Huckabee and Jindal appeal to social conservatives in Iowa

Skip this diary if you think it’s too early to start talking about the 2012 presidential campaign just because Barack Obama hasn’t been inaugurated yet.  

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, the winner of the 2008 Iowa caucuses, was back in the state this week in more ways than one. On Thursday he held book signings that attracted some 600 people in Cedar Rapids and an even larger crowd in a Des Moines suburb. According to the Des Moines Register, he “brushed off talk of a 2012 run” but

brought to Iowa a prescription for the national Republican Party, which he said has wandered from its founding principles.

“There is no such thing as fiscal conservativism without social conservativism,” Huckabee said. “We really should be governing by a moral code that we live by, which can be summed up in the phrase: Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.”

Governing by that principle would lead to a more humane society, with lower crime and poverty rates, creating less demand on government spending, he said.

Huckabee was accompanied on Thursday by Bob Vander Plaats, who chaired his Iowa campaign for president. Vander Plaats has sought the Republican nomination for Iowa governor twice and is expected to run again in 2010. He recently came out swinging against calls for the Iowa GOP to move to the middle following its latest election losses. The Republican caucuses in the Iowa House and the Iowa Senate elected new leadership this month, and the state party will choose a new chairman in January. Vander Plaats is likely to be involved in a bruising battle against those who want the new chairman to reach out more to moderates.

Many Iowans who didn’t come to Huckabee’s book signings heard from him anyway this week, as he became the first politician to robocall Iowa voters since the November election. The calls ask a few questions in order to identify voters who oppose abortion rights, then ask them to donate to the National Right to Life Council. According to Iowa Independent, the call universe included some Democrats and no-party voters as well as registered Republicans. Raising money for an anti-abortion group both keeps Huckabee in front of voters and scores points with advocates who could be foot-soldiers during the next caucus campaign.

Meanwhile, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal made two stops in Iowa yesterday. Speaking in Cedar Rapids,

Jindal said America’s culture is one of the things that makes it great, but warned that its music, art and constant streams of media and communication have often moved in the wrong direction.

“There are things we can do as private citizens working together to strengthen our society,” he said. “Our focus does not need to be on fixing the (Republican) party,” he said. “Our focus needs to be on how to fix America.”

I’m really glad to hear he’s not worried about fixing the party that has record-high disapproval ratings, according to Gallup.

Later in the day, Jindal headlined a fundraiser in West Des Moines for the Iowa Family Policy Center. He said he wasn’t there to talk politics (as if what follows isn’t a politically advantageous message for that audience):

“It all starts with family and builds outward from there,” said the first-term Jindal, who was making his first visit to Iowa. “As a parent, I’m acutely aware of the overall coarsening of our culture in many ways.”

The governor said technology such as television and the Internet are conduits for corrupting children, which he also believes is an issue agreed upon across party lines.

“As governor, I can’t censor anything or take away anyone’s freedom of speech – nor do I want to if I could,” he said, “but I can still control what my kids watch, what they hear and what they read.”

The problem is that parents who want to control what their kids read often try to do so by limiting what other people’s kids can read. A couple near Des Moines

are fighting to restrict access to the children’s book “And Tango Makes Three” at East Elementary School in Ankeny. The book is the story of two male penguins who raise a chick together.

The Ankeny parents want it either removed or moved to the parents-only section, arguing that it promotes homosexuality and same-sex couples as normal and that children are too young to understand the subject.

Gay rights are sure to be an issue in the next Republican caucus campaign, especially if the Iowa Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality next year. The court will soon hear oral arguments in a gay marriage case.

For now, though, it’s enough for Jindal to speak generally about “family” and “culture” and raise his name recognition among the religious conservatives who have often crowned the winner in the Iowa caucuses.

My Recommendations for the November 2008 California Ballot Measures

I know this site mainly focuses on Congressional, statewide, and state legislature races, but in California, ballot measures are a big deal and can set examples for the rest of the nation. Thanks to Calitics ( ), I was able to find enough information on the 12 ballot measures to give my recommendations, which are over the flip.

Prop 1A (High Speed Rail): This measure will allow the state to purchase $10 billion in bonds for creating a high speed rail system. The money will also be leveraged to get federal dollars and private investments. For more information, check out the California High-Speed Rail Blog. ( )

My Recommendation: YES!!!

