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.

OR-Sen: Max Cleland and 5K for Merkley

With Gordon Smith’s seat in the U.S. Senate as vulnerable as it is, it’s important to put our support behind a strong Democratic candidate.  Jeff Merkley has my backing, and more interestingly, he has the backing of Max Cleland, as well as a host of others.  Cleland was campaigning in Oregon with Merkley yesterday, doing his part to ensure that we put the best possible candidate up against Gordon Smith in November.  Now it’s time for us to do our part.  Tomorrow on May 1, we want to raise at least $5,000 online for the Jeff Merkley campaign.  Please be ready to do your part.

Oregon is fortunate to have two strong progressive candidates, and I’ve put my support behind Jeff Merkley, because he has such a great background and a great track record as a legislator.  Before he joined the Oregon House of Representatives in 1998, he worked at the Office of the Secretary of Defense as a Presidential Management Fellow, which provided him with direct experience in national security matters.

In addition to this experience, Merkley has consistently fought for working families, as executive director of Portland Habitat for Humanity and as a legislator.  After Merkley helped orchestrate a Democratic majority in the Oregon House, he served as Speaker in one of the most progressive sessions that the Oregon Legislature has had in years.

Fortunately, you don’t just need to take my word for Merkley’s qualifications.  At a couple of events over the last two days I was able to hear what Max Cleland thought of Jeff Merkley.  What really struck me was Cleland’s genuine enthusiasm for Merkley as a candidate.  He kept referring to him as “the real deal.”  Cleland cited Merkley’s knowldge of national security issues, his work providing homes for those in need, his efforts to put Democrats back in the majority in the Oregon House, and his leadership as Speaker.  Put this great experience together with Merkley’s positions on the issues, and we have a stellar candidate for Oregon’s seat in the United States Senate.

Don’t forget to show your support for Jeff Merkley tomorrow, May 1.

$5k for Merkley

Crossposted at DailyKos.

OR-Sen: More Great Endorsements for Merkley

As Oregon approaches its primary election on May 20, House Speaker Jeff Merkley continues to gather significant endorsements.  Two publications have recently expressed their support for Merkley in his campaign to secure the Democratic nomination so that he can unseat Gordon Smith in November.

Just Out, the leading magazine for the LGBTQ community in Oregon, published their endorsement of Merkley on April 18.  The following day the Eugene Register-Guard, the second largest newspaper in Oregon, also wrote about their support of Merkley.

I was pleased to note how both publications highlighted Merkley’s experience and effectiveness as a legislator, because I decided to support Jeff Merkley after observing these qualities myself.  Oregon is fortunate to have two strong progressive candidates, Steve Novick being the other, vying for the Democratic nomination.  The policy differences between the two candidates are minimal, so the focus shifts to other factors like experience and personality.  These two most recent endorsements reiterate what many people have already said about Jeff Merkley-he’s the candidate with the drive to defeat Gordon Smith and the experience to serve as a great Senator for the state of Oregon.

In reference to the 2007 Oregon House session, over which Merkley presided as Speaker, the Register-Guard wrote

That session was the most productive in recent memory, with important achievements in the areas of education funding, civil rights, consumer protection and budgetary stability . . .

A more convincing demonstration of leadership would be hard to find.

And Just Out wrote that Merkley

has the most proven track record and is best poised to unseat incumbent Gordon Smith.

The endorsements for Merkley continue to bloom.

Personally, I’m most excited about the fact that Max Cleland is coming out to Oregon to campaign with Merkley.  Check out Merkley’s endorsements page and you’ll see the long list of endorsements from a wide range of individuals and organizations.  I love seeing all this support behind a great candidate like Jeff Merkley.  Here’s where you can lend your support too.

New Video: 365 Days

We are almost exactly one year away from Election Day 2008. One year from now, will Oregon voters choose a candidate who will stand for Oregon, or with President Bush?

Learn more about Smith’s record at http://www.stopgordo… and link to the video at http://www.stopgordo…

“A year from now, Oregonians will have the opportunity to choose change or more of the same,” DPO Chair Meredith Wood Smith said. “They can choose more of someone who has stood by President Bush’s conservative U.S. Supreme Court, his Iraq War and his Republican agenda. Or, they can choose someone who will stand up for Oregon. I hope everyone who views this video will sign up to help us defeat Gordon Smith and send a progressive U.S. Senator to Washington, DC.”

Watch the video and let others know how you will vote a year from now, and why.