Fields of Opportunity: Cook PVI, Wave Elections, and Recent Results

The elections of 2006 and 2008 bore many of the aspects of the “party system” changes that happen every 36 to 40 years in American electoral politics.  There was a change in electoral control (in the House, Senate, and White House) and two strong gains by one party in consecutive elections.

Of course the classic change election occurred in 1932.  After gaining 50 House seats in 1930, Democrats swept the White House and added 97 more in 1932.  And they kept adding to both the Senate and House numbers although at a lesser rate in the House, in both 1934 and 1936.  That, of course begs us to ask a key question: how long do waves last.  If you look at the waves around the election of 1800, 1860, and 1932 the answer is clear and surprising.  Waves seem to last for four elections.  In the case of 1860, much of the strength came with the tail after Lincoln and the war were clearly successful.

With a Senate class that is Republican heavy and untouched, the wave would seem to have a minimum of one more act and another six or eight Senate seats to go.  What about the House?

Despite a lot of talk about very Republican districts turning blue, most of the gains in both 2006 and 2008 have come from either Democratic or weak Republican districts won by Democrats.  In 2006, 17 of the 30 seats that were gained had a Cook PVi of R+3 or less aand 24 had a Cook PVI of R+7 or less.  In 2008, 15 seats won by Democrats had a Cook PVI of R+3 or less and 21 had a Cook PVI of R+7 or less.

That raises several issues.  How many of these field of opportunity remain to be plucked?  Well, 26 House seats still held by Republicans are in the prime R+3 or less category.  Why am I harping on R+3?  Above that point, Republicans hold a majority of seats.  Up to R+3, we hold the edge.

Over 95% of House seats with a Democratic PVI are held by Democrats.  The number of these seats held by Republicans has been sharply falling from (if my calculation is right) 24 to 15 to 9 in just two quick elections.  Some of those nine have been hard fought continued battlefields that Democrats keep losing (or Republicans keep winning): IL-10 (Mark Kirk vs. Dan Fields), WA-8 (Dave Reichert vs. Darcy Burner), and to a lesser extent PA-6, PA-15 and IA-4 fall under this category.  DE-At Large (D+7), NY-3 ((D+2), FL-10 (D+1), and NJ-2 (D+4) have been largely passed over.  Yes, we “expect” that Bill Young or Mike Castle might retire sometime but they need to be challenged.  As things stand, we only have one more crack at them under the present districts.  In most of these districts, the Republican has had his weakest showing in an off-year election rather than a Presidential election year: DE-At Large, 2006 (57%), IL-10 2006 (53%), IA-4 2002 (55%), NY-3 2006 (56%), PA-6 2006 and 2002 (51-49, also 2004 and only 52-48 in 2008), WA-8 2006 (51-49).FL-10 actually was weakest this year at 61-39 when Bob Hack was a credible opponent (local mayor) in a high turnout year.

R 0 to R+3 districts are represented by 25 Democrats and just 17 Democrats.  We have picked up 17 of these seats in the last 2 election cycles.  They are, in fact turning blue.  Part of this is the switch over in many traditional suburban districts from Republican to Democratic.  These districts are more ethnically and culturally diverse and educated professionals in many fields trend at least mildly Democratic (teachers, nurses, lawyers, creative types).

It may have been a once in a lifetime thing but in California, Democrats gained 5 House seats in 2000 that had been slowly trtending Democratic.  There were eight Republican House seats IIRC in California alone that were won with under 60% of the vote.

The number of Republican seats in the R+4 to R+7 range is way, way too high due to gerrymanders in many states (Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Virginia in particular.  There are 63 seats with a PVI of R+4 through R+7 (25 held by Democrats) vs. only 31 seat that are D+4 through D+7 (28 held by Democrats)  These seats are also opportunities.

As for the long shots with Cook PVIs over R+7, well we hold 10 of them.  And that’s more seats than the Republicans hold in the D+0 to D+7 range (or all D ranges) at nine.