Prop 2 (Farm Animal Conditions): This measure will require farm animals to be able to stand up, turn around, and basically be comfortable in their cages. Despite the protests from Big Agriculture, this measure could level the playing field for small farmers. Here is a cute video from the “Yes On 2” campaign: ( )

My Recommendation: Yes

Prop 3 (Children’s Hospital Bonds): This measure would allow the state to sell bonds to provide additional funds for children’s hospitals. Though I don’t like the idea of ballot-box budgeting, this will probably be a very good investment, as the state’s hospitals in general need a lot of work and some could go to ensuring that all county and other public hospitals remain viable.

My Recommendation: Yes

Prop 4 (Parental Notification): The anti-choice jerks are at it again for another encore, after failing in 2005 and 2006. For the third time, we’ve said that we want to make sure that our teenage girls are safe. Like the failed 73 and 85, this measure requires parental notification, which is fine if the teen has a functional, supportive family, but can be dangerous in abusive, dysfunctional families. Unlike 73 and 85, this one allows for a judicial bypass, but can you realistically expect a distressed teenage girl to go through the courts? This one is running close, so get the word out! In addition, this is a great case for reform establishing a limit as to how many times one can bring similar ballot measures to the ballot.

My Recommendation: NO-NO-NO-NO-NO!!!

Prop 5 (Drug Rehab): This would decrease the nonviolent offender prison population by moving them into rehab, and reducing sentences for these nonviolent offenders depending upon their successful completion of rehab program. This is a follow-up to the wildly successful Prop 36 of a few years back, which saved millions of dollars. Unfortunately, Senator Feinstein came out against Prop 5 in a press release that merely rehashes the No on 5 campaign talking points. Let’s be smart, not pseudo-tough.

My Recommendation: Yes

Prop 6 (Gang Measure): This measure increases prison sentences for young gang offenders and would likely cost about a billon dollars per year, which would guaranteed go up since the measure guarantees increases for inflation, and higher prison expenses as a result of new or longer sentences, as well as $500 million for jails for more prisoners. Too much money for far too few results. (… )

My Recommendation: NO!

Prop 7 (Renewable Power Standard): This measure is not necessary since there already is a renewable power standard in California thanks to recent anti-global warming legislation. Though this measure would expand those requirements from 20% to 50% by by 2025, plants smaller than 30 megawatts would be excluded when they have been leading the way on our path towards energy independence.

My Recommendation: No

Prop 8 (Anti-Marriage Amendment): Not much to say here, except that the measure would eliminate marriage rights for same-gender couples. Reject bigotry!

My Recommendation: NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!!!

Prop 9 (Victim’s Rights): This measure reduces the frequency of parole hearings and allows victims and their survivors to be present. The OC Register does a great job explaining why you should vote against it (… ):

Prop. 9 would place those rights into the state constitution rather than into statutory law, the distinction being that the constitution is much more difficult to change if problems develop. It would also give crime victims and their families the constitutional right to prevent the release of certain documents to criminal defendants or their attorneys, and the right to refuse to be interviewed or provide pretrial testimony or other evidence to a defendant. The constitution would be changed to require judges to take the safety of victims into consideration when granting bail. It would make restitution the first priority when spending any money collected from defendants in the form of fines. It would also extend the time between parole hearings from the current one to five years to three to 15 years.

An interesting note on this measure: it was funded by Henry T. Nicholas III, co-founder and former CEO of Broadcom, who happens to have been indicted for white collar fraud as well as drug charges including accusing “Nicholas of using ecstasy to spike the drinks of industry executives and employees of Broadcom customers.”

My Recommendation: NO!

Prop 10 (Natural Gas Giveaway): This would sell $5 billion worth of bonds to help Californians buy cleaner cars. The problem is that “clean” is defined as using natural gas, and hybrids are not included. It also wouldn’t require that the commercial trucks purchased with the overwhelming majority of these funds stay in the state, and is just a power grab by Swift Boat Liars funder Funder T. Boone Pickens. We do need cleaner fuel, but not by shifting from one fossil fuel (oil) to another (natural gas).

My Recommendation: No

Prop 11 (Redistricting): This measure would give equal power to Democrats and Republicans to draw the maps, and would exclude from the commission anybody who has had any experience relevant to the process, and gives Republicans too much power. It’s opposed by leading minority organizations and the Democratic Party. For more information, see this diary at Calitics: (… )

My Recommendation: NO!!!

