heck, They Got Color TV Sets

I don’t know how much Rand Paul’s latest tin-eared gaffe will cost him in terms of votes in the KY senate race (AP report here). But I’m pretty sure he didn’t win any hearts and minds in the Louisville forum, where he commented on poverty. Paul said “The poor in our country are enormously better off than the rest of the world…” and referenced an old propaganda film that showed color TV sets in homes of the poor.
For sheer arrogance, it may not top Jim Bunning’s ‘Tough Shit’ response to a question about unemployment, but it reflects a similar, clueless spirit. Kentucky has been hit harder by unemployment than most states, and tied for second of the 50 states in percentage of residents living in poverty.
Paul’s Democratic opponent Attorney General Jack Conway didn’t pounce on Paul’s remark, a missed opportunity to make Paul back up and eat it. All is not lost, however. Conway should still be able to make Paul elaborate. One possible response to get things rolling:

Mr. Paul’s remarks reveal a disturbing callousness about poverty and a profound ignorance about the economic hardships many Kentuckians are experiencing. Kentucky doesn’t need another deaf ear toward working people in the U.S. Senate, and we certainly don’t need another errand boy for the rich representing our state.

Kentucky is tricky political terrain, fairly described as a red state in recent years. That’s not the same thing, however, as saying a majority of KY voters have unlimited tolerance for would-be leaders who keep making embarrassing remarks.

Angle’s Angling a Tad Late

There’s an interesting sub-drama playing out in the Nevada Senate race. (Update : Thanks to Jim Gibson for correcting the state) Kristi Keck at CNN.com reports on Sharron Angle’s efforts to tone down her message and persona to the point where she appears to have an actual chance of being taken seriously by a majority of voters. Here’s how it’s playing in the website campaign:

In Nevada, Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle last week unveiled a revamped website that no longer details some of her more controversial positions, such as her calls to dismantle the U.S. Department of Education and support for a nuclear waste dump facility at Yucca Mountain.
The campaign of Angle’s November opponent, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, posted a copy of Angle’s original site at www.therealsharronangle.com. Angle’s campaign sent a “cease and desist” letter to Reid’s campaign, saying that the website falsely represented itself as Angle’s website.
Reid’s campaign temporarily removed the site, but the Nevada Democratic Party reposted it, claiming First Amendment protection. Reid’s campaign said Angle was trying to mask her views, but Angle’s campaign insisted its Democratic opponent was “doing desperate things to win.”

Keck quotes Angle copping a plea on a conservative radio program: “Today, I actually softened because I’m being held accountable for every idle word.” Not being a career politician, she said she doesn’t always say the best words.
John Avlon, author of “Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America,” explains in Keck’s article: “When you are all of a sudden confronted with the possibility of real governance, then some of the red meat stops making practical sense…” TDS contributor Alan Abramowitz, author of “The Disappearing Center: Engaged Citizens, Polarization, and American Democracy,” adds “It’s when some Tea Party candidates or figures start engaging in Obama derangement syndrome that their message starts becoming political kryptonite.”
One of the most devastating takes on Angle’s campaign comes from GOP veteran insider Michael Gerson, who writes in his WaPo op-ed column this morning:

The Republican wave carries along a group that strikes a faux revolutionary pose. “Our Founding Fathers,” says Nevada Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle, “they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason, and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government. And in fact, Thomas Jefferson said it’s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years. I hope that’s not where we’re going, but you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.”
…Mainstream conservatives have been strangely disoriented by Tea Party excess, unable to distinguish the injudicious from the outrageous. Some rose to Angle’s defense or attacked her critics. Just to be clear: A Republican Senate candidate has identified the United States Congress with tyranny and contemplated the recourse to political violence. This is disqualifying for public office. It lacks, of course, the seriousness of genuine sedition. It is the conservative equivalent of the Che Guevara T-shirt — a fashion, a gesture, a toying with ideas the wearer only dimly comprehends. The rhetoric of “Second Amendment remedies” is a light-weight Lexington, a cut-rate Concord. It is so far from the moral weightiness of the Founders that it mocks their memory.

Gerson notes that, in her fondness for excess, Angle is not alone among the current crop of high-profile GOP candidates:

The Republican wave also carries along a group of libertarians, such as Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul. Since expressing a preference for property rights above civil rights protections — revisiting the segregated lunch counter — Paul has minimized his contact with the media. The source of this caution is instructive. The fear is not that Paul will make gaffes or mistakes but, rather, that he will further reveal his own political views. In America, the ideology of libertarianism is itself a scandal. It involves not only a retreat from Obamaism but a retreat from the most basic social commitments to the weak, the elderly and the disadvantaged, along with a withdrawal from American global commitments…. Libertarianism has a rigorous ideological coldness at its core. Voters are alienated when that core is exposed. And Paul is now neck and neck with his Democratic opponent in a race a Republican should easily win.

