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June 07, 2006

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What seniors think (Gallup)... and seniors vote:

Overall, Iraq is the government's top priority for Americans in all age
groups, but senior citizens more frequently mention the war in Iraq. In
fact, half of those aged 65 and older mention the war in Iraq, compared with
only about 4 in 10 adults who are younger.

Older Americans are also more likely to say immigration should be the top
governmental priority. Thirty-two percent of those aged 65 and older say
immigration should be the top priority, compared with 17% of 18- to
34-year-olds, 25% of adults aged 35 to 49, and 22% of adults aged 50 to 64.

On the other hand, older Americans are less concerned about fuel prices --
just 17% of those aged 65 and older believe the government should focus its
attention on this issue, compared with at least 30% in all other age groups.

Guess what issue D's should be running on?
um... gay marriage! right?

emptypockets, the clear answer is Terry Schiavo.

The Westly-Angelides race hardly changed during the remainder of the night--Angelides by 4.2%. This race is instructive for those trying out themes and strategies.

Angelides, the State Treasurer and former Dem Party Chair, is the more traditional Democrat on the issues, but as soon as Schwarzenegger was elected, Angelides positioned himself as the voice of fiscal responsibility, opposing Arnold's $15 billion debt bond and arguing that the state needed to face up to its fiscal problems. Westly, the State Controller, campaigned at Arnold's side to pass the debt bond.

Last year, when Arnold veered hard right at the suggestion of some White House operatives and qualified a bunch of anti-union, anti-Dem-supporters measures, Angelides once again was the voice of the opposition. The measures went down to defeat; and the teachers, firefighters, police and other public employees and service workers did not forget--they came out strongly for Amgelides.

Westly, the eBay multimillionaire, positioned himself as a "different kind of politician" or "different kind of Democrat"--ie, not beholden to the unions. He tried to project an air of competent centrism. Much more telegenic, he also argued that he was the more electable, that voters would reject Angelides' recognition that we need higher taxes, at least on the wealthy (whose rates were cut in the late '90s).

Westly might have succeeded, except that he hired the execrable Garry "Negatives R US" South to run his campaign. (He is the one who ran Gray Davis' campaigns for Governor. In 2002 they campaigned against Richard Riordan, running in the GOP Primary, so Davis could face the hapless Bill Simon instead, who he beat by only 5%.)

They went negative early to counteract Angelides' base of support, and Angelides, no shrinkng violet, hit back. The hits filled the airwaves. The upshot? Low turnout. My guess is that Westly's moderates were turned off and never came to the polls. Angelides' more liberal and organized supporters turned out, and he won all over the state.

Who will have the best chance against Schwarzenegger? Will it be the Revenge of the Nerd against the Terminator? Who knows. Maybe Californians are ready for a dose of reality. I certainly hope so, but this is a state built on fantasies.

One thing is certain for candidates trying to decide who to be: If you try to run as a "new" kind of candidate, walk the walk, don't practice the same old negative politics.

One more comment: I think Dem from CT's analysis on CA-50 is spot on. Last time around Duke Cunningham beat the unknown Busby by 22%. Bilbray needed a huge infusion of cash, and still didn't reach 50%. That portends Dem victories all over the East, where the D-R registration more favors the Dems.

Each race is different, but strong stands will beat blandness this fall in my opinion. And where better to start than Iraq?

I have very mixed feelings about the Busby/Bilbray race. There's no doubt the overall atmospherics are solid. The GOP had to throw a huge percentage of their cash-on-hand to hold onto a seat that shouldn't have required a second thought. Given the partisan breakdown of the district (44% GOP, 29% Dem), independents must have broken 4-1 Dem. If they do that nationally, we're looking at Speaker Pelosi.

On the other hand...as Kos said yesterday (and as Chuck Todd basically told Matthews last night), Dems can't live on moral victories forever (among other things, the press won't let them). Eventually, you either win or you don't, and our side hasn't put up a real win yet. (It's obviously our poor luck that the two signal races -- OH last year and CA last night -- were in districts so tilted that even a great showing could yield only an encouragingly close margin) Put another way: I think last night's result foretells a very good November...but it doesn't suggest a extraordinary November, and that's what we all crave (and the country needs).

Worth noting, though: the economy is now a significant worry-factor for the GOP. If the wobbly developments of the last week gel into serious slowdown, the last line of defense crumbles. It's worth noting that, for all Carter's problems (apparent as early as 1979), the recession in Fall 1980 may have been what finally caused the devastating level of his loss.

Recessions and recoveries need to start in advance of when people feel change. The bad news for Rs is that since most people don't think the economy is great, it won't be hard to slide.