Prop 12 (Veterans Bond): These things always pass, and are always pretty small. This bond funds a program to help veterans purchase farms and homes.  It’s a decent program, and the bond has passed something like 20 times over the last 100 years.  It likely will again. Despite our concerns over ballot box budgeting, helping out our veterans is a worthwhile cause.

My Recommendation: Yes

PA-05: McCracken for Congress — Come January 2009, We Must Remember What The American People Expec

Earlier this week I received an email from a 5th district voter with very strong pro-life beliefs who would like to vote for me.  She told me via email that she is comfortable that I am Catholic and my stance on pro-life issues is similar to that of Sen. Robert Casey.   She feels it is very likely Barack Obama will be elected President and the Democratic Party will gain seats Congress.   Where her concern lies is what actions a newly inaugurated President Barack Obama and a United States Congress with a strong Democratic majority will take after January of 2009.   She is afraid there will be a far left agenda that will attempt to overturn pro-life initiatives put into effect like the ban on partial birth abortions.

In my response back to her, I explained that my agenda when I arrive in Washington will be exactly what I’ve been campaigning on.  I want to concentrate on fiscal responsibility, a national energy policy that stresses domestically produced alternative fuels, health care and health insurance reform, saving and strengthening Social Security, rescinding No Child Left Behind and bringing our troops home from Iraq.   I also mentioned that I will not stand for Congress losing sight of what the agenda must be — solving the problems important to the middle class.

There are so many important issues the American people want resolved and, if they give the Democratic Party a mandate with the election of Barack Obama as President and a larger majority in the United States Congress, we must strictly honor the wishes of the people.  From Barack Obama on down, we need to realize going in the American people want results and they want the mess left by George W. Bush cleaned up.  What they not accept is veering off on a far left agenda that brings issues to the table that have nothing to do with the economy and the problems of the middle class.

For the first time since the so called “Reagan Revolution” in 1980, the country is ready to put their full trust in the Democratic Party.  The Democratic Party the voters want to see is one that will concentrate on the problems of the middle class and will reflect the leadership values of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy.  To make this happen and to honor the trust the American people will give to the Democratic Party on November 4th, the far left elements must stand down and allow Barack Obama and a moderate Democratic Congress to lead this country.  This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to turn our country around and there is no margin for error.

Gen. Colin Powell endorses Barack Obama:

Today’s endorsement by Colin Powell of Barack Obama is news that will likely solidify what the outcome will be on November 4th.  To have someone of Gen. Powell’s stature come out and endorse Sen. Obama should speak volumes to any of the undecided voters still out there.  It should also encourage those to of us who long ago decided that Barack Obama is the leader we need that we made the right choice.

Review of the Past Week on the Campaign Trail:

This week I participated in 3 candidate forum / debates with my opponents.   I feel very confident in my performance against my 2 opponents and I am able to show the voters that we are on their side on the important issues like fiscal responsibility, health care reform, saving Social Security, energy policy and the concern for the problems of the middle class.  

On Friday evening, Henry Guthrie and I traveled to Forest County to meet with members of the Democratic Party there.   Thanks to Sheriff Bob Wolfgang for arranging the meeting.   There was a large contingent of Forest County Democrats at the meeting and they are ready to do everything they can to help our campaign and see a big Democratic victory on November 4th.

On Saturday evening, Kelly and I traveled to Ridgway for the Elk County Democratic Committee fall dinner.  It was a wonderful event and we got to hear a round of great speeches from Nye Simmons representing the Obama campaign, Don Hilliard running for the State Senate and Rep. Dan Surra running for re-election to the state house.  The folks in Elk County are out working hard for the Democratic ticket and I reminded them that Elk County with a solid Democratic registration majority will play a large role in the outcome of the 5th district race.

Schedule for Upcoming Week:

Monday — 11:30 AM — Williamsport Rotary

Monday — 5:00 PM — McCracken for Congress Pre-Debate Reception – St. James Church Parish Hall — 30 Wellsboro Street — Mansfield PA.  

