Who Should We Defend?

If nothing else, this post is simply a reminder that the end of the fundraising quarter is later this week (Wednesday, the 30th). I’ve had this vague sense that there’s a lot less fundraising intensity among the netroots than compared to this point two years ago (although that turns out to be wrong, if you delve into the stats at ActBlue — we’re ahead of the 2008 pace in terms of both total number of dollars and especially number of contributions). But after the 30th, there’s only one more full fundraising quarter left.

That vague lack of intensity, though, may have its roots in the fact that playing defense just isn’t as glamorous… in 2006 and 2008, it was genuinely fun anticipating where all we might make gains and trying to allocate our resources accordingly. It’s not so much fun to figure which incumbents most need our money in order to survive… especially when so many of the most endangered incumbents were simultaneously also the ones least likely to vote the way the netroots would have wanted them to. And the netroots still seems to be playing the old 06-08 ballgame instead, still playing offense: focusing on primaries, and on challenges to Republican incumbents or open seats. Some of that is seen in ActBlue’s top 10 May recipients, none of whom are incumbents (although at least some were the more progressive option in primaries where we’re trying to hold a seat, like Joe Sestak or Ann McLane Kuster). And Daily Kos’s Orange to Blue list currently has only one incumbent on it, Alan Grayson.

No knock on Grayson, of course; as you can see below, he is the most progressive of all the incumbent Dems in the “Tossup” realm — although Carol Shea-Porter and Mary Jo Kilroy are certainly within the same range. However, I’d like for the netroots not to just put all its eggs in the Grayson basket (particularly when he can, if need be, refill that basket with his own personal cash). So, I’m posing the question to all of you, to answer in the comments: what other incumbents should we be defending?

Once we get past the other fairly obvious choices (Shea-Porter and Kilroy, again), it becomes an interesting philosophical question, one where your input would be valuable: is it better to start looking for progressives in the lower-tier races, where our money might come in valuable later? Or do we hold our noses and focus on shoring up some of the members who didn’t fare so well on the litmus test issues, knowing that we need to accept some (in fact, many) imperfect members in order to cobble together a majority?

In fact, it may be most interesting to approach this like putting together an investment portfolio. Say you have $100 to spend on contributions. How much do you allocate to the most endangered progressives? How much to the more valuable (or less heinous) New Dems and Blue Dogs? How much to progressives who aren’t quite as endangered? For that matter, how much to Blue-to-Blue open seat races? And how much to races where we’re still on the offensive? Within each category, which particular names stand out for you?

To help with your decision-making process, I’ve put together a couple tables that look at all of the Democrats’ vulnerable incumbents. The first is organized by column by just how vulnerable we at SSP have decided they are, and organized by row according to Progressive Punch scores, from best to worst. (Ordinarily I prefer DW-Nominate scores for this type of analysis, but Progressive Punch scores are much more intuitive to interpret; the order of Reps. in each column should be pretty similar regardless of which method you use.) (Also, you’ll note I’ve thrown several more Dems on the list — Bobby Etheridge and Allen Boyd — whom we haven’t formally added to the board yet but undoubtedly soon will.) Feel free to mention Senate races too, of course; I’m table-izing just the House races because a) there are so few Senate races involving vulnerable Dem incumbents that we actually like that it’s pretty easy to keep track of them, and b) House races are smaller-dollar affairs, so netroots dollars, if everyone pushes in the same direction, can actually make a difference in select races, whereas in pretty much any Senate general election, netroots dollars are a drop in the bucket that would go largely unnoticed.