Laundry list of Race Rating changes from Cook

This list is entirely made up of shifts in favor of Democrats, seems mostly reactionary to fundraising reports.  

The single-handedly biggest surprise to me is the shift of KS-02 from Toss Up to Lean Democrat.  Boyda got killed in fundraising, and he still bounced the race in her favor…  He obviously is seeing more there than we are.  

There are 25 shifts, that filled up his entire “Recent History” list.  It makes me wonder if there were more than 25 and I can’t see the rest because I’m not a subscriber.  

Arizona-01 (Kirkpatrick v. Hay)

Likely Dem <—- Lean Dem

Arizona-05 (Mitchell v. Schweikert)

Likely Dem <—- Lean Dem

Arizona-08 (Giffords v. Bee)

Likely Dem <—- Lean Dem

California-03 (Dursten v. Lungren)

Likely Republican <—- Solid Republican

California-04 (Brown v. McClintock)

Lean Republican <—- Likely Republican

California-46 (Cook v. Rohrabacher)

Likely Republican <—- Solid Republican

California-50 (Leibham v. Bilbray)

Lean Republican <—- Solid Republican

Connecticut-05 (Murphy v. Cappiello)

Solid Democrat <—- Likely Democrat

Georgia-12 (Barrow v. Stone)

Solid Democrat <—- Likely Democrat

Illinois-08 (Bean v. Greenberg)

Solid Democrat <—- Likely Democrat

Illinois-14 (Foster v. Oberweis)

Likely Democrat <—- Lean Democrat

Indiana-03 (Montagano v. Souder)

Lean Republican <—- Likely Republican

Indiana-09 (Hill v. Sodrel)

Likely Democrat <—- Lean Democrat

Kansas-02 (Boyda v. Jenkins)

Lean Democrat <—- Toss Up

Maryland-01 (Kratovil v. Harris)

Toss Up <—- Lean Republican

Mississippi-01 (Childers v. Davis)

Lean Democrat <—- Toss Up

Missouri-09 (Baker v. Luetkemeyer)

Toss Up <—- Lean Republican

New Hampshire-02 (Hodes v. Horn)

Solid Democrat <—- Likely Democrat

Ohio-02 (Wulsin v. Schmidt)

Lean Republican <—- Likely Republican

Ohio-16 (Boccieri v. Schuring)

Lean Democrat <—- Toss Up

Pennsylvania-04 (Altmire v. Hart)

Likely Democrat <—- Lean Democrat

Pennsylvania-08 (Murphy v. Manion)

Solid Democrat <—- Likely Democrat

South Carolina-01 (Ketner v. Brown)

Likely Republican <—- Solid Republican

Tennessee-04 (Davis v. Lankford)

Solid Democrat <—- Likely Democrat

Virginia-11 (Connolly v. Fimian)

Likely Democrat <—- Lean Democrat

IL-14 Roundup #2

like il-03, there are new endorsements that have been announced since the first post.  john laesch has gotten the afl-cio endorsement [PDF], the endorsement of pdachicago, and the endorsement of the western regional council of the united electrical, radio & machine workers of america.

bill foster has increased his growing list of endorsements with endorsements by senator durbin, afscme state council 31, planned parenthood, seiu as well as 22 nobel prize winners and a growing list of voters.

jotham stein got the endorsement of harry katz, dean of cornell university’s school of industrial and labor relations, which i failed to mentioned before.

the local papers have been covering the fact that there is a special election in the district.  the daily herald covered both the opening of candidate’s petition drives and the first day of filing:

Laesch, a Newark carpenter who challenged Hastert a year ago, turned in more than 1,700 signatures and Foster, a former Fermilab scientist from Geneva, had 1,832.