Gerson goes on to add that the GOP “wave carries along a group more interested in stigmatizing immigrants than winning their support” and he laments the response of too many Republicans who should know better “to stay quiet, make no sudden moves and hope they go away.” He adds

…Significant portions of the Republican coalition believe that it is a desirable strategy to talk of armed revolution, embrace libertarian purity and alienate Hispanic voters… With a major Republican victory in November, those who hold these views may well be elevated in profile and influence. And this could create durable, destructive perceptions of the Republican Party that would take decades to change. A party that is intimidated and silent in the face of its extremes is eventually defined by them.

For Dems, we can hope that enough swing voters will get it sooner than later, in time to tell the Republicans in November “Go sell crazy somewhere else. We’ve got serious problems here, and this is no time for tea party nonsense.”

Rand Paul’s Double Flip-Flop on Border Fences

John McCain has gotten a blast of richly-deserved negative coverage recently about his flip-flop on immigration policy, which put him squarely in the camp of the bashers of undocumented workers. But McCain will have a ways to go to top KY Senatorial candidate Rand Paul, who has just accomplished a rare double flip-flop on an important immigration issue.
Sam Stein’s Huffpo post, “Rand Paul’s Border Fence: Candidate Does Full 180, Now Supports Physical Fence” explains it thusly:

Rand Paul’s Senate campaign has clarified yet again the Kentucky Republican’s position on how to stem illegal immigration, this time fully embracing a proposal he once criticized: the construction of a physical fence along the border.
In an email statement to the Huffington Post, Paul’s chief spokesman also insisted that Paul does not, as he has stated previously and on his own campaign website, support building an underground electrical fence along the border…Several weeks ago, the Huffington Post reported that Paul had been championing an underground electrical fence as a way to detect border crossings (law enforcement officials stationed with helicopters at nearby stations would then detain those coming into the country illegally). Senate Republicans copped to having never heard of such an idea. Libertarian immigration experts openly criticized the cost and draconian nature of the proposal.
Since then, Paul’s camp has insisted that the underground electrical fence was simply an erroneous item on the campaign website, not something that the Tea Party backed candidate actually supports. But there is clear video evidence of Paul advocating the proposal on the campaign trail. In fact, in the same video in which Paul touts building a fence underground, he also talks disparagingly about the symbolism of building an above-ground structure dividing the United States and Mexico — the very proposal his campaign is now embracing.

Here is what Paul actually said in May 2009 (video here):

“I don’t like the symbolism of a 15-foot fence going the whole border. It’s extraordinarily expensive, and it reminds me of the Berlin Wall which was built to keep people in and from fleeing to the West,” Paul said. “I think you could actually put in an electronic fence under the whole border for probably $10 or $15 million, which sounds like a lot to us but that’s peanuts. And you could probably have helicopter stations in maybe five different locations, and I think you could have any breach of the border could be stopped at any point and we send them back.”

You see, he was against the above-ground electrified fence he now supports. But he was for the underground electrified fence he now opposes. Is that clear?
Apparently Kentuckians are starting to get it, and perhaps understand why even the dean of conservative columnists, George Will has described Paul as a “frivolous” candidate. For Dems, the latest poll is encouraging. As TPM’s Eric Kleefield reports:

The new survey of the Kentucky Senate race by Public Policy Polling (D) shows a tied race in this red state, where Republican nominee Rand Paul and Democratic state Attorney General Jack Conway are competing for the seat of retiring GOP Sen. Jim Bunning. Furthermore, it’s quite possible that the negative coverage of Paul’s past opposition to the Civil Rights Act may have done him some damage.
The poll has Paul and Conway tied up at 43%-43%…The poll finds Paul with a favorable rating of only 34%, with 42% unfavorable, compared to Conway’s rating at 31%-29%.

Sure, Kentucky is a red state. But Attorney General Jack Conway, the Democratic nominee, is playing a strong hand, while Paul, who also stood up for BP, is rapidly positioning himself to be the GOP’s poster boy for ‘Saturday Night Live’ ridicule in this cycle. This Senate seat is looking increasingly like the Dems’ best shot at a pick-up.

GOP ‘Keystone Kops’ Candidates May Save Dem Majorities

Mike Lux has been one of the more unsparing critics of what he terms “the culture of caution” among Democratic Party leadership and the way it dims Dems’ electoral prospects. But in his Open Left post, “Thank You Republicans,” Lux nonetheless sees hope for Dems in 2010.