Likely D Lean D Tossup
NJ-12 (Holt) 97.74

MO-03 (Carnahan) 95.73

WA-02 (Larsen) 95.56

OR-01 (Wu) 95.49

WV-03 (Rahall) 94.89

CA-47 (Sanchez) 94.68

GA-02 (Bishop) 94.23

CT-05 (Murphy) 94.11

CO-07 (Perlmutter) 93.60

OH-06 (Wilson) 93.16

FL-22 (Klein) 93.07

NC-02 (Etheridge) 92.29

CO-03 (Salazar) 91.84

NY-25 (Maffei) 91.67

OR-05 (Schrader) 91.15

CA-18 (Cardoza) 90.07

NC-08 (Kissell) 89.52

PA-17 (Holden) 89.16

FL-02 (Boyd) 88.69

MI-09 (Peters) 87.95

KY-06 (Chandler) 87.13

WI-03 (Kind) 85.17

GA-12 (Barrow) 83.94

NY-13 (McMahon) 83.33

IL-08 (Bean) 81.93

UT-02 (Matheson) 81.65

GA-08 (Marshall) 76.29

NC-11 (Shuler) 64.12

MS-04 (Taylor) 55.01
OH-13 (Sutton) 97.90

WI-08 (Kagen) 95.81

SC-05 (Spratt) 94.50

VA-11 (Connolly) 93.99

NY-01 (Bishop) 93.97

NY-19 (Hall) 93.96

TX-23 (Rodriguez) 93.64

IA-03 (Boswell) 93.57

PA-08 (Murphy) 92.31

ND-AL (Pomeroy) 92.17

NM-01 (Heinrich) 92.01

MN-01 (Walz) 91.45

TX-17 (Edwards) 91.29

VA-09 (Boucher) 90.79

MO-04 (Skelton) 88.00

MI-07 (Schauer) 87.93

CA-11 (McNerney) 87.61

CT-04 (Himes) 86.06

TN-04 (Davis) 86.02

OH-16 (Boccieri) 85.62

IL-11 (Halvorson) 85.37

PA-03 (Dahlkemper) 85.27

OH-18 (Space) 84.28

SD-AL (Herseth Sandlin) 83.07

IL-14 (Foster) 82.85

PA-10 (Carney) 80.04

NJ-03 (Adler) 79.10

AZ-08 (Giffords) 77.99

IN-02 (Donnelly) 74.66

PA-04 (Altmire) 74.02

NY-20 (Murphy) 73.44

AZ-01 (Kirkpatrick) 71.11

AZ-05 (Mitchell) 58.91

PA-12 (Critz) ?
FL-08 (Grayson) 95.72

OH-15 (Kilroy) 95.37

NH-01 (Shea-Porter) 94.97

PA-11 (Kanjorski) 94.00

NV-03 (Titus) 92.19

OH-01 (Driehaus) 86.71

CO-04 (Markey) 85.84

FL-24 (Kosmas) 82.91

NY-23 (Owens) 80.29

NY-24 (Arcuri) 79.22

VA-05 (Perriello) 78.58

NM-02 (Teague) 77.15

IN-09 (Hill) 70.96

VA-02 (Nye) 66.67

MD-01 (Kratovil) 64.97

MS-01 (Childers) 59.49

AL-02 (Bright) 41.57

ID-01 (Minnick) 40.28

Alternatively, here’s a version based around six key litmus test votes (stimulus package, 2009 budget, cap and trade, the 2009 and 2010 health care votes, and the Stupak Amendment); Reps. are ordered according to how many “bad votes” they took out of the six. Many people have their own personal line-in-the-sand legislatively, for which an aggregated score like Progressive Punch is too broad, so this may be more helpful for those who want to make their choices a la carte.

Likely D Lean D Tossup
CA-47 (Sanchez) 0

CO-07 (Perlmutter) 0

CT-05 (Murphy) 0

FL-22 (Klein) 0

IL-08 (Bean) 0

MI-09 (Peters) 0

MO-03 (Carnahan) 0

NJ-12 (Holt) 0

NY-25 (Maffei) 0

OR-01 (Wu) 0

OR-05 (Schrader) 0

WA-02 (Larsen) 0

WI-03 (Kind) 0

WV-03 (Rahall) 0

CA-18 (Cardoza) 1 (Stupak)

GA-02 (Bishop) 1 (Stupak)

NC-02 (Etheridge) 1 (Stupak)

CO-03 (Salazar) 2 (Cap, Stupak)