The top Republican and Democratic vote-getters in the special primary will compete in the special general election March 8 to fulfill the remainder of Hastert’s term, which ends in January 2009.

a candidate’s forum was held in st charles for candidates of both parties.  the three major democrats attended, and the daily herald, the st charles republican and kane county chronicle covered the fireworks.  so did aurora’s openline blog.  openline also gave more general coverage of the race.

kendall county democrats have set up their own board for following this race.

several outlets picked up the dueling endorsements of durbin for foster and afl-cio for laesch.  rich miller’s capitol fax blog noted that, “Both of these endorsements are important in a Democratic primary, and neither will come with a whole lot of cash.”  the beacon news and courier news covered it, as did the kane county chronicle.  aurora’s openline blog hit at this angle.  both the daily herald and the chicago tribune’s clout street blog covered the dueling unions (afl-cio and afscme) angle.

laesch was interviewed for the progressive news daily podcast.  he also live blogged at firedoglake.  the campaign congratulated their “all-volunteer army of John’s friends and neighbors in the 14th district” for getting on the special election ballot.  wurfwhile covered laesch’s endorsement by the alf-cio and was late in his coverage of laesch’s november press conference (but not for the video of it.  otoh, archpundit points out that laesch’s energy statement supports banning corn-based ethanol, and takes contradictory positions on spending money on scientific research.  he also points out the irony of anger at planned parenthood’s endorsement of foster, when he refused “to accept donations from pro-abortion rights political action committees” in 2006.

jotham stein got coverage for his education proposal in the daily herald and for filing his paperwork for the special election.  stein was also busy on the airwaves, getting interviewed on the mike koolidge show and wls’ connected to chicago

foster has been the big winner of news coverage, both local and national, this time. us news and world report reported on the foster as scientist angle.  george bush’s assault on science is getting attention everywhere.  the beacon news covered foster’s energy plan.  the kane county chronicle covered durbin’s endorsement of foster.  several of the sun-times local papers covered planned parenthood’s endorsement of foster: here and here.  

foster is also getting lots of local blog support.  hiram wurf talked about his endorsement of foster, other key endorsements, the durbin endorsement, the afscme endorsement, the planned parenthood endorsement, the trouble seeing foster’s grassroots support, and the seiu endorsement.  archpundit had stories about foster’s endorsements and foster’s new commercial.

aaron krager, of faithfully liberal, blogged about his volunteer stint for the foster campaign as well as foster hitting the air waves.  clout street also covered foster’s new cable ad.  nosugrefneb talks about a letter making the rounds of scientists and grad students at the university of chicago, university of illinois at chicago and northwestern.  prairie state blue covered foster’s live blogging for dailykos, including video of the session.  that blog also covered foster’s nerdiness.  aurora’s openline blog wonders why foster accepted the planned parenthood endorsement.

john laesch has a spiffy new website up (link above) that is more high res and feature rich.  the text for the site seems to be the same, but it now includes a photo suitable for print media and a flickr photostream.  i hadn’t noticed before (so it may be new), but the site encourages you to “Nominate John Laesch at Democracy for America” but it has (so far) failed to apply for the dfa endorsement.  (campaigns can apply at this link).  one new feature, it’s spanish translation, hasn’t been completed yet.  nonetheless, this is a great improvement.  simple, easy to navigate, eye candy.  laesch also has a new youtube video.

stein also has a new video up on his website (link above) that focuses on family.  stein’s spanish page IS in spanish!  (not new, just the contrast.)

foster has a new cable ad running.  they also have a new brand across the web reminding everyone of the special election on march 8th.  looking past the february 5th elections, are we?

given the proximity of christmas, you might think that the campaigns would be slowing down.  not happening.  the laesch campaign begins its gotv training on saturday at 10:30.  the stein campaign will continue to release his ideas and positions on the issues and volunteers are working out of the campaign headquarters to communicate with supporters and people who signed their petitions.  the foster has begun an email campaign asking their low dollar donors to recommit for the special election or to bring in a new donor to our campaign.  


if the first posts in this series was designed to lay a foundation, this next group will be focused on looking at the fundamentals in this race.  like blocking and tackling decide football games, the fundamentals decide elections.  there are five fundamentals that are thought to be decisive in the outcome of elections:

