[Cross-posted at Daily Kos and MyDD.]
Jim Webb’s victory tonight is a victory for Virginia’s netroots. Virginia’s progressive blogosphere was not thrilled with the default candidate emerging earlier this year. So, spearheaded by Lowell and many others, they drafted a Reagan Republican with a stellar resume to run as a Democrat and propelled him to victory in the primary.
— Raising Kaine
My, how far we in the activist Netroots have fallen. With Brad Miller’s refusal to run in the North Carolina Senate race, it’s time to admit that we have a full-fledged blogosphere recruitment disaster on our hands for the 2008 Senate races — and to ask why it happened, and how we can avoid such an event in the future.
Here are the candidate recruitment situations in the Senate races with Republican incumbents or that are open seats:
Alabama: Blogosphere-recruited State Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks decided not to run against Sen. Jeff Sessions, citing concerns of a divisive primary against State Sen. Vivian Figures. Sparks’ decision leaves only Figures, a charismatic liberal but a long-shot to win the general election, in the race.
Alaska: The Democrats’ top choice against scandal-plagued Sen. Ted Stevens, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, is the only major candidate in the race (unless former State Senate Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz gets in). Unlike the last two election cycles, when former Governor Tony Knowles was heavily recruited by the blogosphere, there hasn’t been a peep from anyone online except to tepidly support the recruitment of Begich.
Colorado: Congressman and Blue Dog Dem Mark Udall locked up this nomination early, with support from Chuck Schumer. The blogosphere has yet to mention a strong candidate against him (Mike Miles, anyone?)
Georgia: Neither Rand Knight or Dale Cardwell stands much of a chance against Sen. Saxby Chambliss, and the blogosphere has yet to make much noise about either of them, despite both of their solid progressive records. The blogosphere (and, presumably, Chuck Schumer) also failed to recruit Sen. Max Cleland into a rematch with Chambliss.
Idaho: Former Congressman Larry LaRocco is a solid progressive, but has locked up this nomination against Sen. Mike Crapo without much help from the blogosphere, which is more focused on Congressional candidate Larry Grant.
Kentucky: No one on the Democratic side has yet jumped into this race against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, despite its high position on the list of blogosphere targets.
Maine: Congressman Tom Allen joined the race against Sen. Susan Collins early and was a joint recruit of the blogosphere and Chuck Schumer.
Minnesota: One could say that talk-show host Al Franken is a blogosphere recruit, but that would belie the fact that many in the blogosphere don’t want him to run. He faces Schumer recruit Mike Ciresi in what promises to be a hotly-contested primary for the right to face Sen. Norm Coleman.
Mississippi: No one has joined the race against veteran Sen. Thad Cochran, though former Attorney General Mike Moore is considering.
Nebraska: Blogosphere recruit Scott Kleeb is considering the race against Sen. Chuck Hagel in what may be an open seat, but the most likely candidate remains Blue Dog Democrat and rabid Iraq War supporter Bob Kerrey, who is being recruited by Chuck Schumer.
New Hampshire: The blogosphere failed to recruit anyone into the race against Sen. John Sununu, leaving the two leading Democratic candidates as former Congresswoman and Joe Lieberman ally Katrina Swett and the slightly more palatable former Governor Jeanne Shaheen, who is Chuck Schumer’s choice.
New Mexico: No major candidate has yet jumped into the race against surprisingly-vulnerable Sen. Pete Domenici. Top blogosphere recruit Congressman Tom Udall declined to run. The blogosphere is now attempting to recruit former U.S. Attorney John Kelly.
North Carolina: A joint push by the blogosphere and Chuck Schumer to recruit Congressman Brad Miller into the race failed last week when Miller announced he wasn’t running. To date, no one has announced a run against Sen. Liddy Dole.
Oklahoma: In one of the few potential blogosphere success stories, State Sen. Andrew Rice is considering running against Sen. Jim Inhofe.
Oregon: The top two blogosphere recruitments, Congressmen Peter DeFazio and Earl Blumenauer, both declined to run. The blogosphere is now stuck with political novice Steve Novick.
South Carolina: No Democrat has stepped up to challenge Sen. Lindsey Graham.
Tennessee: No Democrat has stepped up to challenge Sen. Lamar Alexander, though Michael Ray McWherter, son of a former Governor, is considering.
Texas: Blogosphere recruit State Sen. Rick Noriega is still considering the race against Sen. John Cornyn.
Virginia: The only potential candidate for Sen. John Warner’s seat is former Governor Mark Warner, who is a Schumer recruit.
Wyoming: The only potential candidate for these two Senate seats now held by Sens. Mike Enzi and Jon Barasso is conservative Dem Gov. Dave Freudenthal, definitely not a blogosphere recruit.
You may question my characterizations of some of these races, but let’s look at the situation this way: The top five blogosphere recruits of the cycle (the ones that received national blogosphere attention from Daily Kos, MyDD, and other sites) were Ron Sparks in Alabama, Brad Miller in North Carolina, Peter DeFazio and Earl Blumenauer in Oregon, and Rick Noriega in Texas. To date, four of these five have declined to run, and the fifth (Noriega) is still considering.
This is a pretty terrible record for blogosphere recruitment this cycle. In 2006, by way of comparison, the blogosphere was able to singlehandedly recruit Jim Webb and Ned Lamont into their respective Senate races, and then propel them ahead of high-powered Schumer candidates Joe Lieberman and Harris Miller. We also played a major role in Jon Tester’s defeat of the Schumer-supported John Morrison in Montana.
Where is that blogosphere muscle now? Why can’t we convince two separate Congressmen in Oregon to run against a badly damaged Senator, or show a statewide officeholder in Alabama that we can help him beat a no-name state senator? It’s time for us in the blogosphere, both in the state blogs and in the national activist blogs, to examine our priorities and figure out what has gone so horribly wrong in this recruitment cycle. Is it because we’re too focused on the Presidential race? Because we’ve simply lost interest in the Senate since taking it over last November? Whatever the reason, I think we should talk seriously about why we’ve failed so far in this cycle, and about how, or if, we can salvage the situation. I for one would like to see a Lieberman-proof majority in the Senate after 2008.