FL-02 (Boyd) 2 (Stim, HCR1)

NY-13 (McMahon) 2 (HCR1, HCR2)

OH-06 (Wilson) 2 (Cap, Stupak)

KY-06 (Chandler) 3 (HCR1, HCR2, Stupak)

NC-08 (Kissell) 3 (Cap, HCR1, HCR2)

NC-11 (Shuler) 4 (Stim, HCR1, HCR2, Stupak)

PA-17 (Holden) 4 (Cap, HCR1, HCR2, Stupak)

GA-08 (Marshall) 5 (Budget, Cap, HCR1, HCR2, Stupak)

GA-12 (Barrow) 5 (Budget, Cap, HCR1, HCR2, Stupak)

UT-02 (Matheson) 5 (Budget, Cap, HCR1, HCR2, Stupak)

MS-04 (Taylor) 6 (Stim, Budget, Cap, HCR1, HCR2, Stupak)
AZ-08 (Giffords) 0

CA-11 (McNerney) 0

CT-04 (Himes) 0

IA-03 (Boswell) 0

IL-11 (Halvorson) 0

MI-07 (Schauer) 0

MN-01 (Walz) 0

NM-01 (Heinrich) 0

NY-01 (Bishop) 0

NY-19 (Hall) 0

OH-13 (Sutton) 0

PA-08 (Murphy) 0

PA-12 (Critz) 0

VA-11 (Connolly) 0

WI-08 (Kagen) 0

AZ-01 (Kirkpatrick) 1 (Cap)

NY-20 (Murphy) 1 (HCR1)

SC-05 (Spratt) 1 (Stupak)

AZ-05 (Mitchell) 2 (Budget, Cap)

IL-14 (Foster) 2 (Budget, Cap)

ND-AL (Pomeroy) 2 (Cap, Stupak)

NJ-03 (Adler) 2 (HCR1, HCR2)

OH-16 (Boccieri) 2 (HCR1, Stupak)

OH-18 (Space) 2 (HCR2, Stupak)

PA-03 (Dahlkemper) 2 (Cap, Stupak)

PA-10 (Carney) 2 (Cap, Stupak)

TX-23 (Rodriguez) 2 (Cap, Stupak)

VA-09 (Boucher) 2 (HCR1, HCR2)

IN-02 (Donnelly) 3 (Budget, Cap, Stupak)

MO-04 (Skelton) 3 (HCR1, HCR2, Stupak)

SD-AL (Herseth Sandlin) 3 (Cap, HCR1, HCR2)

TX-17 (Edwards) 3 (Cap, HCR1, HCR2)

PA-04 (Altmire) 4 (Cap, HCR1, HCR2, Stupak)

TN-04 (Davis) 4 (Cap, HCR1, HCR2, Stupak)
FL-08 (Grayson) 0

NH-01 (Shea-Porter) 0

NV-03 (Titus) 0

NY-23 (Owens) 0

OH-15 (Kilroy) 0

IN-09 (Hill) 1 (Stupak)

OH-01 (Driehaus) 1 (Stupak)

CO-04 (Markey) 2 (Budget, HCR1)

FL-24 (Kosmas) 2 (Budget, HCR1)

NY-24 (Arcuri) 2 (Cap, HCR2)

PA-11 (Kanjorski) 2 (Stim, Stupak)

VA-05 (Perriello) 2 (Budget, Stupak)

MD-01 (Kratovil) 4 (Stim, Budget, HCR1, HCR2)

NM-02 (Teague) 4 (Budget, HCR1, HCR2, Stupak)

VA-02 (Nye) 4 (Budget, Cap, HCR1, HCR2)

ID-01 (Minnick) 5 (Stim, Budget, Cap, HCR1, HCR2)

MS-01 (Childers) 5 (Budget, Cap, HCR1, HCR2, Stupak)

AL-02 (Bright) 6 (Stim, Budget, Cap, HCR1, HCR2, Stupak)