The good news, however, is that Republicans seem hell bent on saving us from electoral defeat by a dumbness that just seems built into their DNA: continually showing the American people how extremely right-wing they are. This will still be a hellishly tough election for Democrats to do well in, but the Republicans are at least keeping us in the game.
Their incumbent Governor of Texas is thinking about seceding. Their Senate candidates for highly targeted races like Nevada and Kentucky don’t like Social Security, Medicare, or Civil rights laws. The guy who would become the chair of the energy committee in the House, backed up by the Republican study group and many other Republican leaders, apologizes to BP. The man who would be the Republican Speaker of the House wants to raise the retirement age for Social Security to 70 years old, and considers the financial meltdown of 2008 and the resulting loss of several million jobs to be as trivial as an ant. The anti-immigrant nativists in Arizona are stirring up Hispanic voters. In successive Supreme Court nominations, Republicans in the course of playing to their base, insult first Latinos and now blacks by attacking civil rights icon Thurgood Marshall. Every one of these things, when voters are reminded that Republicans are saying them, will be repulsive to both swing and Democratic base voters.

A lot of high-profile Republican candidates of 2010 have some ‘splainin’ to do for their imprudent pronouncements. Sharron Angle, Rand Paul, Joe Barton, Meg Whitman are just a few names that come to mind. And, despite the historical precedent of the party that holds the white house losing seats in their first midterm elections, Dems have a crop of exceptionally-solid candidates in high profile contests. In this context, a series of Dem campaign ads depicting the more clownish GOP statements, followed by a “Sober policies and serious leaders are needed for tough times” message might get some traction.
GOP follies notwithstanding, Dems could still lose control of both houses, if we fail to seize the opportunity. As Lux says:

It remains imperative for Democrats to embrace taking on the deep and persuasive corporate corruption of Washington. It is not enough to remind people how kooky the Republicans have become, Democrats have to become fierce advocates for change and reform, for a government that isn’t in thrall to the banks and BP and the insurance companies. When they do that, the contrast with the ever more extremist pro-corporate all the time Republicans becomes ever clearer.

As Lux concludes, “…Now the Democrats need to be bold enough and tough enough to take advantage of the gifts they have been given.”

Three Reasons Why Dems in Better Shape Than in ’94

Rhodes Cook, senior columnist at Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball, has some encouraging observations for Democratic candidates’ mid term prospects. Cook sees 2010 Dems in much better shape relative to the 1994 disaster. First, it’s about exposure, says Cook:

Fully half of the Democratic seats in that strongly anti-incumbent, anti-Democratic election 16 years ago were in districts that had voted for the Republican presidential ticket in one or both of the previous two presidential elections. This time, just one third of Democratic seats are in similarly problematic territory.
It is an important distinction since the vast majority of House seats that the Democrats lost in 1994 – 48 of 56, to be precise – were in “Red” or “Purple” districts. And this year, the Democrats have fewer of such districts to defend…The number of “Blue” districts they hold has risen by 43, from 128 in 1994 to 171 today, while the number of “Purple” districts they must defend has dropped by 39 (from 77 to 38). Meanwhile, the total of “Red” districts occupied by House Democrats is down this year by four from 1994 (from 51 to 47).

Even in 1994, notes Cook, “House Democrats ran very well in “Blue” districts that year. They lost barely 5% of those that voted for the party’s candidate in the previous two presidential elections.” If that pattern holds in November, Dems should keep their House majority.
Second, Cook sees Dems as “a more cohesive, top-down party than they were in 1994,” and adds,

Now, the Democrats have the look of a much stronger party. They are coming off a string of five consecutive presidential elections since 1992 in which their candidate has swept at least 180 districts each time. The byproduct of this consistent top of the ticket success has been the creation of more hospitable “blue” districts for House Democrats than their colleagues enjoyed in 1994.