Monday — 7:00 PM — Tioga County Debate — Mansfield Univ. Straughn Auditorium

Tuesday — 3 – 3:45 PM — Arnold Addison Court in St. College — with Art Goldschmidt

Tuesday — 4 – 5 PM Foxdale Retirement Community in St. College — with Art Goldschmidt

Tuesday — 7 PM — Bellefonte Media Outlet Debate

Wednesday — 6:30 PM — Mifflin County Farm Bureau Debate — Indian Valley HS – Lewistown

Thursday — 7 PM — WPSU TV Debate — State College

Friday — WJAC Debate in Centre County — Details TBA

Saturday — 1 PM — Cameron County Democratic Lunch – Emporium

Saturday — 5 PM — Centre County Fall Democratic Banquet — State College

Sunday — 12 Noon — House Party at Marie Sweets in State College

— Keep talking with people about the 5,000 Friends to Flip the Fifth project. We can win the 5th District Congressional District for the first time in 32 years but we need to be organizing our forces heading into the final weeks. The only way to turn this country around is to send people to Washington who will make the tough decisions. The choice in the 5th district is clear. My opponent regularly states that he supports the fiscal policies of the Bush administration AKA “the Bush tax cuts” and will continue them — More of the Same. While I continue to stress that we must balance the budget, built a surplus and pay down the debt.

In order to get the message out to voters we will need to advertise which costs money. Please contact your family and friends and urge them to financially support our campaign as we move into the final weeks. Donations can be made online through or by direct mail to McCracken for Congress, PO Box 332, Clearfield PA 16830.

Mark B. McCracken

Your Candidate For Congress


This diary is cross-posted at McCracken’s campaign blog, PA’s Blue Fifth

Mark McCracken for Congress

ActBlue page

Heather Ryan Shows Courage Once Again

People can say what they want about Heather Ryan, and her campaign, Ryan for Kentucky. The fact of the matter is that this young lady is not only extremely smart, and compassionate, but courageous. She knows full well that the Republicans in this district will once again try to use social issues to divide us and defeat Progress in this country.

One of these issues that the Republicans use is Abortion. The mere dropping of the “A” bomb gets emotions and tempers on both sides of that issue boiling. Having worked for NARAL, trying to limit the number of unwanted pregnancies, hence abortions, Heather wanted to get out ahead of Exxon Eddie, and pre-empt the divisive campaigning that we know he will use. Please see Heather’s remarks here:

You know, a few months ago I volunteered to work for Heather Ryan, and it seems that everyday, she does something else that makes me so very proud of that decision. She has shown great courage in breaking with most of our Party’s leadership on FISA, and now in trying to explain with sanity her position on a very divisive issue.

I believe Heather is exactly right on this issue. The Republicans controlled our government for years before 2006 and none of them ever did one thing to try and outlaw abortion. Definately not Exxon Ed Whitfield. I believe a lot of the reason is that they wanted a wedge issue to constantly pull out of their “bag of tricks” to divide America and win elections. They did nothing for the right-wing activists that elected them on this issue, and still seek the moral high ground.

Heather is right. We can find common ground. Instead of arguing on the legality of abortion, why can’t we all work together to curtail the NEED for this controversial practice? Why can’t we invest in the education and healthcare of our own people, particularly our young to stop unwanted pregnancies and end much of the need for abortions? Why do the Republicans slash funding for programs that do just that if they are so “Pro-Life”?

Heather Ryan is just what we need in Washington. A Democratic leader that seeks to unite our country on even the most controversial issues, and find real solutions to our problems, not talking points to attack the other side with. Heather represents a new generation of leadership, my generation stepping to the plate to do their civic duty in the governing of our country, and quite frankly I am proud of what I see.

Please help us in electing a great grassroots Democrat with the intelligence, drive, and most of all GUTS to lead and fight for us on all issues!! You can do so here:

Goal Thermometer

Heather Ryan


WV HR2: Why John Unger Matters for Retaining the Majority

The Democratic field is cleared for State Senator John Unger (campaign site) to challenge Foleygate/Page Board scandal star and incumbent Wall Street Journal Republican Shelley Capito for West Virginia’s Second Congressional District seat.

The Democratic House leadership seems to be lining up behind Unger’s bid to unseat the increasingly vulnerable Capito, hopefully giving Unger vital early support in a district the Democratic leadership dreadfully under-invested in the 2006 cycle. Unger has even been honored as one of Rahm Emanuel’s “Six Pack”, one of only six candidates to whom he has donated so far in this cycle.

It is a very encouraging sign that Monday evening six of the leading House Democrats (including Hoyer, Emanuel, and Van Hollen) will host a big old fundraiser (info) for Unger.