There’s yet another way you might of approaching this question, one that’s a little more forgiving of Blue Dogs: that’s the PVI/Vote Index, which is a measure we’ve discussed the last few years. This posits that a Representative’s value is found in overperforming his or her district’s lean as much as possible, which tends to favor the Dems in the reddest-possible districts as well as diehard progressives in swing districts. In particular, that tends to favor Chet Edwards, who has an R+20 district but usually is a reliable vote as seen by his Progressive Punch score (granted, he voted “no” on three of the six litmus test items, but that’s still a substantial improvement over whatever else we might get in that district). The link here is to the 2008 numbers; I just crunched the 2009 numbers, which I’ll write up later in the week, but Edwards again is by far the greatest overperformer. Cold-blooded contributors who can be purely value-added and ignore litmus test votes might want to emphasize Edwards (and similar overperformers like Earl Pomeroy or John Spratt).

99 thoughts on “Who Should We Defend?”

  1. I don’t think HCR1 or the Budget are even worth including.

    More than the others, those two (Perriello in particular) stand out as symbols in DC of taking big risks in tossup seats. The stimulus, climate and HCR2 are the big ones to me. Markey and Perriello took those votes and are running campaigns that I feel secure in investing in. That’s more than I can say for any of the others.

  2. He’s not a blue dog and has that 70% McCain district. He did not announce his position on the HCR vote until the day of, signaling he was willing to vote for it if Pelosi did NOT have the votes. He was the dark horse candidate for Obama’s VP.

    Chet freakin’ Edwards gets my nom. Get him through 2010, give him a 55% GOP district he’ll fall in line.

    Other candidates I approve of and nominate: Periello, Markey (CO), Teague, Hill. All 5 of my candidates are voting like conservatives, mostly, but are showing signs that they are much more liberal than their voting records indicate and would vote as such if given safer districts. Also, this is a farm team list. All have the potential to move up the ranks in their state; ESPECIALLY Periello and Hill.

  3. Personally, I’m very cold blooded. I can hold my nose for almost anyone. But this cycle it still doesn’t help me. I suppose the fundamental question for me, is who has the most value for my dollar.

    I vacillate almost every day, on which way the Republican wave is coming from – places hurt especially by the downturn, tough opposing candidates, districts with high independents who are less “sticky” in their preferences, races the count on minority and young voter turnout. Since I don’t have endless resources (although if anyone is interested. ..), I have to bite the bullet on these questions.

    And of course, that most unpleasant question, who gets put on the ugly side of triage?

  4. The story from last cycle about when Van Hollen was telling the Dems at a caucus meeting that they really need people to pay their dues because we have an unprecedented number of seats up for grabs.  Chet Edwards apparently immediately stood up and wrote out a check for $100k and everyone gasped because he’s one of the most vulnerable of all incumbents and here he is writing fat checks from his own campaign account.

    Perriello, Markey, and Ive always really liked Titus.  Gotta love when political scientists become politicians instead of lawyers.

  5. He could have easily voted against HCR and cap and trade but he has put his career on the line to do what he thinks is best. Especially the cap and trade vote, that hurt a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying not to give Edwards, I already sent him twenty bucks but definitely consider Hill as well.  

  6. I don’t even know where to start.  For me, there are a few main concerns.  First of all, I don’t really go for conservadems in general, unless they’ve shown that they are making an effort to support the base agenda but sometimes can’t because their district is a hot mess of conservatism.  Voting record is pretty important for me.  The second thing is financial situation, I don’t really want to give money to those that can really pay their own way so much as those that are locked in tight financial situations and races.  

    The third is the PVI.  I think the swing districts, those between R+4 and D+2 in particular, are the real heavy hitters because you can have complete wingnuts or strong liberals in those seats in addition to centrists.  Thus, the center of the PVI scale is where you could have the widest swing in voting behavior, namely you could go from reps that will vote 6 for 6 on the big-ticket items to 0 for 6.  That’s where the majority of my money would go.  