1. the candidates

2. money

3. the environment (deciding factors that campaigns can’t change)

4. the climate (deciding factors that campaigns can influence)

5. their organizations

probably the biggest factor right now in this race is the political environment.  and the most important environmental factor is the upcoming special election.  the fact that the special election is a month away from the special primary focuses all attention on this question: who scales up fastest?  the campaigns have six weeks to identify supporters and then educate them on voting twice for them on the same ballot (once for the general election and again for the special election).  the campaigns already lost a week or so because they had to circulate petitions (again) for the special election.  christmas and new year’s will cost them some more time.  this is even more true for the laesch campaign (and possibly stein’s), since they are so dependent on volunteer expertise.  the foster campaign staff will undoubtedly work the same amount during that week.  (i worked on christmas day last year, so i sympathize.)

one of the questions asked of the campaigns dealt with their candidates.  the laesch campaign was unable to participate, since they are currently flooded with questionaires that they are working on.  still no word whatsoever from the serra campaign.

the stein campaign argues:

we have the best candidate because our candidate represents the district best.  Jotham may be a lawyer but at one point he was a cabby and struggling to make it through college.  On the other hand he has done fairly well in life and represents that portion of the population of this district too.  So he has seen both ends of the spectrum.  Also Jotham at least knows what the issues are, one of the candidates goes way to far to the left for this district, and the other well he doesn’t like to talk issues he just throws money at the problem of winning a primary.  The other thing is, I’m willing to bet that jotham has knocked on more doors and spoken one on one with more voters then the other two.

Jotham speaks so well to voters on the issues.  Jotham has been the first to stand on a lot of issues that the other two guys have been trying to make hay out of.  Jotham was the first to say he was against an ID card, Laesch had a press release about how he was against them.  Foster came out against global warming and for renewable fuels, I hate to say it but Jotham has been talking about that since the beginning and with a better plan then Foster’s that everyone can benefit from.  I believe if folks could have a sit down chat with Jotham on the issues they would support him.

foster’s campaign chimes in:

Bill Foster is the only candidate with deep roots in the community, a background of solving problems that appeals to voters and the only candidate with the resources to compete against entrenched Washington Republicans who will fight like hell to save this seat.

He has spent a lifetime changing institutions for the better and when he puts his mind to it, he has always met with remarkable success.  When Bill worked on integrated circuits, he first learned how to make and design integrated circuits so he could lead a team of designers.  When Bill entered politics, he did it as an activist in a campaign that had little chance of succeeding.  He is the only candidate who knows how to put together a winning team.

they further argue:

That as a scientist and a businessman Bill is a refreshing change of pace from the usual politician.  He makes decisions based on facts, not the fictional reality that partisanship demands.  He also is uniquely able to make a huge impact on technical areas like energy policy because he can tell you if something can work in the lab and in the business plan.

all in all, the three main candidates in this race all come with flaws.  some argue that foster is charisma-challenged and too impressed by his intelligence, others believe that laesch has a messianic complex, and stein is too policy-focused and that hasn’t yet caught on (it’s late, there’s only a little time left to do so).  i’d call any comparison of these three candidates a draw — a gambler might say, pick ’em — but the contrast with il-10, where you have two high-energy, dynamic candidates couldn’t be more stark.

does this matter?  well, yeah.  in part, because voters are starting to feel the pain.  the foster campaign notes that:

Voters are still talking about all the problems we need to solve, especially ending the war.  Their newest concern is the nervousness about the economic situation in the US because of the mortgage crisis.

the stein campaign observes some differentiation in the concerns of the district:

In a place like Aurora, their worried about Jobs and the current housing mess.  In a place like Geneva, their worried about more taxes.  Out west in a place like Geneseo, its jobs.  A lot of the people out west work in places like Davenport and Moline, that’s outside the district, and are worried about places like John Deere and the Arsenal and Alcoa.  Currently there are no problems, but there are rumors that John Deere will be moving their HQ out of the Quad Cities.  Which makes people fear that maybe the second most recognized american symbol in the world after coke will start moving jobs overseas slso.