In 2006 Democrats picked most of the low-hanging fruit in regaining the House majority. Seats in which we have a legitimate takeover opportunity are few and far between (and we have several seats we won in 2006 we are going to be hard-pressed to hold and need to offset).

John Unger’s campaign in 60-some percent Democratic registration WV-02 offers us a chance to pick the GOP’s pockets of a seat which traditionally belongs to us. Read on for the who, how and why.

OK, with the formality of condensing my verbose but incredibly persuasive arguments into few enough characters to fit into the Main Text, let me now indulge in my customary Faulknerian self-indulgence.


First off, WV-02 is not a seat any Republican, even the daughter of beloved but convicted former Governor Arch Moore, should ever hold for long.

As noted, Democrats retain over 60 percent of voters by registration. This figure has dropped from the 2-to-1 edge held for generations. Two factors account for the GOP’s small gains over the years.

The Eastern Panhandle has grown remarkably quickly. And most of the new arrivals have been Republicans. The 2000 and, especially, the 2004 Bush campaigns did a fantastic job getting these newbies registered and out to vote. Capito has benefited enormously from this. In fact, without this influx of Republicans, she never would have won the seat in the first place. The Panhandle, particularly Berkeley County (the most populous and fastest growing of the Panhandle counties), provide Capito’s margin.


John Unger’s State Senate District includes Berkeley County. And his electoral success there, despite his Democratic identity and generally progressive politics, is quite impressive.

In 2006, Unger simply pounded his GOP opponent in Republican-friendly Berkeley County, clearing 63 percent. In the rest of the district, Unger did even better: clearing 67 percent.

Unger can compete with Capito in her base region. Unless Capito can rack up big majorities in the Panhandle, the math just does not work for her in the rest of the district… especially as she continues to lose ground each election in the other major population center of WV02 (Kanawha County).

Capito’s vote percentage has fallen in each of the last three general elections (60% in 2002; 59% in 2004; 57 in 2006). Had anyone from outside the district itself invested in Mike Callaghan’s energetic but underfunded challenge in 2006 until the weekend before the election, Capito would have dropped well below the 55 percent figure which redflags vulnerable incumbents.

Unger is uniquely suited to chip away or (Lord willing and the DCCC actually writes some checks before election day) actually reverse Capito’s margin in the county she has to win big. He’s a proven vote-winner in the region key to unseating Capito.


The erosion of Democratic support among values voters has converted a lot of previously reliable Democratic voters into tacit Republicans when it comes to federal elections. We simply have lost a lot of our old pro-labor base on the abortion issue. They can’t in good conscience vote their economic self-interest at the expense of their moral code. In a district in which a plurality of Democratic primary voters self-describe as pro-life (let alone the general electorate), the identification of the national Democratic party’s rigidly pro-choice stance has created for the Republicans the wedge they have used to keep Capito in office.


Remember I said GENERALLY progressive politics?

John Unger is pro-life. And I don’t mean the heartless, calculating kind of pro-life that seems to fill the ranks of GOP office-seekers. Unger spent a year working for Mother Teresa (I kid u not.check pix as a college kid.

Just as an aside, is there any better way to annoy Christopher Hitchens than to back a guy who worked for Mother Teresa?

His position on abortion is a matter of deeply held faith rather than political calculation. And, when you check out his websites and see all his charitable and relief work, you will realize this is a man of compassion in action. His concern for future generations does not end at the moment of birth.

Contrast Unger’s position on abortion with Capito’s twists and turns over the years on this vital issue.

Capito spent her early career as a pro-choice Republican. When she decided to run for Congress, she began to morph into a pro-lifer. By the time she filled out her NPAT form for Project Vote Smart for the 2004 cycle she was checking off on opposing abortion except in the cases of rape, incest and to protect the life of the woman, voted for the Global Gag Rule, and rated a 30 percent from NARAL.

Attempting to keep her feet in both camps, Capito spoke one way to choice groups and another to lifers… effectively blurring the public perception of her true position and allowing folks to see what they wanted to see.

However, Capito made a rather uncharacteristically overt and unambiguous move in the wake of the GOP losing control of the House: she joined the GOP House Pro-Choice PAC.

I can only spitball as to the logic behind her decision. Perhaps she decided in the wake of the loss of the House, the wind was blowing in the other direction (and in the word of Mayor Quimby, let it not be said that she did not also blow).