    Let’s say that I’m going to spend $1000 on the House democratic caucus in November.  Without taking too much time right now, here’s a guess at I would spend it, with $100 being the most spent on any one representative.  One of these days I’ll come out with a formula for coming up with the dollar amounts and I’ll have a diary on it.

    $100 – Mary Kilroy, Tom Perriello

    $75 – Carol Shea-Porter, Bill Owens, Betsy Markey, Suzanne Kosmas

    $50 – Patrick Murphy, Steve Driehaus, Earl Pomeroy, Steve Kagen, John Boccieri, Dina Titus

    $25 – Chet Edwards, Paul Kanjorski, Leonard Boswell, Stephanie Herseth, Kathy Dahlkemper, Mark Schauer, Ciro Rodriguez, John Spratt

  7. I made contributions today, but stuck to the Senate:  Sestak and Conway.  The House is next.  

    The key point that everyone should know (and I expect all regular readers of this site do know)is DO NOT just give to the DCCC or DCCC.  Do as this post suggests:  (1) Pick races that matter (are close); (2) where there is a significant difference between the candidates; and (3) where you feel good about the Democrat (not a lesser of two evils).  

    One more thought:  What about challengers??  I’m thinking of Joe Garcia in FL-25.  

  8. the chances of surviving vs. what we can expect if they lose, I go with Perriello, Markey, Kagen, Schauer, and McNerney.  Honorable mention to Titus and Halvorson.

  9. with evaluating representatives like this is that there’s a lot more that goes into a vote than this.  I remember reading somewhere that when Sam Rayburn was Speaker and Dems won a huge majority in the House, Rayburn said something like “too many Democrats,” knowing that with a big majority Democratic members would feel free to depart from the party on major issues.

    One thing we have to keep in mind is that Democrats have had quite a large majority this cycle… effectively, we have 35 “free votes” on any particular bill that comes up, so a lot of the Democrats in tough districts have been getting “excused” from voting for certain bills — particularly bills that the Republicans are making a big stink about — because they don’t want Republicans to have an issue to throw in their face at election time.  That explains how somebody like Chet Edwards, who’s generally a reliable Democratic vote, has voted against us on three of the big votes.  Edwards has a very tough district; he knows this, and the Democratic leadership knows it.  So with 35 votes to spare, if Chet needs to insulate himself from charges that he’s too liberal, the leadership will let him vote the “wrong” way on a big issue.  As long as they still have the votes to pass the bill, it doesn’t really matter.

    Now, some of the Democrats on this list might be unpersuadable, but I think a lot of them would vote the “right” way more often if their votes were needed more often (i.e. if we had a narrow majority.)  That was part of the explanation for why there seemed to be so few moderate Republicans when they had control of the House; Republicans never had big majorities, so on most of the big issues almost everybody’s vote was needed.

  10. There are so many people who merit it for one reason or another. My “short list” would include Markey, Titus, Kosmas, Owens, Boucher, Hill, Perriello, Halvorson, Sutton, Shea-Porter and Foster – but obviously that’s not that short a list. Other points (beyond ideology and willingness to make tough votes) that would go into my personal rankings are an interest in keeping some a demographic mix in the caucus, both in terms of sex and geography.  

  11. Perriello and Minnick are my first two. Perriello because he’s going to be a great ally for us one day, and will probably run for the governor’s mansion (he worked with Joel Silberman, head of the Central PA Obama Campaign, on several organization projects in ’06). That, and having that seat is huge for us.

    Also huge for us is having a Democrat in Idaho. Minnick is the doggiest of blue dogs, but we need to entrench some Dems in the deep red states. Minnick wouldn’t get my vote for President, but hitting the GOP back in this state would hurt them right in the mouth. That…and we don’t need any tea baggers in Congress.

    When I have time to look over all the lists and think more, I’ll post a better listing. I, personally, gave money to Critz and Hanabusa, but I don’t think we have to worry about those seats.

  12. That vague lack of intensity, though, may have its roots in the fact that playing defense just isn’t as glamorous…

    Uh….then why don’t we play some g*ddamn offense, too? Actually, I hear it’s the best defense. Yes, incumbents need to be defended…. but they have so many institutional advantages over their opponents already…. I’m not saying we shouldn’t give to them, especially ones who’ve supported issues that are important to you.