the political climate is changing, and only those campaigns who maintain comprehensive contact with the electorate will be able to respond to those changes.  there is no question that the laesch campaign has maintained contact with the netroots.  but it doesn’t appear that they have the same close relationship with the electorate.  the momentum from being the 2006 candidate was squandered (partially, perhaps even majorly, because laesch took time to get married).  the fact that they didn’t have the most signatures, or raised the most, even in the small dollar category, is evidence of this.

the point on money has already been made.  foster has not only committed his own resources, he’s raising money, significantly from new sources.  stein has made the effort, and we will see how that’s going on his next report.  laesch has an extraordinary burn rate; it’s a good thing that he’s got signs left over and volunteers committed to helping his campaign.

which leaves their organizations.  in a sense, this isn’t just about their organizations, but their potential to scale up.  the laesch campaign seems to recognize that they are it, with “little or no help expected from the national or state Democratic Party.”  given their organizational structure, they may not be able to handle a massive influx of assistance, even if they received it.

the stein campaign still suffers from the lack of a campaign manager, someone who conducts the chorus, as it were.  stein has a capable staff, but not enough of it (especially for the special election).  no one doubts that jotham has worked hard as a candidate — he’s raised the money to demonstrate that — but he’ll need more people working hard if he’s going to win a special election.

in a way, the stein campaign recognizes that they have to scale up.  they say that their keys for winning are:

Talking to the voters, putting a good field plan for the final

stretch into place.  Focusing our message so that our supporters know they

can vote twice for our candidate.

good field plan requires lots of leadership and experienced captains.

foster’s campaign is clearly the most scaleable.  in fact, scaleability seems to have been part of the plan from the very beginning.  they have been taking on staff and apparently training volunteers.  the campaign has plans to integrate local and state democrats into their gotv efforts after the primary is decided.  it is this inherent scaleability that gives foster not only the best chance to win the special primary, but a decent shot at taking the seat blue.

how can this be?  laesch’s supporters continue to trumpet his stands on the issues and believe that this will deliver him to victory.  the problem with that is that voters don’t even know laesch’s name, let alone his stands on the issues — and that assumes that voters in the 14th would prefer laesch’s stands to the other candidates.  laesch has neither the money nor the organization to effectively deliver his message to the electorate.  activists and ideologues may focus on issues and where candidates stand, but voters rarely do.  voters may become vaguely aware of a congressional candidate’s message, but they have neither the time nor inclination to go much beyond that.  in the end, the perceived advantage that laesch had — that he had run before — is minimized by the fact that his name recognition was in the high thirties among the general electorate, and mid-40s for democratic voters.  he has better name recognition now, before foster’s and stein’s mail starts to drop.  but those numbers don’t make him secure from the challenge.  by contrast, seals’ name recognition is almost double laesch’s.

the message that voters will see this election follows the money and the organization.  in both these areas, foster’s campaign has been out front.

IL-03 Roundup #2

there’s been a slew of news in this race, for everybody running.  rep. lipinski got the afl-cio endorsement [PDF] and the afscme endorsement.  this isn’t a surprise given the association of speaker madigan with lipinski, and madigan’s closeness with the unions.  lipinski also got the endorsement of pipefitters local 597.  

mark pera got the endorsement of NARAL/Pro-Choice America as well as the endorsement of forrest claypool, who won almost 70 percent of the vote in four il-03 townships during the 2006 primary.  pera was also endorsed by reformers ald. manny flores, ald. brendan reilly, ald. scott waguespack, st. sen. dan kotowski, st. rep. john fritchey, and mwrd commissioner debra shore.

jerry bennett has announced the endorsements of 66 local mayors; the southwest sider blogger lists them all.  the one that is missing is the one undoubtedly supporting lipinski.