I simply point out there's not that much time left until November. That also means things are close toi getting set in stone for the GOP on Iraq the ecomony and Bush. He will not hit 40% and that will hurt Rs everywhere, even if he has a republican bounce between 30 to 37%. Everyone else has written him off.

Is it significant that Busby came close in a solidly-GOP district? No, because gerrymandering has made most House districts safely GOP. If the Dems are going to sweep the GOP out, they're going to have to win in solidly-GOP districts. The fact that Busby didn't, in Cunningham's district, means that not enough GOP voters are sufficiently disenchanted with the GOP.

Is it significant that the GOP had to spend so much money on defeating Busby? No, because the GOP has lots more where that came from, and the Dems don't. If the GOP has to spend $11m on every House race, it can and will. Dean has done very good work on the 50-State Strategy, but the fact that we at least have candidates in (almost) every House race isn't enough: we don't have the money to give each of them the support the GOP will give each of its candidates.

Taking the House and Senate rely on GOP voters not voting for GOP candidates. CA-50 showed that's not going to happen.

Tester's primary victory in Montana is a very good thing - but let's see how he does in the general.

''Taking the House and Senate rely on GOP voters not voting for GOP candidates. CA-50 showed that's not going to happen.''

Actually it did, since turnout was poor. I don't necessarily buy that if Howard Dean were running he'd have swept that district 9metaphorically speaking). San Diego is still San Diego. We are not, however, to the point where any GOP candidate loses just because they are GOP. at least, not without tying them to Bush.

CaseyL, I think you're flat wrong. Pubs are mostly going to vote for Pubs, and Dems for Dems -- that's not the game. Campaigns swing to a significant degree on the break of independent votes. Yes, districts have been gerrymandered to make them easier victories for the GOP (or, in fewer cases, Dems), but not so every GOP-held seat is backed up by 50%+ Pub registration. To win, you have to make a showing among independents.

It's true, for Dems, it's not enough to just win a majority of them: in 2004, Kerry got that and still lost to Bush...but his indie margin was only of the 53-47% variety. Most recent polling -- and last night's results --suggest the split now could be closer to 80-20. That differential would mean major gains for Dems around the country.

Please keep in mind: CA-50 is a VERY Republican district (I don't know if it's accurate, but someone elsewhere said it ranked 50th among 53 in the state for Dem prospects). There are many districts in PA, NY, OH, etc. where the same shift in public opinion would give a Dem candidate an easy win. It's fine to be disappointed this morning (as I acknowledged I am); your analysis leads only to hopelessness.

Random thoughts:

mimikatz, Garry South is not execrable. He is a superb consultant. He just may have a different orientation than yours (and mine), though to me Westly is no devil. I think Westly would run better against Arnold, and that Phil is clueless about message. It's Arnold's race to win or lose now, IMO.

Yes, November will be good...but hoping for "fantastic" is expecting too much. Good for me is getting with 2 seats in the Senate, and putting some new talent in both chambers.

CA-50 is very Republican. There are plenty of districts in New England, NY, PA, OH etc where the registration figures are more favorable.

And they can't put that kind of money into every race. I think the result is pretty favorable, but it shows that the Dems need to do more party building from the ground up. GOTV isn't an every 2 year thing. I am a bit concerned about the turnout problem. The Dems need to convince people that voting Dem will bring about changes. At least, that divided gov't is a good thing. That, more than anything, might resonate.

Wait a minute, what's this about "Democrats need more than moral victories," "Democrats need to post a W not an L"?

Last I looked, Democrats had WON special elections in Kentucky AND South Dakota, BOTH in REPUBLICAN territory.

So we lost one, where the R's poured in $11 million and scores of operatives. You win some, you lose some.

I totally refuse to buy into this "Democrats are losers" meme.

About Rove, here is a question for EW?

After the fever-pitch a few weeks ago (David Shuster, are you still out there?)that an indictment of Rove was about to be handed up, it has fallen eerily quiet. Did anyone find out if there was any substance to the suggestion (rumor?) that a case or motion filed in the same court Fitz is before was so confidential that it was named Sealed v. Sealed? Was any evidence found that the Department of Justice moved in such a sealed proceeding to quash an indictment of Rove by somehow limiting Fitz's authority?

Is there any recent news? Is there anyone not going to Las Vegas who can answer such questions?

''I totally refuse to buy into this "Democrats are losers" meme.''

I didn't say they were. I'm cautiously optimistic about November, and there's not enough data to say much about yesterday. If Busby had won/Bilbray had lost, that'd be different. But it was the other way, so we're exactly where we were the day before, and there's no voting data to suggest a Dem tidal wave.

That does not make Dems losers.

ArthurKC, i can't speak for EW, but the EW prediction iirc was for indictments mid-June. It's still early.