    All I’m saying is that our focus on holding back a supposed Republican wave (it ain’t over til the fat lady votes, folks) is blinding us collectively to opportunities to force Republicans to defend their awful, awful record in the opposition. Republicans are the Party of No, but America is the Country of Yes. If we make them run on their record, on their insane plans, on their crazy Obama=Hitler rhetoric, they are going to have a rough time with swing voters. And maybe I’m just tired of being on the defensive.

    Plus, we’ve drummed up some darn good challengers in some little-mentioned races. So if I had $100, it would go to….

    $20 – Charlie Melancon (LA-Sen)

    $10 – Roxanne Conlin (IA-Sen)

    $10 – Tarryl Clark (MN-06)

    $10 – John Callahan (PA-15)

    $10 – Sean Tevis (KS-02)

    $10 – Tommy Sowers (MO-08)

    $10 – Ed Potosnak (NJ-07)

    $10 – Tom White (NE-02)

    $10 – Lori Edwards (FL-12)

  13. While I really like what Periello and Shea-Porter have done. I throw out that another metric to keep in mind that is near and dear to those of us on that frequent this site, redistricting. If I had $100 I’d consider spending 40 on Kilroy and 30 on Driehaus as I think that if we get them through this election they will likely get safer seats in 2012 (assuming Strickland holds on versus ubersleeze Kasich and we don’t lose too many seat on the redistricting board…I’m looking at your Brunner) as Ohio would likely resort to an incumbent protection plan. In that case OH-1 would likely pick up more liberal portions of OH-2 that are wasted in eastern Cincinnati and we could go back to the days when a Cincinnati based district was held by a dem (usually a Luken) and the more right leaning portions of OH-1, western Hamilton county go go to Boehner’s district where they’ll be happier anyways. I won’t go into the same detail, but if we get through this cycle Kilroy would probably be given a Columbus based district. Presently both cities are divided to neutralize strong democratic areas in the cities and I think we could have 2 reliable votes if this plays out (except for Driehaus and abortion of course). My last $30 would got Kratovil, who if we can get him through this cycle will almost assuredly be protected in a manner to one of the 7-1 plans we have seen so many times for MD. Other people that cross my mind and could end up in safer seats after redistricting include Markey (assuming Hickenlooper doesn’t get buckbagged), Halls/Murphy/Owens in NY, Boccieri/Space/Sutton in OH (I feel they are safer off than Kilroy and Driehaus). What do you all think?

  14. I am still inclined to be not too worried about Leonard Boswell, despite Brad Zaun’s internal poll showing him ahead of Boswell last week. If Zaun comes up with some big fundraising numbers at the end of the 2Q, it might be worth taking a look at IA-03.

    Boswell’s voting record has improved quite a bit in the last couple of years. In 2007 he was frequently among the Blue Dogs casting “bad votes.” Now he’s still a Blue Dog but rarely casting “bad votes.”

    On the other hand, he still has some bad instincts. I decided not to write the check I was planning to write to Boswell’s campaign after he urged the FCC to screw us all over on net neutrality.

  15. Both have taken tough votes (and in Murphy’s case, leadership roles) on controversial issues, and both young legislators represent the future of the party.

  16. With measures of quality (political courage), impact, and cost-effectiveness.

    In those three measures, I’d push to defend:

    Chet Edwards for his political courage

    Walt Minnick for the political impact of having someone blue from someplace so red (aka, for a meme that we’re a national party, the Rs are not)

    Earl Pomeroy because it’s more cost-effective to defend a seat in a state with cheaper media markets.

    On the other end, I’d push less to defend:

    Political wimps (e.g. Mike Arcuri)

    Blue dogs in consistently blue districts (do we have any at risk?)

    Those in more expensive markets, where there isn’t already someone good atop the ticket (i.e., while it’s somewhat cost-effective to defend the Philly suburban seats, due to Sestak, it’s less cost-effective to defend someone like Glenn Nye).