jim capparelli has no new endorsements since the last post.  capparelli’s website has an audio component to it’s front page, which may have been there before (i often mute sound on my computer).

the politico called lipinski one of the five most vulnerable in 2008 primary challenges:

Lipinski has never been able to win over a large majority of Democrats in his Chicago-based district since he was appointed as the nominee after his father’s abrupt resignation in 2004. His relatively conservative voting record within the Democratic caucus has prompted attorney Mark Pera to mount a well-funded and well-organized challenge.

meanwhile, the national journal has taken notice of kos’ efforts to lick lil lip.

the local newspapers are giving the race attention.  clout street, the chicago tribune blog covered the endorsements that pera and bennett picked up.  archpundit also covered pera’s endorsement by local reformers.  ray hanania, of the southwest news-herald wrote this column on the race:

In the end, the Democratic Primary election comes down to an organization effort. And there, Lipinski has the edge.

In the primary battle two years ago against John Kelly and John Sullivan, Lipinski won by a landslide, with 56 percent of the city’s 46,000 votes and 53 percent of the suburb’s 36,000 votes.

Work the numbers. Lipinski was solid in several heavy voting wards in Chicago, trailing Kelly by 400 votes in the 19th Ward, where Irish voters vote for the Irish above all else.

Lipinski’s vote margin in the suburbs were strong across the suburban areas of the district. He did better, though, in the city, mainly because he won huge voter support in the district’s other key wards, the 23rd, 13th and 11th.

Can Lipinski lose? Maybe, if the powers that be who represent voters in the 3rd District turn their backs on him and on his father, who spent years helping all those communities and leaders.

read the whole thing, which reflects the current conventional wisdom about the race.

jerry bennett has been getting increasing coverage.  the daily southtown covered bennett’s presentation before a gage park high school class:

While not a household name, Bennett is the best-known of Lipinski’s opponents. More than 20 area mayors recently endorsed his candidacy. As Palos Hills’ part-time, $28,000-a-year mayor – a post he has held for 27 years – and as a regional leader on several planning boards, Bennett touts his governmental experience as the characteristic that sets him apart from his opponents.

ray hanania (as well as archpundit) covered bennett’s s-chip announcement.  the reporter online covered a rally, where bennett says lipinski “has not done the job” and is a “Republican in Democratic cloth.”  a radio interview with bennett can he heard here.

mark pera probably scores the best in the last couple of weeks, since his netroots following has been active in keeping his story alive.  one of them posted this story from chicago’s fox news on youtube.  local tribune papers covered pera’s endorsements by citizen action/illinois, claypool and naral.  the blogosphere has been on fire for pera this month, starting with an in these times article, to archpundit’s coverage of pera youtube offerings, openleft’s coverage of candidate statements to dailykos writeups here and here. pera is also getting coverage in the capitol hill outlets, the hill and roll call.  it’s no surprise, then, that aaron krager argues that pera is winning the media war.

the capitol fax blog had a lively discussion about the turmoil of the lipinski campaign, with rich miller, as usual, providing some common sense.

not so new, but at least new to his website, dan lipinski offers up an old brochure [PDF].  interestingly, i think lipinski’s new slogan (“representation you have come to expect!”) is probably more accurate than his old one (“leadership.  commitment.  experience.”).

capparelli has a new, printable issues page.  he has a welcome video up, as well.  

the bennett campaign got back to me shortly after posting the first post, and i gave them the opportunity to answer those questions.  their campaign headquarters is located at 7229 W. 103rd St, Palos Hills, IL, 60465. (Phone: 708-907-5063), which is open everyday.  they feel like their grassroots support is strong:

we have more than 70 Mayors from all over the region backing Jerry’s campaign. Mayors are at the absolute grassroots level, ensuring the quality of life in their towns and communities is addressed and providing those essential services from water to libraries to parks and rec. Mayor Bennett is also a life-long South Sider and his extensive network of family (he’s one of 13 brothers and sisters), relatives, friends, colleagues and civic contacts are doing everything from making phone calls to hosting coffees to telling their own friends and neighbors to collecting small-dollar donations for the campaign. Our Southside Swarm is also gearing up for a strong field effort in these weeks leading up to the Feb 5th Election Day.

