The importance of a ground game – down-ballot drop off

21st Century Democrats is excited about the extraordinary amount of enthusiasm Barack Obama’s nomination has generated. The Pew Research Center is suggesting increased voter turnout in the general election bodes well for Democrats. However, some stats from the primary season show that increased turnout for the presidential election doesn’t always help down-ballot races.

In fact, assuming a strong Presidential ticket will pull Democratic candidates in the House, the Senate, and local offices to victory is dangerous. This assumption is not in line with electoral empirics or America’s personality. Splitting tickets will always occur in our nation which prides itself on having a “maverick spirit” and values competence over loyalty. More importantly, many Americans will rightfully not vote for candidates they are unfamiliar with. Why would anyone put someone they know nothing about in a tremendous position of power? In the midst of all the excitement generated by the Obama campaign, we cannot forget that voters need to have face to face contact with canvassers for all our candidates, not just our candidate for President.

Looking at this year’s primaries, there is a substantial discrepancy between the number of people who voted for Democratic Presidential Candidates and the number of people who voted for other Democrats. Across the board, significantly less people voted for other Democratic candidates than voted for Democratic Presidential Candidates.

In Pennsylvania there was a stark disparity between votes accumulated by Democratic Presidential Candidates and Democrats running for other state-wide offices. There were only two contested statewide primaries in Pennsylvania this cycle. Below are two charts comparing the number of votes for Democratic Presidential candidates in April’s Primary with votes for Democrats running for State Treasurer in PA.

Candidate Votes Percent
CLINTON, HILLARY 1,275,039 54.6%
OBAMA, BARACK 1,061,441 45.4%

Total votes for Obama and Clinton in Pennsylvania = 2,336,480

*Obama and Clinton were the only Democrats on the ballot in PA

Candidate Votes Percent
MCCORD, ROBERT 783,675 43.2%
CORDISCO, JOHN F. 472,027 26.0%
MANN, JENNIFER L. 441,745 24.3%

Total Votes for Democrats running for PA State Treasurer 1,661,549

There was a 674,931 vote or 29% disparity between Democrats who voted for our party’s candidates for State Treasurer and our parties candidates for President in Pennsylvania. That means nearly 3 out of every 10 people who voted in the presidential primary, gave the State Treasurer a pass.

In Ohio, two 21st Century Democrats’ endorsed candidates also were victims of down-ballot drop off. In the 1st Congressional District, there were a total of  115, 387 votes for Obama , Edwards and Clinton. Steve Dreihaus ran an uncontested and only got 60,454 votes, a 57,840 vote difference.  Nearly 1 out of every two voters who cast a vote for the Democratic nominee decided to not cast a vote for their Congressman.

In the 15th CD, Mary Jo Kilroy was also uncontested and received 85,840 votes. All the Presidential Candidates received 91,233 votes in total. That’s a 5, 393 vote drop off. Given Mary Jo’s 2006 election results, she can’t afford to have that sort of drop off.

Out in Oregon,  remember those Obama crowds? All that excitement generated 641, 499 total votes in the Democratic Presidential Primary. One would think that the heated primary for the Democratic Senatorial nominee would have little drop off. In spite of intense competition between two well funded campaigns less people voted for our Senatorial candidates than voted for our Presidential Candidates. In fact there was an almost 14% or 91,523 vote difference between total votes for Democratic Presidential Nominees and total votes for Democratic Senatorial Candidates in Oregon. How will Merkley beat Smith if he has to get 115% of Obama’s take in Oregon?

Why am I telling you this? Because at 21st Century Democrats, we believe that in order to have a true progressive revolution in America we’ll need a bottom up, not a top down, approach to elections and campaigns. We have been training and placing field organizers for two decades now. We know that many down-ballot races cannot depend on Obama’s team. They have a big enough task ahead.

21st Century Democrats is endorsing over fifty down-ballot candidates all over the country. For example Jim Roth is running for Corporate Commissioner in Oklahoma, and Andy Meisner is running for Oakland County Treasurer in Michigan. These candidates need resources to get field organizers hitting the doors, and cannot rely on Barack Obama’s field team to do it for them. The nation will not be changed without your help. We already have organizers in critical races across the country, but we need you to partner with us to get down-ballot candidates like Darcy Burner (WA-08), Dan Maffei (NY-25), Jim Himes (CT-4), Judy Baker (MO -9) and other progressives near you elected.


Big thanks to Corey Goldiner, 21st Century Fellow, for doing most of the legwork and tracking down all these statistics.

Down-Ballot Pain

Hillary Clinton has pulled far, far ahead of Barack Obama in New Hampshire.  And that’s bad news for us as Democrats.  Why?  Well, think of it this way:

In order to win Congressional and Senate races in the more “purple” states, we need someone at the top of the ticket whose presence energizes in a positive way.  In 2004, down-ballot Dems had to run away from John Kerry, who was a liability.  Hillary is hated throughout middle America, and will not be able to appear with candidates at fundraisers or any other event.  If Hillary gets the nomination, she might squeak by with the presidency, but we will lose many, many races down-ballot.  Somebody stop her . . . please!!!!!!!!!