Open Thread: June House Cattle Call

We’ve done Senate cattle calls several times in the past, so let’s try something a little more challenging: ranking the House races.

You know what to do: List the competitive House races (as far down as you want to go) in order of their likelihood of flipping. I would suggest making two lists — one for Republican vulnerabilities and the other for Democratic defenses.

You may find SSP’s Competitive House Ratings to be helpful in remembering all the targeted races this year, but don’t let our ratings influence your list. After all, campaigns will be filing their second quarter fundraising reports with the FEC over the next couple of weeks, and our ratings will be due for another revision by then.

Vic Sprouse and his jealousy of Joe Manchin (WV)

Vic Sprouse was once touted as having a political future, until he found he liked talking more about family values than practicing them. He was a rising star of the West Virginia GOP, which may say more about the weakness of their bench than about Sprouse’s qualities as a candidate. Nevertheless, the soon to be irrelevant former Minority State Senate leader has decided to mock Gov. Joe Manchin (D), for – well, if you read Sprouse closely – for being successful.

In a post titled: “I want to live in Joe Manchin’s little world,” Sprouse writes:

For like five minutes, I would love to live in the world that Joe Manchin dwells in…  at first and when I first started listening to Joe speak, I really thought he was just spouting platitiudes and he was just a strong cheerleader of our state.

If Sprouse had ever advanced farther in politics or traveled outside of his overpriced gyms, he’d know that one of the things governors of all states do is talk about the positive attributes of their state and the job they’re doing. One of the biggest problems with the West Virginia GOP, and why I believe the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce often is not supportive of their efforts, is the Republicans love to tear down West Virginia. They’re so partisan in their effort to score political points they don’t care if they hurt economic development efforts. States compete for employers and often political and business leaders of a state work together to attract companies. The West Virginia GOP has made a decision – a bad strategy for the state and for politicking – that they will constantly be negative about West Virginia’s economy and government. They badmouth the state in an effort to convince voters they should be given the chance to run it.

Last year, WV GOP Chairman Doug McKinney decreed the party would throw the evangelicals and gun owners under the bus and focus on the economy this election cycle.

“‘Unleashing capitalism’ will be our party platform next year,” McKinney said. “Our philosophy will be, ‘It’s the economy, Stupid.’

“We’ve spent too much time in recent years on gun control and abortion.”

Then John Raese, part time West Virginia resident and occasional darling of the WV GOP, wandered off his party’s script:

“My family has been doing business in West Virginia since 1905. A lot of people have done business and done very well in West Virginia,” he said.

“We have more natural resources in West Virginia than all but two other states, Texas and Louisiana. We have the finest work force of anywhere in the United States.”

Free Image Hosting at

That knocked McKinney and his “Unleashing Capitalism” campaign for a loop, the real goal of which is to return to the days when coal barons could exploit workers and break unions, and not be hindered by safety or environmental regulations of any sort.

West Virginia experienced the days McKinney and Sprouse want to return to. They were the bad old days.

In his post, Sprouse is just continuing the WV GOP’s smear of the state’s economic development work with his snide comments about Manchin meeting with business executives. But I think there’s also something personal as well as political about it with Sprouse. It doesn’t take much reading between the lines to see Sprouse can’t stand that Manchin is popular with voters and fairly successful at running the state government.

Unlike many other governors across the country who’ve overspent, Manchin’s administration has a budget surplus.

“We’ll miss the downturn of the economy, because of the energy surge and the demand for coal,” Manchin told The Herald-Dispatch’s editorial board. “But if we don’t diversify our economy during the surge, we’ll have problems.”

Manchin said the state’s commitment to pay down debts during his first three years in office was a primary reason why the state will have a $290 million surplus in this year’s budget. But rather than use that money on one-time expenditures, the best option was to use it as an investment in education and diversifying the work force, Manchin said.

“It was a monumental task getting everyone to agree that we should invest $100 million in education,” Manchin said of his Bucks for Jobs initiative. “I can say it was one of the hardest things I have ever done, because everyone had their own ideas for how to spend this money.”