they report they have “lots of “at home” projects – calling, netroots networking, etc – for at web-savvy folks!”  email alex [] or call 708-907-5063, if you are interested.  

pera put up a new cable ad, the youtube version is here.  the campaign also sent out two direct mail pieces, available on the website.  the “end this war” mailer is justified by a “fact sheet for this mailing.” [PDF].  the campaign also released a third video message from the campaign to voters.  that’s using your web.

since the last post, the pera campaign has been joined by two new employees, deputy fund-raiser trevor montgomery, who is an iraq war veteran, and community outreach and field organizer, maura kelly.  a video of montgomery is up on youtube here.

if the first posts in this series was designed to lay a foundation, this next group will be focused on looking at the fundamentals in this race.  like blocking and tackling decide football games, the fundamentals decide elections.  there are five fundamentals that are thought to be decisive in the outcome of elections:

1. the candidates

2. money

3. the environment (deciding factors that campaigns can’t change)

4. the climate (deciding factors that campaigns can influence)

5. their organizations

probably the biggest deciding factor right now in this race is the political environment.  while the incumbent has about a third of those polled who support his re-election, this is still a machine district.  and it’s not just any machine district, but the core of the chicago political machine.  it will take more than half a million dollars to be competitive with the machine candidate in this district.  there is such a strong undercurrent in the last two weeks that any campaign that hopes to be competitive will need to buttress itself and its voter base from the effect.

add to this the fact that the primary is february 5th.  the machine is hoping that the weather is nasty — typically, this is called precinct captain’s weather, because some believe that only those who benefit directly from the chicago system will come out in such weather.

the bennett campaign seems to expect to import some of their own lil machines into the district for his benefit.  many of the towns and villages who’s mayors have endorsed bennett have non-partisan elections.  that doesn’t mean they don’t have parties — or machines — just that they are not known by the democratic or republican label.  we cannot know how committed these mayors are to bennett’s election, but if they are, then machine or precinct captain’s weather may not tilt the campaign one particular way.  however, bennett can only benefit from importing lil machines if he’s got his support id’ed by the time they come in (for the most part).

the final environmental factor that will strongly influence this race is the obama effect.  barack obama drives turnout in illinois.  his presence on the ballot in the primary of 2008 will have the same effect as his presence on the ballot in the primary of 2004 — it will boost turnout significantly.  and it will boost turnout beyond the normal surge turnout expected in a presidential year.  turnout will be super-surged, and all those extra voters are not likely to go to the machine.  of course, the good precinct captains know this, and they may have a plan to respond.

in many ways, as candidates the jury is still out for the non-incumbents.  lipinski is, at best, a D candidate.  that’s a D for below average, not democrat.  mark pera has shown promise, but i don’t think he’s shined (yet) like dan kotowski or deb shore did in 2006.  his campaign says:

By any objective measure, Mark Pera is the viable challenger to Congressman Dan Lipinski. With less than 50 days to the election, Mark, myself and our campaign staff have been up and running full-time and over-time for nearly five months out of our offices here in Countryside. We have been up on cable TV since the end of October with two TV ads (“It’s Time” and “Pain at the Pump”). We have four top-notch direct mail pieces out the door and in the hands of Democratic voters. The video messages that we have posted online at our Web site and on YouTube are watched by thousands of viewers. We’ve set the framework for this campaign and, perhaps most importantly, we are directing the new people and resources that have joined us to increase the pace of the campaign. For example, we recently opened a second field office in the city.