In any event, she has made an enormous strategic blunder. Abortion was the only thing holding her up among fundamentalist voters. At the very least this will suppress their turnout. More likely it will seriously erode her margin among values voters. Almost certainly it will hurt her at the polls in a district where pro-choice is not an edge in a Democratic primary… let alone a general election.

Now imagine the following scenario:


Governor Joe Manchin will be heading the ticket. And running as a pro-life candidate. With his favorability and job approval ratings in the 80s and facing only a sacrificial lamb GOP challenger, the only real question is if 70 percent is a ceiling or a floor for his vote. Manchin is going to have long coattails.

This is going to happen. It will boost Unger across the district. Republicans will be demoralized. Indies will trend heavily Democratic. And wayward Dems will come home even if just to jump on the winner’s bandwagon.

But imagine the scenario if Rudy Giuliani is on the GOP ticket. The voters of WV02 will have a choice between pro-life Democrats and a Republican federal ticket headed by a Planned Parenthood Contributor and seconded by someone who flipped to the other side on the pro-life majority.

The Republican edge on values issues evaporates and possibly reverses. Capito will be bleeding lifers all over the district while facing Unger popular in the region she has to rack up even bigger majorities than ever just to survive.


The math does not add up to a majority for Capito without the Panhandle margin. Berkeley County alone accounted for 14.74 percent of her total 2004 vote (think that’s the best year to use as it was the last Presidential election year). Her dependence on huge winning margins in Berkeley has  grown and continues to grow over the course of her terms in office.

In the 2002 off-year cycle, Berkeley County accounted for 11.05 percent of her vote total. In 2006 the figure swelled to 13.29 percent. Extrapolating from this and the 2000 to 2004 change, just to stay even from her a natural erosion elsewhere, she would need to boost her Berkeley County numbers to 17 percent of her vote total.

Now what that means in performance on the ground is Capito would have to boost her percentage of the Berkeley County vote from 68.5 percent in 2004 (which was rung up with the massive Bush exurban GOTV effort deploying enormous resources there virtually unopposed) to 79 percent in 2008. She would have to raise her vote total from 21772 to 25105 in a county which only saw 31768 votes in a record-turnout year for the GOP.

Does anyone think she can do that against a guy who pulls 63 percent of the vote AGAINST the tide?


John Unger is uniquely suited to win this race.

Why do you think the DCCC recruited him to run? Why do you think West Virginia’s Congressional delegation took the unprecedented step of endorsing a candidate before the filing deadline?

John Unger is the only dog we got who can win this fight. Capito has left her flank open on social issues. Unger can exploit this. Capito has become too reliant on unsustainable margins from the Panhandle to hold her seat.


With the GOP having lost control, Capito can’t raise money like she did when she was in a position to reward her corporate benefactors. Despite moving back to the Finance Committee (usually a gold mine as financial services firms line up to throw money at its members) after the 2006 thumping, Capito’s fundraising is lagging (309K cash on hand in her last quarterly versus 472K at the same point in the last cycle).

And her peril is greater than it appears. With the majority, she could raise vast amounts quickly. With Democrats holding the majority, there is very little incentive for business to up the ante for Capito. She simply can’t raise two millon in the last months before Election Day 2008 now because it is no longer a prudent investment for big business. She is no longer positioned to give them a good return on the money invested.

My guess is she will max out around a million and a half dollars in 2008.

This sounds like a lot, but one has to consider what she had to spend to survive Mike Callaghan’s energetic but underfunded 2006 challenge to Capito.


As I whined earlier, the Callaghan campaign got almost no institutional support from the national party apparatus and campaign committees. While Callaghan did a fantastic job raising 600K from a less than wealthy district (in comparison, the 2004 nominee raised less than 100K), the total is somewhat inflated as most of the money did not arrive until it was too late to do anything with it.

After a bruising three-way primary against two essentially unelectable opponents, Mike Callaghan’s campaign was essentially broke. With the noticeable lack of outside-the-state financial support, Callaghan had to take valuable time away from the stump in a district which has historically rewarded retail campaigning to focus on personally raising from small donors enough money to keep the offices open and the phones on.

Callaghan had no choice. There simply aren’t enough max or even high amount donors in WV02 to raise enormous sums of money without a lot of time-intensive effort by the candidate.