    In addition, I’d exclude self-funders from the list (e.g. Alan Grayson), as our resources are not infinite.  

  17. I think the six below would be good choices, due to their voting records, political courage, and statewide potential. Perriello is the only one in serious danger, but the others could be swept away if the tide is strong enough, and they would be big losses.

    Patrick Murphy

    Tom Perriello

    Steve Kagen

    Gabby Giffords

    Jerry McNerney

    John Hall

    If we’re going to focus on open seats, these seem to be the most critical to defend. Some of the other open seats are either lost causes or a Blue Dog is running.

    Bryan Lentz (PA-07)

    Julie Lassa (WI-07)


  18. One way (and certainly not the only way) to look at maximum impact for donations is to see if there’s a multiplier effect regarding other races. The organization America Votes has proposed four factors: a contested governor’s race, a contested Senate race, 25% or more House seats of the state in play, and state legislative control at stake in a redistricting year. Investing in a House race where statehouse seats are in play can help retain or flip a state legislative chamber, which may be determinative in drawing lines for congressional seats for the next 10 years of contests.

    On those factors, the states that deliver the most bang for the buck are Ohio and Pennsylvania, where Democrats control state House chambers by very narrow margins. Donating to Mary Jo Kilroy in OH-15 not only helps her (and with her exemplary voting record, she deserves it) in a district she won very narrowly, but also can drive turnout in several competitive state legislative districts. http://www.americavotes.org/no… I’ve been told that a similar situation on the offense side would be John Callahan in PA-15. And turnout benefits the upticket races too.

    Even for the non-coldblooded, there are plenty of House members in Ohio and PA with good voting records where donations could have a multiplier effect.

  19. My wife served on the Democratic National Committee and knew him better, but I used to have a drink now and again with Michael Harrington (the The Other America Michael Harrington).  

    He used to define his immediate target in elections as “the left wing of the possible.”  

    I have two thoughts:

    (1)  Isn’t all this hairsplitting about who’s in and who’s out a bit self-indulgent and destructive of progressivism advancement across a range of issues?  

    For example, in the heat of the moment I wanted Bill Halter to win.  

    But — given Blanche Lincoln’s 95% ADA rating — was the Halter thing really constructive?

    Why are we parsing Grayson v. Shea-Porter v. Kilroy and so forth?  

    Don’t they collectively amount to the best we can possibly do?

    Shouldn’t we be disgorging our money and our shoe leather to protect all of them and spread the field.

    (2)  For those of us in hard red parts of the world the “left wing of the possible” can rationalize almost anything.  

    So one must guard that it doesn’t.

  20. The DCCC has something like $15 million more cash-on-hand than the NRCC.  Meanwhile, the NRSC is, if I recall correctly, just about a million bucks ahead of the DSCC.  

    I don’t know why the DSCC is doing SO badly, but I do understand why Republican senators can raise money much more effectively than Republican House Leadership, even though the House is the chamber more likely to change hands this fall.  Republican Senators have real power now; Republican House Leadership has none.  

    Anyway, the fact that the DCCC can massively outspend the NRCC, paired with the fact that the DSCC is tied with the NRSC, means that money needs to go to Senate races more than it normally would.  Netroots money ain’t much, it’s true, but with the DSCC in a pinch, it may get noticed, and make an on-the-ground difference, nonetheless.

    Given that, I’ve been very surprised to see how little attention Hodes’ senate campaign has gotten in the netroots, given that he was one of our babies in 2006, and Gregg’s seat still counts as offense.  I thought fundraising for Conway would be stronger as well, given that he’s a solid progressive and his opponent is a well-publicized nightmare.

    I think I’ve talked myself into making donations to Conway and Hodes.  I donated to Markey, Perriello, and Halter last quarter, so I don’t feel bad stiffing the noble House candidates this time.  I may donate to Kilroy though, because I missed her the first time around and because of the multiplier-effect of donating to Ohio candidates.