Mark has the talent and vision to provide real leadership for residents of the 3rd district. Since 2001, he has served as President of the Lyons Township High School Board of Education, which has an attendance area of 80,000 residents. The district is one of the top school districts in the state. As director of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office’s Environment and Energy Division, he and his team was responsible for prosecuting major industrial polluters and well-known utility companies that were working against the public interest. It’s these civic and law and order credentials that have helped him earn the trust and support of some of the leading reformers in Cook County and the state.

jerry bennett is still too new to the race.  he’s played an insider’s game, to the extent he can, and hasn’t really had the level of public appearances one expects from an a-level candidate.  the bennett campaign tells us that the local mayoral network is significant in the southside and southwest side.  they will leverage that as much as they can.  bennett has been, by all accounts, an effective mayor who has organized his fellow mayors to gain influence in the state.  but bennett’s late entry is problematic.  bennett’s name recognition outside his town is limited.  in pera’s poll, capparelli had better name recognition than bennett.  pera’s name recognition was higher than either of them — due to his earlier start.

jim capparelli has been almost invisible outside his base.  so who knows?

the political climate favors the reformers.  that’s why there’s so many looking to claim that label in the race.  lil lip is vulnerable, and pera’s campaign has specifically been designed to take advantage of that:

We’re hearing from voters that they have decided to vote for Mark Pera on Feb. 5. The reason they most often cite is that our campaign is on the right side of the issues that the voters care about deeply, whether it’s the Iraq war, energy and the environment, choice, personal privacy, stem cell research or health care. They think our current Congressman’s leadership on these issues is inadequate, the don’t like how Lipinski was put in office and voters want change. They know Mark can bring about that change.

the campaign that can seize the reformer label in this race seizes the advantage.  that’s why the pera campaign (and its allies) have worked so hard to grab the reformer label and present this race as one between pera and lipinski.  this rankles the campaigns of the other two candidates, each of which brings their own advantages to the race.

actblue offers one way to tract money.  at this date, actblue shows:

Jerry Bennett

Contributors: 22

Amount: $8,140

Jim Capparelli

Contributors: 5

Amount: $300

Daniel Lipinski

Mark Pera

Contributors: 1,859

Amount: $118,066

the bennett campaign tells me that they have raised $100,000 in the first 30 days of his campaign.  yet even if they continue this pace, they still don’t get to $500,000 (which rich miller reminds us is the “price” of competitive state legislator races in illinois — there are three state senate districts in il-03).  there’s a reason why we advise campaigns to start early.  pera may have outraised lipinski in the last quarter, but lipinski ended it with more cash on hand.  i’d call that a tie.

it’s a little harder to compare organizations.  the word seems to be that lipinski’s organization is crumbling.  demoralized, even.  there are rumblings that lipinski senior has seized control of his son’s “organization” in order to right the ship.  i wonder if it matters.  the lipinski name isn’t what it used to be.  madigan will be the machinehead who decides where the resources go.  if the speaker wants to keep this seat, and he’s willing to sacrifice some other races he’s interested in, he will.  but we won’t know until the last two weeks.  the afl-cio and afscme endorsements could be vital to mobilizing behind lipinski — if they get into the middle of it.

there’s very little question that the pera campaign has the best organization at this moment.  they’ve been aggressive about raising money, and this has allowed them to go on the air and in the mail.  they’ve been outrageously successful at gaining earned media.  they have opened a second field office, and plan “an amazing Get Out The Vote (GOTV) strategy and we’re fortunate to have the support of the volunteers and constituent groups we need to move from planning to action in the upcoming weeks.”

i wouldn’t underestimate the bennett organization.  they have put together a “kick-ass chicago team to run bennett’s campaign.”  he needs it.  palos hills is a small town in the district, and the 3,000 votes he’s gotten there in the past isn’t close to what is needed to be competitive.  in 2006, there were more than 81,000 votes cast in this primary.  no one would be surprised if it went over a hundred thousand in february.  the real question is, where will the extra votes come from?  if they come out of the city, and the 19th ward holds its voters for lipinski, the incumbent wins.  

numerous calls and emails to the capparelli campaign were not returned for this report…