Meanwhile, Capito was raising money in increments of hundreds of thousands as leading Republicans willingly trekked to the state on her behalf. It is truly shameful that Capito was able to raise $2.44 million to add to the million she had salted  away from past campaigns with out breaking a sweat because her party gave her backing while Democrats left our nominee twisting alone in the wind.

And so we arrive at Labor Day 2006. Capito starts her media campaign. Fully aware that Callaghan does not have the funds to go on air, she unleashes a relentlessly upbeat series of ads in a massively heavy rotation. She doesn’t mention Bush. She doesn’t mention she’s a Republican. She’s just this nice lady you shouldn’t fire.

Then the Mark Foley scandal breaks, Capito is a member of the Page Board. She takes the tack that no one told her, conveniently ignoring her job was to provide oversight and her own responsibility to keep herself informed. She panics and goes negative. And I mean, she goes viciously, relentlessly, personally, and dishonestly negative against Mike Callaghan. She drops a million and a half dollars on negative ads (and at West Virginia rates, that is an enormous number of gross rating points). She keeps this up for weeks. Until the week before the election, West Virginia’s radio and TV is wall-to-wall Callaghan-bashing ads.

Meanwhile, Democratic nominee Mike Callaghan doesn’t have enough money to respond… unless he wants to miss a payroll for the campaign staff. It is to his credit that he chose to take the punches rather than short his people. He goes on the road and tries to fight back as best he can.

I said this district rewards retail ( and it does, as the last three flips have gone to the candidate who outworked on the ground the opponent who relied on an air war alone). West Virginians expect to know or at least meet the folks for whom they pull the lever. But no district rewards retail enough to overcome a $3,000,000 to none edge (especially when a radio spot costs twenty bucks a run).

And so it goes. Capito spends all the 2.44 million she raised for the 2006 cycle and the million or so she had stashed away for a future statewide run. Perhaps realizing her unceasing negativity is building to the point of backlash, in the last week and a half, Capito shifts to an (arguably…and weakly so) humorous TV spot where she’s saying she’s busy and scurries around in fast-motion silent movie style.

A late poll shows Callaghan closing. The national party throws in enough money for a small buy the weekend before the election. That is all Mike Callaghan had to fire back at three million bucks of mostly vicious, personal, and fallacious attacks over the course of three months.

Despite this utter lack of support for a promising young challenger, Callaghan actually knocked Capito’s percentage down a couple of points… nearly below the 55 percent vulnerability trigger.

With any backing at all, this would have been a much closer race. With substantial backing in the wake of the Foley scandal and Capito’s ridiculously incoherent rationalizations of her irresponsibility, Callaghan would have beaten Capito.

If this is an unreasonable conclusion, why did Capito spend it all? She’s been saving for a statewide for years. I see no other reason than she saw the possibility of a defeat which would derail her political future. Kudos to Mike Callaghan for making her spend it all (“make him spend it all, Arch” was the unofficial motto and slogan on the most popular bumper sticker of Capito’s father’s run against Jay Rockefeller, my fellow West Virginians of a certain age will recall).


I am terrified we will let let another golden opportunity pass. In John Unger we have another viable candidate with a winnable race against a vulnerable incumbent in a Democratic leaning district in a swing state.

Face it, folks. The way Congressional districts are drawn these days, there are very few seats left where we have a reasonable chance of a Republican-to-Democrat flip. WV-02 is one of the best chances we have.

And we are going to need it.

We caught the Republicans napping in 2006. And Foleygate broke just at the right time to derail their counteroffensive. They were about to start waving the bloody shirt right when the Foley/Page Board scandal shifted the environment (remember we were falling fast in the generic preferences the three weeks before the Foley story broke).

The GOP is doing everything they can to force into retirement any of their folks who carries a whiff of scandal. They are cutting loose from President Bush.

Simply put, we can’t count on them making mistakes again they way they did in 2006.

And now we are playing defense. In politics, like a knife fight, it is always easier and more productive to attack than defend. We have to be smarter and tougher than we were in 2006 just to break even.

We simply can’t afford to pass up opportunities like the one John Unger (campaign site).

It is encouraging to see Members from the leadership showing early support for Unger and his race in WV-02. I truly hope this is one they shortlist for special attention.

And I beg anyone who reads this to contact the DCCC, their unions and professional associations, friends, neighbors, and anyone they bump into on the street to get involved.

Check out Unger’s bio and record. This is a good man with a great shot at winning a crucial seat.

The campaign e mail is

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