  21. From the liberal perspective, there are several key criteria to consider:

    1) Do they need the money and could they just as easily get it from corporate contributors?

    Self-funders like Grayson may earn some support for having very good voting records, but they don’t need the money in the same way. Similarly, Blue Dogs should be able to rely on corporate contributions. If they’re going to vote against the party and in favour of their financial backers, they ought to gather their money accordingly. If they can’t, it suggests rank incompetence, and that’s not something we want to encourage.

    2) How useful is money going to be?

    Bobby Bright doesn’t need vast amounts of out-of-state contributions. It’s a cheap media market, retail politics works well there and it’s more important to have a good local campaign which can increase turnout in the black community and Bright strongholds. A raft of ActBlue contributions could even prove counter-productive.

    Bryan Lentz, on the other hand, is in the Philly media market and has to introduce himself to those bits of the district he doesn’t currently represent. He’ll need the ad money more.

    It’s also worth considering how long they’ll be around. People who can win resoundingly this year and then be safe for decades are good investments. Whilst it’s nice to have Bright and Edwards rather than dribblingly crazy Republicans, they’re never going to be better than an 80% shot in an off year. I’d say that makes them worse investments.

    3) Who is a future star?

    Candidates in trouble this year could, if they survive, go on to great things. They could become chairmen of influential committees or part of the House leadership. They could run for governor or senator. They could even become president one day.

    Those who are likely to ascend to these heights are that much more deserving of support. This is particularly the case with those who are able to use these positions of influence to produce a leftward shift in the discourse or in the politics of the area they represent.

    Thus where gubernatorial races are concerned Baron Hill is worth actively supporting, because he’d be probably the left-most governor you can get out of Indiana, whereas Heath Shuler, for example, wouldn’t be – we can do much better out of North Carolina.

    With senatorial candidates a similar calculus applies – it’d be great to have Perriello in the Senate, but could he get elected there yet or is Virginia still too red?

    With those staying in the House for the foreseeable future, I’d back the leftmost candidates – they’ll bring the greatest amount of transformative change when they hit leadership rank.

    4) What will shift the caucus most to the left?

    Right now, the Democratic caucus doesn’t resemble Democratic voters. It’s not diverse enough, it’s too conservative and it’s overwhelmingly made up of the winners in life, whereas I’ve always thought that the proper role of parties of the left is to stand up for those who got dealt a bad hand in life and haven’t been able to bluff their way into something better.

    So you need to support candidates who represent Democratic voters. More women and minorities. More low-paid workers. Fewer rich conservative southerners – which is not to say we shouldn’t support them, just that their elections are going to be less transformative than getting a young black lesbian elected.

    More than that, as a liberal you need to support people who will frame the Democratic Party as a fundamentally liberal party, without acquiescing to the various smears attached to the term. You need to create a greater party discipline, to support those who make tough votes and to punish those who sell out and foster ‘Democrats divided’ storylines. This is where open-seat races and (to a much lesser extent) primary challenges come in.

    5) Who is the easiest prey?

    Liberals in the Democratic Party aren’t organised, and therefore they aren’t feared. This fear needs to be inculcated, because if people don’t vote against your interests then you have to do a lot less attacking them and endangering their re-election chances than you do if they do vote against your interests.

    So I think there’s a case to be made for picking one struggling and fairly useless congresscritter who’s crossed you and gained no advantage from it, and throwing the bastard an anvil.

    It might, for example, make sense to organise a donation strike for Mike Arcuri, organise volunteers to canvass for Maffei instead, bad-mouth him to the press and generally try to make a 5-point defeat into a 15-point one by giving him no aid. Then you announce you could have led him to victory and this is what you get if you cross him.

    Meantime, you get his district dismembered in redistricting anyway and therefore lose nothing.

    That said, there are obvious downsides to this approach. If there’s a chance they can win, then you shouldn’t try to engineer their defeat. So doing this to Arcuri wouldn’t make sense now. But if we drop 5 points in the generic ballot, it’s worth a go.

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