I think Garry South miscalculated badly on Westly by going negative so soon. He did not anticipate the degree of election fatigue here and he turned off a lot of moderates, particularly women. Low turnout was no accident.

I didn't say Westly is a devil. I said he came across as insincere, and that his message of "above it" centrism clashed with the negativism of the advertising. Consultants, like everyone else, have to adapt to changing times.

I have mixed feelings about whether Westly or Angelides will do better against Arnold. Westly is more telegenic, but he doesn't distinguish himself as well. Angelides' willingness to talk about taxes as something other than a last resort for the next guy might play well this time around, maybe not. We will find out. Maybe it is time to give the nerds a chance to try to solve problems. I think it will be an interesting race, though.

bleh, assuming we're talking about the same thing, those KY and SD races were prior to the '04 election, so they're ancient history as bellwethers.

I don't see most people here saying anything like "Dems are losers" (those folks you'll find off in a corner saying "Doesn't matter; the machines are fixed, anyway"). What we're saying is, we're tired of getting close; we want the catharis of a big, unexpected win. (We've actually had such things in down-ballot races -- as in PA week before last -- but that's like winning the Oscar for sound editing; we need something in the glamour categories)

DemfromCT is exactly right: a Busby loss would have been an earthquake. A Bilbray 10-point win would have suggested all will be well for the GOP in the end despite appearances. This falls somewhere in between: reason to be hopeful, but not to be confident.

Everyone is missing the one thing that explains the depressed Democratic turnout for CA-50. That was the depression that set in a month ago with the realization that the best the California Democratic Party could come up with for Governor candidates were a pair of corporate scum-suckers who were pinned by the LA Times with having cast votes on boards and commissions of which they are members in favor of major contributors and against the interests of "the average guy." They got major contributions both before and after those votes.

Quite frankly I didn't vote for either of those turd balls, and I will likely either not vote for Governor in November or vote for Schwarzenegger so we at least keep focused on who The Enemy is. Angelides is a three-faced corporate pig who shouldn't be welcome in the Democratic Party - the absolute only way I would vote for him would be if the California legislature was under the control of the far right of the GOP. Put this shill in office, with the other shills in the party who run the legislature, and it'll be back to "business as usual" with the current crop of ass-patters. At least making them fight Arnold reminds them which party they are theoretically members of.

The only good thing was getting to vote against the insurance industry shill Cruz Bustamante for Insurance Commissioner, and for Garamendi for Lt. Governor, one of the last of the Democratic "good guys" left in California Dem politics.

Garry South isn't just "execrable." He's a goddamned POS and a frickin' LOSER. If there were four guys I'd love to see leave the Democratic Party of California, they would be - in any order they wanted to go through the door - Westly, Angelides, South and the truly execrable pissant, Mickey Kaus.

I agree that we all want a Big Win and that the nature of electoral outcomes is formally binary. But I can't agree that "we're exactly where we were the day before" Tuesday's election, and I don't think the scale of the kind of political shift that we need -- and imho is happening -- makes '04 races "ancient history."

The Republicans have successfully created a national brand. Their local candidates have been spectacularly successful by adhering closely to that brand, which in turn has reinforced the brand -- a sort of positive feedback loop. They have in some cases been shockingly out of touch with local needs and constituents -- e.g., Vitter from LA or Santorum from PA -- but their lockstep fealty to the national brand has carried them through.

The task for us therefore is to so tarnish that brand that it falls apart, and with it falls the Rovian machine. The "culture of corruption," the abject failure of the Republican leadership with respect to Iraq and Katrina, the plundering of the national economy for the sake of the wealthy few: all these things damage the Republican brand, and emphasizing them hurts Republican electoral prospects EVERYWHERE, precisely because they are so dependent on the national brand.

And brand loyalty, and brand lifetimes, are not measured in months. They are not measured in years. They are measured in DECADES. That's why the Republicans have worked so hard to build their brand and the mechanisms that support it. That's why it's been so successful recently, despite the idiocies of the Bush administration.

And that's why Busby's near-win, and the victories of '04, are both relevant and valuable today. The Republican brand is on the skids. It's slowly but clearly sinking in to the public how venal -- and in some cases outright evil -- those fuckers are, and that realization is being reflected in election results.

An emphasis on short-term victories overlooks this. Much more important, imho, is paying attention to the (sorry for the buzzword) tipping point that is near, that our near-term efforts can hasten, and that will yield not a few wins but a whole generation of them.

The time is near. The coming of the Unholy Trinity of the Gay Marriage Amendment, the Flag Burning Amendment, and the Privatization of Social Security is a Sign. Magog is on the ropes. Crush your enemy, see him driven before you, and hear the lamentation of his paid talk-show flacks!

Gosh, what to run on? Let's see. the Republicans have severely weakened the US militarily, financially, economically, politically, diplomatically and morally while fielding the most incompetent and corrupt team in living memory, and in lockstep with the widly-recognized as a liar and a fool George Bush, all while he destroys the Constitution.

"But if you hammer on that every day, well, what if it backfires?" I imagine the Dem Leadership saying. Okay, then, at least can't you ask "where's the freakin' anthrax terrorist?" seeing as how all this spying and all these wars are so valuable and effective for our protection.


I think DemfromCT has it right on the Westly/Garry South front except for one point. Angelides started the negative attacks first and the Westly staff were too afraid to stick to their guns and stay positive. (I was at a volunteers meeting at the headquarters before the last debate when they were still saying they were going to remain positive.)

I've known Steve for many years and he's always wanted to be in public service. The eBay money was a bit of a lucky fluke and it let him follow his dream. While I'm a lot more progressive than Steve, I always felt that he had the integrity and creativity to be a good leader.

I wrote an email after the debate to the northern California campaign manager to say how disappointed I was at the turn in strategy. Didn't get a response.

Those who have said here that his supporters were dismayed by the turnaround are understating it to say the least. It undercut everything we had told our friends and acquaintences about the guy. I think Steve had a much better chance of beating Arnold. :-(

(I posted this in another place but realized it was an old thread so you might not see it. sorry for the duplication.)

I just discovered the Next Hurrah tonight and I'm very impressed by the postings I've read. Is there any way I can get one of you to take a look at my site and if you're interested do a review of my political novel? http://www.raisethebar.com , Please write me at jes@raisethebar.com to get a review copy.

I was so frustrated that no one was connecting all the dots that I wrote a novel where the Republican agenda is executed in its entirety. My hero is a nice Republican lawyer who has a great life. Then stuff happens to him. He loses everything and has to see what the policies are like from the other side.

I self-published because it was the ONLY way I could get the book to market in time for the election. People who read it get very energized by it. I encourage them to share it with loved ones who are more conservative and then invite them to have a conversation. It's actually working and their Republican friends are starting to admit to them that they can see problems with the Bush/Rove/Cheney crowd.

(it's the first step in understanding that they are not going to like the world they are going to get if they keep voting red to get the tax cuts.)

I need to move beyond the circles of people I know. It's really a good book (short, fast-paced, reads like a thriller) and I could use the help, please.

bleh, from CT it's hard to see a R brand. Nancy Johnson, Chris Shays and Rob Simmons look nothing like Rs elsewhere. But the northeast is the best opportunity to pick up D seats.

My comments here.

I think you are failing to consider how immigration basically handed CA-50 to the Republicans (by a comfortable 5 points). Basically everything in the campaign was designed, on a local level, to bring immigration to the front. (Note that while California as a whole is pro-immigrant, CA-50, like CA-48 is vehemently anti-immigrant.)

When you look at a wedge issue, you need to see how it run on a micro scale as part of a macro strategy. Taking immigration: In areas where immigration is a wedge issue (upper South, conservative districts on border states, most of the rust belt and midwest) you will see Republican candidates pound immigration and John McCain give those candidates a thumbs down (in order to pump up their anti-immigration creds of the candidate). In areas where immigration is a non-issue (most of the border states, much of the northeast) immigration will not even be brought up.

Why? Because those actions drive people to the polls and it's how many people who vote for you that are worked up enough to go to the polls that wins elections, especially midterm ones.

terry chay, immigration was a factor, but not in the way you suggest. Poor turnout argues against this being a successfulk wedge issue, but Busby's late campaign gaffe prolly mattered more than 'driving people to the polls'.

Which gaffe do you mean? This one? Sounds like more anti-immigration agenda-setting to me: something you'd understand if you lived in CA-50. Hmm, I thought the vote was supposed to be about who is going to replace a corrupt congressman and not about which candidate's campaign employs more illegal immigrants?

What defines a successful wedge issue in your book? Any minority position that can win an election defines it in mine. I guess you feel that it has to be on-par with abortion and gay marriage. Honestly, if immigration were as effective as those and not without as much potential to backfire (both in terms of future demographics and endangering your fund-raising by pissing off business), the Republicans would have used it earlier.

The fact that they have to resort to it to eek out something in the "W" column you can say is a symbolic victory for the Democratic Party. As for me, I'm less partisan about things. I'd expect the Democratic party should roll out some wedge issues of their own (Living Wage?) and do their best from allowing others to use theirs to set the agenda so that they can have real victories instead of symbolic ones.

I'm not as smart as you. I only had one quarter of political science in college. But I remember learning agenda-setting and game theory (a Caltech core requirement will focus on the geekier aspect of the humanities). It seems to me that my ignorance of the higher-order tweaks of political science helped me see this as a simple case of agenda setting.

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