Under the Bucks for Jobs program, West Virginia University will get $35 million and Marshall University will get $15 million, provided both schools can match the funds with private donations within five years.

That’s called investing in West Virginia’s future.

Now I’ve done plenty of criticizing of the governor’s policies at times, but criticizing Manchin for “cheerleading” for the state as Sprouse does is like criticizing a minister for preaching or an artist for painting or a gym owner for folding the towels and clean the sweat off the equipment. It’s part of a governor’s job.

A job, by the way, that Sprouse will never have though it’s a certain bet he once dreamed he would.

That’s the real reason, for five minutes, Sprouse would love to live in Manchin’s world.

NY-13: It’s Official, Can’t Get Any Weirder

Ok, just read a Daily News report about Frank Powers’s funeral, which occured today.…

Apparently, his son and erswhile political opponent Frank Powers Jr. was arrested for punching a cop during the funeral after accosting his step-mother.

The confusing thing about the article is that it states that Frank Powers Jr. was the one who was taken away in an ambulance screaming “I’m not crazy!” … but the picture indicates “Robert John Powers” being taken into custody, and shows a man with, uh, far less hair than his older brother.

So clearly the Daily News has got something mixed up – but clearly something funky’s going on in Staten Island.

Only way this could get stranger is if the Republicans actually nominated Curtis Silwa (potential candidate, right-wing talk radio host, and founder of Guardian Angels) and he began staging vigilante interventions on the Staten Island Ferry to get himself some press…

KY-01: Exxon Eddie’s Skewed Priorities

Exxon Ed Whitfield has had this seat for a long time and made a lot of votes. During his tenure, he has been a constant rubber-stamp for the failed policies of the Bush Administration. Despite his election year “Renaisance” Exxon Eddie can’t hide from his real record. He has consistenty gotten it wrong time and time again.

At Ryan for Kentucky the one thing we can assure you is that their are deep, fundamental differences between our candidate, Heather Ryan and Exxon Ed Whitfield, and the Republican Party. We have a different set of priorities to fight for.

You see, Heather Ryan is not beholden to the Pharmeceutical Industry, the Big Oil Lobby, or the Chamber of Commerce. In Congress, Heather Ryan will be beholden to the working Americans that put her there. Yes, there are deep, fundamental differences in these two candidates.

During his time, the only problem Exxon Eddie has had with Pharmaceuticals is that he wanted to stop their illegal sale by introducing this legislation:

Congressmen Ed Whitfield on Thursday introduced legislation that will help prevent prescription drug abuse. The legislation, entitled the National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting Act (NASPER), would create a federal grant program to help establish or improve state-run prescription drug monitoring programs.

The legislation will give physicians the resources they need to treat patients while also giving law enforcement additional tools to prosecute individuals who are illegally using controlled substances. Similar legislation introduced by Whitfield passed the House last year.…

Now this is all well and good. However, lets look at some of his other votes on Drugs:

Voted NO on military border patrols to battle drugs & terrorism.

Amendment to set up a task force on counter-terrorism and drug interdiction and allow military personnel to help patrol U.S. borders.

Bill HR 2586 ; vote number 2001-356 on Sep 25, 2001…

The very Congressman that seeks to lecture us on Terrorism with the FISA Bill, and illegal drugs with the bill above voted against combatting both.

Voted NO on requiring negotiated Rx prices for Medicare part D.

Would require negotiating with pharmaceutical manufacturers the prices that may be charged to prescription drug plan sponsors for covered Medicare part D drugs.

Reference: Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act; Bill HR 4 (“First 100 hours”) ; vote number 2007-023 on Jan 12, 2007…

Of course, if prices are negotiated, Exxon Eddie and his buddies can’t fleece the American consumer and taxpayer.

Voted YES on limited prescription drug benefit for Medicare recipients.

Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernization Act of 2003: Vote to adopt the conference report on the bill that would create a prescription drug benefit for Medicare recipients. Starting in 2006, prescription coverage would be made available through private insurers to seniors. Seniors would pay a monthly premium of an estimated $35 in 2006. Individuals enrolled in the plan would cover the first $250 of annual drug costs themselves, and 25 percent of all drug costs up to $2,250. The government would offer a fallback prescription drug plan in regions were no private plans had made a bid.Over a 10 year time period medicare payments to managed care plans would increase by $14.2 billion. A pilot project would begin in 2010 in which Medicare would compete with private insurers to provide coverage for doctors and hospitals costs in six metropolitan areas for six years. The importation of drugs from Canada would be approved only if HHS determines there is no safety risks and that consumers would be saving money.

Reference: Bill sponsored by Hastert, R-IL; Bill HR.1 ; vote number 2003-669 on Nov 22, 2003…

Great job Eddie!! Lets limit the access to people who really need them!!

Voted NO on allowing reimportation of prescription drugs.

Pharmaceutical Market Access Act of 2003: Vote to pass a bill that would call for the Food and Drug Administration to begin a program that would permit the importation of FDA-approved prescription drugs from Australia, Canada, the European Union, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Lichtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and South Africa.

Reference: Bill sponsored by Gutknecht, R-MN; Bill HR.2427 ; vote number 2003-445 on Jul 24, 2003…

Again, profit lines, special interest contributors, and stock options!!

You see, at Ryan for Kentucky, we believe that the abuse of Prescription Drugs is a problem, but we believe it is a bigger problem when the people that actually need drugs cannot afford them. We believe these drugs should be cheaper for them, not more expensive.

We believe in trying to help people who are elderly and sick. We don’t think they should be held at the mercy of the Government or the Insurance Lobby because of their conditions. Most of all, unlike Exxon Eddie:

Whitfield voted for and the House passed, H.R. 6304, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 Amendments Act of 2008. This bill closes a terrorist loophole in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that requires American intelligence officers to obtain a warrant before intercepting terrorist communications abroad.…

We believe in the Constitution. From an email:

Later this week, the Senate will be considering passage of the compromise on the FISA Bill. Since many voters in the First Congressional District of Kentucky have contacted me wondering what my stance on this legislation is, I felt compelled to speak on this issue.

While I was in Washington on that terrible day of Sept. 11, 2001 when planes crashed into the World Trade Center and in Western Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon, I can understand the passion that has fueled this bill. Having said that, I must urge the Senate to reject this FISA compromise as proposed and passed by the House of Representatives with H.R. 6304.

There are several reasons why I feel this bill is unnecessary. First, I think that we have lost focus on the fact that a competent Administration could have actually gone a long way in preventing this tragedy. The Bush Administration was warned in advance of 9-11 and did nothing at the time to prevent it. I believe if the Bush Administration would have acted on the intelligence provided them, then the 9-11 tragedy could have been avoided through the laws that existed at the time.

I also believe this law is an extension of the Bush Administration’s attempts to politicize the Justice Department. Prosecuting entities are provided by the Constitution with checks and balances on which to operate. They already have very broad powers and if they found a credible threat would have no problem getting a warrant in a timely fashion.

Finally, I believe that FISA and this compromise are an abomination to the Constitution because it seeks to circumvent the checks and balances provided all of us by that sacred document. I strongly oppose giving the Telecom Corporations immunity when they knew they were breaking the law, when the Bush Administration asked them to break the law.

I saw where my opponent in this race, “Exxon Ed” Whitfield voted for this Legislation. I think it is pretty ironic when the very Republicans who lecture us regarding limiting the roll of the Federal Government propose, and push through, the House of Representatives a bill that vastly broadens the powers of the Federal Government. This is one issue on which Progressives, Moderates and Conservatives should all be able to agree. There are certain things on which none of us should ever compromise, and the Constitution is one thing on which I will never compromise as Representative of Kentucky’s First District.

Now, we need you to believe in us. Support grassroots Democrats in Kentucky’s First District and help us with the resources we need, and we will work hard and expand our Congressional majorities. No amount is too small and is greatly appreciated!!:…

Lets send Exxon Eddie to Florida where he lives!!


MT-AL: Backpacking For a Better Tomorrow

Former Montana Public Service Commissioner John Driscoll, who is waging a no-money campaign (literally) for Congress this year, likes his chances against GOP Rep. Denny Rehberg:

“I would say it’s a 50-50 chance going into the general election,” Driscoll told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday.