Third, Cook finds encouragement for Dems in the House “special elections”:

But in recent decades, if a “big wave” election was brewing, there were signs of it in the special House elections that preceded the fall voting. That was the case in early 1974, when Democrat John Murtha scored a special election victory for a Republican seat in western Pennsylvania that proved a precursor of huge gains for his party that fall.
It was also the case in early 1994, when Republicans picked up a pair of Democratic seats in Kentucky and Oklahoma. And it was the case again in early 2008, when Democrats peeled off a trio of Republican seats in Illinois, Louisiana and Mississippi.
This election cycle, Republican Scott Brown has already scored a conspicuous special Senate election win in Massachusetts. But Republicans have been unable to post a similar high-profile breakthrough on the House side in spite of a handful of opportunities.
To be sure, Republicans did pick up a previously Democratic seat May 22 in Hawaii, where the incumbent had resigned to focus on his campaign for governor. But the victory by Republican Charles Djou was clearly a fluke. In a district that Obama had carried in 2008 with 70% of the vote, Djou prevailed with less than 40% as two major Democratic candidates divided the bulk of the remaining votes. There was no provision for a runoff election.
Much more noteworthy have been the special elections held over the last year in a trio of “Purple” districts. Republicans were unable to win any of them. Two were in upstate New York, the other Murtha’s seat in southwest Pennsylvania.
A GOP victory in the latter contest on May 18 would have been a loud reminder of 1974 – rekindling memories of how Murtha’s special election victory served as a harbinger of his party’s great success that fall.
That the vote last month was a loss for the Republicans, though, underscored the opposite – that winning a House majority this year might not be nearly as easy for the GOP as many political observers have predicted.

As Cook concludes, “…There are plenty of targets for the Republicans this fall. But there are not as many ripe ones as was the case in 1994.”

‘Accountability Project’: New Weapon for Pro-Active Dems

I’m liking the DNC’s just-launched ‘Accountability Project.’ It’s a gutsy idea, creating a video bank of Republican gaffes, which can be tapped for mash-ups by gonzo vj’s. This is another good sign that the Democratic party is shifting gears into more of an attack mode. The idea is not only to capture GOP gaffes, but also to encourage and support the making of political ads/video clips attacking Republicans by anyone who wants to try. Here’s how the Accountability Project explains it’s purpose on its new web page, which already has a few great clips:

For too long, our politics has been poisoned with misinformation, lies and double-speak. The most powerful way to combat these tactics is to drag them into the light of public scrutiny.
The Accountability Project is a volunteer platform to document Republican candidates and their public statements at local events, as well as their campaign tactics. The Accountability Project allows you to submit videos, recordings, and other items for publication online, so that candidates see that there’s a cost to their dishonesty.

Christina Bellantoni of Talking Points Memo explains it this way:

The Democratic National Committee today is launching a new effort to allow citizens on their side “keep track” of Republican candidates on every ballot nationwide, in hopes of a voter capturing a so-called “macaca moment.” The DNC’s latest effort to influence the midterm elections, called the Accountability Project, will act as a database of campaign events and, Democrats hope, every gaffe, goof and outlandish policy position.
The task: take a camera to a political event and “hold Republicans accountable for misleading claims, lies, and unseemly behavior,” the DNC says. The site will allow for uploads but also provide clips for download so voters can make their own mashups or ads.

Up till now, Dems have been a little too casual about documenting and using myriad GOP gaffes and their lamer policy statements — we use stuff that the MSM happened to tape and share, allowing them to be our first line editor. No more. From now on, Dems will more pro-actively seek out Republicans talking and otherwise behaving badly and make them answer for it.
More squeamish Dems may wince at the inevitable comparison to ‘gotcha’ journalism. But we are not talking entrapment set-ups here, of the sort that Republicans roundly applauded when the pimped-out young Republican toppled ACORN with his phony scam and was hailed as a GOP hero. Instead, the Accountability Project will film Republicans in their natural habitat, doing what they do best — paranoid bellowing at tea party demos, groveling at the feet of oil barons, snarling about immigrant workers hired by their contributors etc. Think Trent Lott, George Allen, Rand Paul, Joe Barton and the like tracked by progressive VJ’s. The possibilities are limitless.
Let a thousand YouTubes bloom.

Class Conflict Emerges in CA Gov Race Ad War

They’re talking class warfare out in the Golden State, or at least Anthony York is, in his ‘PolitiCal’ blog at the L.A. Times. York spotlights a new ad (see below) from California Working Families entitled “Whitman’s World, which portrays the Republican gubernatorial nominee, not without reason, as a fat-cat jet-setter, who stashes her wealth in an off-shore tax haven. Here’s York’s take:

In the third ad released by California Working Families 2010, the group tries to make the connection between Whitman’s personal penchant for private jets and her economic policies for the state. The ad derisively describes “Whitman’s world,” — a place with “tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy, but nothing for the middle class.”

Whitman has net worth in the ballpark of $1.3 billion, according to Forbes magazine. She is said the be the 4th richest woman in CA, coming from a background of “multiple lines of great wealth & great connections,” according to Hannah Bell of Democratic Underground. Here’s the ad: