Final reflections on Franken vs. Coleman

It's a relief to close the book on the 2008 elections now that Al Franken will finally be able to take up the Senate seat he won last November.

Talking Points Memo posted their Top 10 moments from the mostly infuriating, sometimes comical Franken-Coleman saga.

We can laugh at Coleman's pretzel logic during the legal proceedings, but unfortunately, his gamesmanship deprived Minnesota of full representation in the Senate for half a year. In all likelihood Franken will be stuck with less-than-stellar committee assignments. Also, the delay did lasting damage to Franken's seniority. Had he been sworn in on time, he would have outranked several fellow Senate Democrats, which could become important one or two terms down the road.

Nevertheless, I have high hopes for Senator Franken and look forward to his work in Washington.

P.S.- I still don't understand why so many Minnesotans voted for Dean Barkley.

P.P.S.- Rush Limbaugh is still a big fat idiot.

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The MYDD hot 100 (funding)

Desmoinesdem and his argument in Next cycle, donate strategically--not emotionally got me thinking.

It is not the case of either or, but rather harnessing the emotion to further strategic goals. The emotional money is most likely in addition to any rational donation strategy. NormDollar.com shows that emotion can be harnessed.

A possibility below.

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Next cycle, donate strategically--not emotionally

Last October, Representative Michele "Crazy as Steve King" Bachmann (MN-06) disgraced herself on "Hardball" and sparked a ridiculously successful fundraising drive for her Democratic opponent, El Tinklenberg. I was impressed by the enthusiasm and kicked in a few bucks for Tinklenberg myself, but I was dismayed to see bloggers continue to help him raise money even after he'd raised more than $750,000 and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had promised to spend an additional $1 million in his district. Within a few days of Bachmann's notorious comments, Tinklenberg had more money than he needed to run a solid media and GOTV campaign during the final two weeks before the election.

Since most Congressional races against incumbents are longshots, I wanted to see the netroots expand the field by raising $50,000 or more for a large number of unheralded challengers.

A fellow Iowa blogger sent me this piece from CQ Politics about how Tinklenberg's campaign committee was the largest donor to the DCCC in March, giving a total of $250,000:

You may recall that his Republican opponent was Rep. Michele Bachmann, whose mid-October comment that Obama "may have anti-American views" angered Democrats nationwide and spawned an avalanche of contributions to Tinklenberg in the waning days of a campaign that Bachmann won by 46 percent to 43 percent, with a third-party candidate taking 10 percent.

Apparently the money was coming in too fast for Tinklenberg to spend completely: he raised $3 million for his campaign, of which $1.9 million came in after October 15, and had $453,000 in leftover campaign funds at the end of 2008 and $184,000 at the end of March.

I'm not saying it wasn't worth getting behind Tinklenberg. Bachmann is among the worst Republicans in Congress, and this district rightly seemed winnable. However, the netroots clearly funneled way more money to Tinklenberg than he could spend effectively.

What if a million of the dollars we sent to the MN-06 race had been spread around 15 or 20 other districts? A bunch of the candidates I wanted to support as part of an expanded field got blown out by large margins, but an extra $50,000 could have made the difference for Josh Segall in AL-03, or for several candidates who weren't on my radar, such as Bill Hedrick in CA-44.

The netroots rally for Tinklenberg started out as a good cause but took on a momentum of its own. It didn't help that Tinklenberg sent out fundraising e-mails to his new donors every day or two during the home stretch, even after he had more than enough money to close out the campaign.

Maybe the majority of blog readers who gave $10 or $20 or $50 to Tinklenberg wouldn't have given to some other longshot Congressional challenger. Maybe people need an emotional trigger before they are willing to open their wallets. But in future election cycles, we need to be smarter about how we focus our energy and our fundraising efforts during the final weeks of a campaign. There's no shortage of wingnuts worth targeting. Also, a fair number of good incumbent Democrats will probably need our help in 2010, depending on how the economy looks 18 months from now.

Any ideas or suggestions on how to raise money effectively during the next cycle would be welcome in this thread.

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The perils of having no record to run on

Via the Stinging Nettle blog, I found this piece in Politics magazine by Marty Ryall, who managed Senator Elizabeth Dole's unsuccessful campaign last year. Ryall's main subject is the grotesque "Godless" ad that Dole ran against Kay Hagan in late October. He contends that contrary to widespread opinion, backlash against the ad did not cost Dole the election. Rather, the ad was "our Hail Mary pass" that ran only because they felt they had no other chance to win.

As you'd expect from an operative who worked on a failed campaign, Ryall goes out of his way to explain why Dole's campaign was already in trouble before he came on in May 2008, and why she lost the election mostly for reasons out of his control. (For instance, Barack Obama targeted North Carolina and registered hundreds of thousands of new voters.) Ryall also claims that he and others intervened to make the final version of the "Godless" ad more fair to Hagan than the first cut. Whatever.

I was more interested in why Dole would have to resort to that kind of desperate attack. Ryall doesn't explicitly address that point, but this passage in his piece suggests Dole simply had nothing else to say:

We knew we had three weaknesses. A report by Congress.org had ranked Dole 93rd out of 100 senators in effectiveness. She voted with President Bush more than 90 percent of the time. And during the two-year period when she was chairman of the NRSC, she only traveled to North Carolina a handful of times.

No doubt external conditions helped sink Dole. But if she had built up a solid record during her six years in the Senate, Dole would have had a better chance of withstanding the Democratic wave. At the very least she would have had a better final-week message for voters than, "Atheists held a fundraiser for my opponent."

Democrats control the executive and legislative branches in Washington and many states. Current economic trends suggest that they may face a challenging political environment in 2010. I hope they will draw the right lessons from Dole's disgrace. Don't blindly follow failed policies and do something substantial for your constituents.

Having a record to run on is no guarantee of victory if the prevailing winds are against you. My very effective 18-term Congressman Neal Smith (IA-04) lost in the 1994 landslide. But it helps to be able to remind voters of some big achievements. In the worst-case scenario you'll lose with more dignity than Dole.

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Could Clinton or Edwards have beaten Obama in Iowa?

On January 3, 2008, roughly 240,000 Iowans attended Democratic precinct caucuses, and at least 90,000 of them ended up in Barack Obama's corner.

However we felt about Obama during the primaries or the general election campaign, whatever we think about his substantive and symbolic actions since the election, we can all agree that he would not be taking the oath of office tomorrow if Iowa caucus-goers had put him in third place, or even a distant second.

I started writing this diary several times last year. I kept abandoning it because emotions were so raw on Democratic blogs that I felt the piece would only ignite a flamewar. Since more than a year has passed, I decided to try one more time.

I do not mean to start an argument or pretend that I have all the answers. I just enjoy thinking about counterfactual history (such as this or this).

After the jump I will try to figure out whether Hillary Clinton or John Edwards could have beaten Obama in Iowa.

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Diaries

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