Here’s the game plan:

Driscoll said he expects Obama’s plan to run a campaign in Montana will drive up voter turnout among Democrats, which will help his campaign. And Driscoll said he thinks many Republicans are upset with the direction of the country who will be looking for different options and turn to him.

Driscoll says it is unfair to portray him as someone who is not campaigning, he is just doing it differently.

For instance, he is leaving this weekend for a backpacking trip in the Bob Marshall Wilderness or the Cabinet Wilderness. Along the way, he says, he will stop in coffee shops and talk to people.

Watch your back, Rehberg!

Weekly Open Thread: What Races Are You Interested In?

What’s burning in your blood?

Under the fold below, I’ve included a poll question that should yield some interesting results: “When did you start reading the Swing State Project?”

For me, it was back in 2005 just before the Paul Hackett campaign started gaining steam in OH-02. That feels like a lifetime ago!

By what margin will Bob Shamansky win?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

TX-Sen: Cornyn Leads Noriega By 13

Rasmussen (6/25, likely voters, 6/2 in parens):

Rick Noriega (D): 35 (35)

Big John Cornyn (R-inc): 48 (52)

(MoE: ±4.5%)

Yes, Cornyn is under 50, but the most important number in this race will be revealed by July 15: Noriega’s second quarter fundraising haul. If Noriega hasn’t started raising some serious money by now, he may not have the resources he needs to be competitive in the fall. It’s a tough reality, but we all know that winning a statewide race in Texas — especially against an incumbent — requires some major resources. We’ll soon find out if Noriega is on pace to amass the infrastructure he needs to close the gap.

Bonus finding: McCain leads Obama by 48-39 in the state.

NJ-Sen: Lautenberg Up By 17

Fairleigh Dickinson Univ. (6/17-22, registered voters):

Frank Lautenberg (D-inc): 45

Dick Zimmer (R-inc): 28

(MoE: ±4%)

This is local pollster Fairleigh Dickinson’s first shot at the New Jersey Senate race, and this is the biggest lead Lautenberg has seen in any poll since ex-Rep. Dick Zimmer became the GOP nominee. As much as we’d like to see the NRSC get bamboozled into pouring big money into New Jersey in the hopes of getting their one pickup here, these numbers indicate they may not bother with that.

45% can’t be a good sign for Lautenberg, although [insert moldy cliche about how all New Jersey residents hate all their politicians here]. The biggest news here may be that hardly anyone has any idea who Dick Zimmer is, which is surprising considering that he used to represent Congress from NJ-12 from 1990 to 1996, where he was the prime mover for Megan’s Law, and ran for the Senate in 1996. (I suppose 12 years is several lifetimes in politics.) Zimmer’s name recognition numbers are down near Bob Roggio territory: 16% favorable, 10% unfavorable. 44% have never heard of him, while 29% have heard of him but have no opinion.

IL-10: Help Elect the Government We Deserve

As we wind up this fundraising quarter, I am sure you are all getting inundated with emails from different candidates asking for your support.

Like most of you, I know that our country is ready for change. After seven years of failed leadership from George Bush, it’s time we send new leaders to Washington. But as we’ve seen recently, it’s not just enough to elect Democrats; we must elect better Democrats.

Together we can create a Congress that will bring an end to the war in Iraq, ensure that every American has healthcare, and never capitulate when it comes to protecting our Constitutional liberties. But to create this Congress, I need your help and there is no better time to help than right now.

My opponent, Mark Kirk, is not only one of the top Republican fundraisers in the nation, but he has also been one of the biggest defenders of this administration. He didn’t just vote to get us into the war in Iraq, he actually was handpicked by the President to craft the language to get us into it. Just a few days ago, he was caught spreading the false claim that China is drilling off the Florida coast, a fabrication that even Vice-President Dick Cheney has disavowed.

The Republicans are going to do everything they can to hold onto this seat, so we need to do everything we can to have the financial resources we need to win come November.

In just over 200 days, we are going to swear in a new government. Let’s do everything we can right now to make sure it’s a government that will deliver the change we all deserve. 

Join our movement for change by signing up for a virtual phone bank, committing to walking in a Fourth of July parade, or adding .10 to any contribution you can make today to help us bring the change we need to Washington.  

Please visit my website at www.dansealsforcongress to learn more about my campaign.

Thank you for all of your hard work and your commitment to demanding more from our government.

Cross-posted at Daily Kos and Open Left.


Where’s the Pivot Point?

Who’s the most powerful member of the House? If I told you it was Tim Mahoney, you’d probably laugh in my face; after all, he’s a freshman, and a bit of a flake. Well, if you order all members of the House from most liberal to most conservative (using DW-Nominate scores for the 110th Congress), Tim Mahoney is #218 out of 435. He’s smack in the middle of the House, and the whole thing pivots around him, in the same way that Anthony Kennedy holds all the cards on the Supreme Court because he’s #5 out of 9.

There are several things wrong with my proposition, though: first, 435 is a lot larger than 9, and there are a lot of transitory coalitions that form around various topics, so the spectrum isn’t always very clear. You aren’t even going to get aggregators to agree on who goes in what slot (ask National Journal, they’ll tell you that #218 is Mike McIntyre; ask Progressive Punch and they’ll tell it’s Charlie Melancon).

More importantly, just as Matt Stoller mentioned yesterday in regards to 60 as the ‘magic number’ in the Senate, there aren’t very many votes where it actually comes down to the bare minimum. Even controversial things tend to pass by a sizable margin once the initial haggling shakes out (the most recent Iraq Supplemental passed 268-155, and the FISA Amendments passed 293-129); actual 218-217 votes are almost unheard of. As he sagely pointed out, the key is to build the coalitions and implement the infrastructure that allow progressives to control the discursive arena in Congress regardless of actual numbers so that the progressive POV becomes more of an institutional inevitability.

Nevertheless, some of that sense of the ‘possible’ within that discursive arena is directly influenced by the seat count. Think back to the backstory behind the FISA vote last week: a lot of Dems voted with leadership, but leadership’s hand wasn’t forced by a widespread popular uprising, just by the 21 Blue Dogs who signed the January letter of intent to jump on board the Republicans’ discharge petition. We’ll probably never know who those 21 signatories were (although, given the spectrum in the House, one can assume it included Mahoney, McIntyre, and Melancon), but it’s clear they turned the tide on the FISA amendments. Looking at the pivot point, Pelosi could have safely ignored 12 Blue Dogs (233 – 12 = 221), but she couldn’t safely ignore 21 (233 – 21 = 212).

What if, on the other hand, there weren’t fewer Blue Dogs, but rather more Progressives in seats that are currently occupied by moderate (or, in a few possibilities, extreme) Republicans? If there were only 7 more Democrats, all Progressive or New Dem, then Pelosi also could have ignored the 21 Blue Dogs (240 – 21 = 219). Now, of course, this is pure speculation that only 21 Dems would have signed the discharge petition, but my point stands that it would take only a few more net Progressives to move the core Blue Dogs past the pivot point and thus out of the House’s driver’s seat (or at least out of reach of the steering wheel). In shorter words, the goal for the 111th Congress needs to be: Progressives + New Dems > Blue Dogs + Republicans.

More over the flip (including many tables)…

So the question is: how many progressives (they don’t have to be card-carrying members of the Progressive Caucus; non-capitulating New Dems and unaffiliated types work fine too) do we need to add above the pivot point in order to push all of the Blue Dogs down the spectrum, to below the pivot point? Here’s where we get to break out the tables, starting with where we are right now in the current 110th Congress:

Rank District 110th Rep. 110th Score Caucus Bad Votes
215.5 FL-02 Boyd -0.198 BDC Iraq, FISA
215.5 TX-28 Cuellar -0.198 NDC, CHC Iraq, FISA
217 MO-04 Skelton -0.193 Unaff. Iraq, FISA
218 FL-16 Mahoney -0.186 BDC, NDC, Fr. Iraq, FISA
219.5 MN-07 C. Peterson -0.177 BDC Iraq, FISA
219.5 TN-04 L. Davis -0.177 BDC Iraq, FISA
221 TN-06 Gordon -0.165 BDC Iraq, FISA
222 UT-02 Matheson -0.163 BDC Iraq, FISA
223 TX-22 Lampson -0.158 BDC, NDC, Fr. Iraq, FISA
224 AZ-05 Mitchell -0.148 NDC, Fr. Iraq, FISA
225 PA-10 Carney -0.144 BDC, NDC, Fr. Iraq, FISA
226 GA-08 Marshall -0.135 BDC Iraq, FISA
227 PA-04 Altmire -0.12 NDC, Fr. Iraq, FISA
228 OK-02 Boren -0.119 BDC Iraq, FISA
229 IN-08 Ellsworth -0.118 BDC, Fr. Iraq, FISA
230 AL-05 Cramer -0.112 BDC Iraq, FISA
231.5 IN-02 Donnelly -0.107 BDC, Fr. Iraq, FISA
231.5 NC-11 Shuler -0.107 BDC, Fr. Iraq, FISA
233 GA-12 Barrow -0.080 BDC, NDC Iraq, FISA
234.5 CT-04 Shays 0.241 MSP Iraq, FISA
234.5 NJ-02 LoBiondo 0.241 MSP Iraq, FISA

As you can see from this table, Pelosi is able to consider legislation without needing to rely on the worst 15 Blue Dogs on the final vote. (Again, though, she’s still affected by what happens in committee and other back-room wrangling.) However, there are a lot more Blue Dogs than that, if you continue on up the totem pole.

One thing worth noting is that 7 of those 15 Blue Dogs below the pivot point are freshmen, indicating that maybe we didn’t come as far in the 2006 elections as we thought we did (many of our pickups were in red districts inhabited by corrupt or incompetent Republicans… 2008 looks to be somewhat different, as a lot of the GOP fruit that outright spoiled has been picked and now the lowest-hanging fruit is mostly in moderate suburban districts, which is what this year’s Red to Blue targeting reflects). Although the pivot point is much better than where it was in the 109th Congress (where #218 was Jim Gerlach, not only giving the Rs control of the House but giving Dennis Hastert license to ignore the 14 Republicans to the left of Gerlach), we swelled the ranks of the Blue Dogs in 2006, so much so that the pivot point is right in the middle of the Blue Dog caucus.

Now let’s look at where we might be after the 2008 elections. I’m going to look at three different scenarios: a pessimistic scenario (where we only pick up 13 seats: the Lean D and Toss-up seats according to Swing State Project), an average scenario (where we also pick up the Lean R seats, giving us 26 seats), and a wildly optimistic scenario (where we also pick up the Likely R seats, giving us 56 new seats). I’m plugging in the new freshmen according to the scores I predicted for them last week. (I also need to fit the three new mid-term guys in there: based on their records so far, I’m assigning Childers and Cazayoux a score of – 0.200 and Foster a score of – 0.300. I also need to give a score to the three new Cuban-American reps, who didn’t fit in my formula; for an easy solution, I’ll just give them each – 0.400.) Let’s start with the pessimistic scenario:

Rank District 110th Rep. 110th Score Caucus Bad Votes
216.5 TN-08 Tanner -0.230 BDC Iraq, FISA
216.5 TX-27 Ortiz -0.230 CHC Iraq, FISA
218 PA-17 Holden -0.227 BDC Iraq, FISA
219 CA-11 McNerney -0.226 Unaff., Fr. FISA
220 GA-02 S. Bishop -0.22 BDC, CBC Iraq, FISA
221 LA-03 Melancon -0.218 BDC, NDC Iraq, FISA
222 AZ-08 Giffords -0.215 BDC, NDC, Fr. Iraq, FISA
223 PA-12 Murtha -0.21 Unaff. Iraq, FISA
224 IL-08 Bean -0.209 BDC, NDC Iraq, FISA
225 TN-05 Cooper -0.208 BDC Iraq, FISA
226 MS-04 Taylor -0.207 BDC Iraq, FISA
227 IN-09 Hill -0.204 BDC, NDC, Fr. Iraq
229 LA-06 Cazayoux -0.200 Unaff., Fr. Iraq, FISA
229 MS-01 Childers -0.200 Unaff., Fr. Iraq, FISA
229 OH-18 Space -0.200 BDC, Fr. Iraq, FISA
231.5 FL-02 Boyd -0.198 BDC Iraq, FISA
231.5 TX-28 Cuellar -0.198 NDC, CHC Iraq, FISA

Under this scenario, Tim Holden becomes the new pivot point. Although we’re past the point where 21 holdouts can provoke a mutiny, we’re still in the Land of the Blue Dog. We’ve added 13 new Democrats, and the good news is that all of them fall above the pivot point, pushing the list down so that the pivot point is one of the less objectionable Blue Dogs.

Now let’s look at the average scenario (26 pickups, including all of the Lean Rs):

Rank District 110th Rep. 110th Score Caucus Bad Votes
216 WV-01 Mollohan -0.269 Unaff. Iraq
217 KY-06 Chandler -0.264 BDC, NDC Iraq, FISA
218 CA-20 Costa -0.259 BDC, CHC Iraq, FISA
219 GA-13 D. Scott -0.257 BDC, NDC,  CBC Iraq, FISA
220 SD-AL Herseth -0.253 BDC, NDC Iraq, FISA
221 ND-AL Pomeroy -0.247 BDC Iraq, FISA
222 TX-17 C. Edwards -0.246 Unaff. Iraq, FISA
223 KS-02 Boyda -0.239 Unaff., Fr. Iraq, FISA
224 AR-04 Ross -0.235 BDC Iraq, FISA
225 NC-07 McIntyre -0.234 BDC, NDC Iraq, FISA
226 PA-08 P. Murphy -0.233 BDC, NDC, Fr. FISA
227 VA-09 Boucher -0.231 Unaff. Iraq, FISA
228.5 TN-08 Tanner -0.230 BDC Iraq, FISA
228.5 TX-27 Ortiz -0.230 CHC Iraq, FISA

Now we’re getting a little closer to the light at the end of the tunnel. Under this scenario, Jim Costa becomes the pivot point. He’s a Blue Dog, and there are still a few Blue Dogs above him, but we’re starting to reach the bottom of New Dem terrain. Of the 26 Dems we’ve added under this scenario, only one of them is projected to slot in below the pivot point: Paul Carmouche in LA-04 (-0.200).

Now let’s look at the extremely optimistic scenario (56 pickups, including all Likely Rs):

Rank District 110th Rep. 110th Score Caucus Bad Votes
215 WA-09 A. Smith -0.308 NDC FISA
216 TX-15 Hinojosa -0.304 CHC Iraq, FISA
222 AK-AL Berkowitz -0.300
222 AZ-01 Kirkpatrick -0.300
222 FL-13 Jennings -0.300
222 IL-14 Foster -0.300 Unaff. Iraq
222 IL-18 Callahan -0.300
222 MN-06 Tinklenburg -0.300
222 MO-06 Barnes -0.300
222 MO-09 Baker -0.300
222 NC-08 Kissell -0.300
222 OH-16 Boccieri -0.300
222 WV-02 Barth -0.300
228 MD-02 Ruppersburger -0.292 Unaff. Iraq, FISA
229 TX-16 Reyes -0.291 CHC Iraq, FISA
230 OH-06 C. Wilson -0.289 BDC, Fr. Iraq, FISA
231.5 IA-03 Boswell -0.288 BDC FISA
231.5 PA-07 Sestak -0.288 NDC, Fr. Iraq, FISA
233 AL-07 A. Davis -0.286 NDC, CBC Iraq, FISA
234 FL-22 Klein -0.278 NDC, Fr. FISA
235 CO-03 Salazar -0.275 BDC, CHC Iraq, FISA
236 NY-20 Gillibrand -0.272 BDC, NDC, Fr. Iraq, FISA
237.5 AR-02 Snyder -0.271 NDC Iraq, FISA
237.5 CA-18 Cardoza -0.271 BDC, CHC FISA
239 WV-01 Mollohan -0.269 Unaff. Iraq
240 KY-06 Chandler -0.264 BDC, NDC Iraq, FISA

We’re finally starting to make some progress. Under this scenario, #218 is part of an 11-way tie, but #216 is Ruben Hinojosa. We’re pretty much out of Blue Dog territory here, and the pivot point has started to move into the realm of the New Dems. Unfortunately, we’re also starting to reach a point of diminishing returns here: to bring about a 56-seat pickup, this requires sweeping not only all the moderate suburban seats but also a lot of seats that are more rural and conservative, meaning that we’ve added to the ranks of Dems who fall below the pivot point (18 of the new 56 fall at or below the pivot point).

And unfortunately, you can see we’re still at a pivot point where most of the veterans have voted the wrong way on the most recent Iraq Supplemental and FISA bills. For instance, we’re still a little short of pushing down Lipinski, Kanjorski, Etheridge, Dicks, or Dennis Moore.  However, the important thing to remember is that it will be a different playing field: one where, most likely, they’ll be working with President Obama rather than fretting over how best to oppose President Bush. Congress won’t need to act as a brake on out-of-control Iraq policy, and FISA… well… FISA remains a big question mark, but it’s unlikely that Congress would need act as a brake on further attempts to expand the President’s unchecked powers.

Instead, we’ll be needing to worry about whether we have enough votes to overcome any Blue Dog defections from Obama’s agenda. No doubt there will be enough votes to overcome any defections on the relatively uncontroversial stuff (there was only one Dem defection on the SCHIP veto override [Jim Marshall], and only two defections on the Employee Free Choice Act [Boren and Taylor]). But we need enough Progressive votes in the House to push Blue Dog objections to, say, universal health care and more progressive tax brackets, down below the pivot point.

One last Stupid Excel Trick before wrapping it up. This left me thinking of the last time the Democrats had a Congressional majority: the first two years of the Clinton administration, which were a legislative disaster by most anyone’s standards, where conservative Democrats (I suppose they were still ‘Boll Weevils’ back then; the term ‘Blue Dog’ hadn’t really been invented yet) scuttled most attempts to implement anything other than the most incremental change. Let’s take a quick look at where the pivot point was back then:

Rank District 103rd Rep. 103rd Score
216 WI-01 Barca -0.169
217 TX-02 C. Wilson -0.166
218 AR-01 Lincoln -0.161
219 TX-25 Andrews -0.154
220 CA-19 Lehman -0.152
Very very long break…
260 LA-03 Tauzin 0.083
261 NY-23 Boehlert (R) 0.088
262 FL-01 Hutto 0.090
263 ME-02 Snowe (R) 0.098

(This table doesn’t include 3 Republicans who fall in the gap: Morella at 250, Fish at 256, and Gilman at 258, and 1 Democrat who’s off the chart: Ralph Hall at 272).

If there’s any wonder why Clinton got hosed during his first term, this is it. Even though he started office with a gaping 258-176-1 edge in the House (right where we’d be under the average scenario from above, with 26 pickups), look at the DW-Nominate score for his pivot point: Blanche Lincoln (who now has graduated to the Senate): – 0.161. (And yes, right above her is Charlie Wilson, of Charlie Wilson’s War fame.) That’s a significantly lower score than the current pivot point we’re saddled with (Tim Mahoney, at – 0.186). Remember that these are DW-Nominate scores, which are designed for comparing one Congress against another and measure only left-to-right movement, not the distortions caused by the size of the caucus.

Clinton had fully 41 Democratic representatives below the pivot point, and most of them were more conservative than your average Blue Dog today. In fact, 20 of them were more conservative than today’s most conservative Dem (John Barrow)! (Only 3 of those 20 remain today, and only one as a Dem [Gene Taylor], with two party-switchers [Ralph Hall and Nathan Deal]; other delightful rogues from that gallery include Jim Traficant and Gary Condit.) So, by that measure, consider that we may well have a more progressive House right now than Clinton had to work with, despite the showy seat count in the 103rd (thanks to fewer, but more cohesive, Dems). Adding more progressives in the next Congress, on top of what he have now, will only help us more.