Going On Offense

The DCCC’s “Red to Blue Program” has the right idea for the 2010 elections: The best hope for Democrats is to play offense, not defense. Here are five progressive candidates taking it to the GOP who need our help today.

With the jobs picture improving and Repubs reeling on health care, the cycle isn’t looking nearly as bleak as it was just two weeks ago, but it’s still a midterm election and the President’s party almost always faces an uphill battle in its midterms. The best way for us to off-set losses in blue districts is to pick up seats in red districts. This will help expand the party’s map, build a deeper bench for our future, and maintain a progressive governing majority.

The first quarter of this election year ends in just six days, on March 31. The FEC financial statements that follow will be our first real chance to show the media that we are NOT going to shrink or back down in the face of right-wing hate this year. We’ve set up an Act Blue page called “Going On Offense” for five strong progressives running solid races for open red seats. Please give at least $10 to at least two of the five before March 31.

Jack Conway, KY-Sen – Jack Conway is the true progressive in the Democratic primary for Kentucky's open Senate seat. He supports health reform; his opponent, Dan Mongiardo, does not. He supports marriage equality; Mongiardo does not. Like Robert Byrd, he opposes mountaintop removal mining; Mongiardo supports it. We need Kentucky, and we need Jack Conway's record of success. Here’s his latest ad:

Paul Hodes, NH-Sen – Paul Hodes has been an outspoken, aggressive and unwavering proponent of real health care reform since his recent election to Congress. A true progressive hero, Hodes refused to give up when things were at their darkest after Scott Brown won the MA-Sen seat, writing on the Huffington Post, “The Washington Republican Party and their tea-party allies would take us back to the Bush years… Now is not the time for Democrats to shy away from a fight, to back down or run away from who we are. There is too much at stake.” Help Hodes, one of three Senate candidates endorsed by the Sierra Club, continue the remarkable red-to-blue trend New Hampshire has experienced in the last two cycles.

Robin Carnahan, MO-Sen – They say that as Missouri goes, so goes the nation, and in 2010, this might be the closest thing to a true toss-up anywhere on the Senate map. Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, a Missouri resident who still runs her family's farm in Rolla, has cracked down on financial predators and helped guide her office into the 21 Century. Her opponent, Roy Blount, was one of Tom DeLay's top lieutenants during the Bush administration. The choice is clear.

Matt Dunne, VT-Gov –Spend just ten minutes with Matt Dunne and you'll realize that he has one of the deepest commitments to service and firmest grasps on public policy of anyone you’ve ever met. Matt, an executive at Google, is the former director of Americorps-VISTA and a former state senator. His resume and his values are the right choice for Vermont and for the Democratic Party.

Tom White, NE-02 – For the first time in history, a state split its Electoral College vote when NE-02, which includes Omaha, cast its vote for Barack Obama. Let’s keep this district blue and send Terry packing. Help state Sen. Tom White, the author of Nebraska's Military Family Leave Act in 2007, take his record of success on education, civil rights, and workplace discrimination to Congress. White is one of the DCCC’s 13 “red to blue” candidates.

On April 1, we’ll expand this page to include other progressive heroes like Alan Grayson and Bill Halter. For the first quarter, however, we need to send the media and our volunteers a strong message. We can do this.

Gallup Finds Dramatic Shift: Public Now Favors New Health Law

Now that we turn from political process to legislative reality, the tide really is turning in the Democrats' favor. A new Gallup poll, the first since the House passed health insurance reform Sunday night, finds that Americans support the new law 49-42:

Nearly half of Americans give a thumbs-up to Congress' passage of a healthcare reform bill last weekend, with 49% calling it "a good thing." Republicans and Democrats have polar opposite reactions, with independents evenly split.

...Americans' emotional responses to the bill's passage are more positive than negative -- with 50% enthusiastic or pleased versus 42% angry or disappointed -- and are similar to their general reactions.

This 7 point favorable is quite the about-face from the 20 point opposition found by both Fox News and CNN before the bill actually passed. Gallup's own last poll on the measure, from 3/4-3/7 but with very different wording from this new question, found 3 point opposition.

What's particularly striking is the even support mong Independents. While Gallup reports don't include crosstabs, PPP's most recent approval poll shows Independents disapproving of Obama 50-44, opposing health care 49-40, and supporting Republicans on the generic ballot 44-26. This is a huge swing in Independent support for health care and it will be interesting to see how it registers in the President's approval rating and the generic ballot.

This confirms what progressive pundits have been saying for weeks: it was the process, not the policy, that voters opposed, and now that the mainstream media is actually covering the policy, the tide is turning. If Republicans truly want to run this fall on overturning the ban on not covering childrens' pre-existing conditions, then by all means, let them be our guests. Jim DeMint was right: This was Waterloo. If unemployment dips below 9%, this midterm might not be nearly so bad after all.

From Florida to Colorado, Dems Clawing Back Up

Kos had a headline last week that said, “The tide is turning.” I wouldn’t go quite that far – the generic ballot isn’t Charlie Cook bad, but it’s still not good – but it is true that Democrats have seen a spate of good news lately, both in terms of polls and policy, and I think more is on the way.

Part of the good news is that the DCCC is going on offense, as Jonathan highlighted this morning. We will lose House seats, but the best way to blunt those losses is to flip some red seats, and the GOP has targeted nine incumbents and four open seats.

They do so with certain polls at their back. Two of the last three generic ballot polls give Democrats a lead, and the third is from Rasmussen. Ipsos/McClatchy’s ten point lead is probably an outlier as well, but even ignoring both Rasmussen and Ipsos, we still have a 47-44 Gallup lead. It’s a smaller lead than Dems usually need to do well, but I’ll take it.

In Senate politics, Rep. Kendrick Meek is running surprisingly strong in Florida. According to PPP, likely Repub nominee Marco Rubio is ahead of Meek by just 44-39, “and because there are a lot more undecided Democrats (20%) than Republicans (12%) the race is realistically probably even closer than 5 points.” Perhaps even more importantly, “Meek leads 41-34 with independents, a very rare outcome in this political climate when independents are usually leaning strongly toward the GOP.” In New York, Kirstin Gillibrand’s favorable keep on climbing. Per Rasmussen, that somewhat conservative firm, her approval spread is now 50-37. In November, it was 40-37, and in September, it was a net negative of 39-42.

Certain Governors’ races are looking good, too, including three pick-up opportunities. First, in Nevada, a poll out Sunday is the sixth in a row to show Democrat Rory Reid leading Jim Gibbons – Rasmussen has him up 44-36 despite his father’s down-ticket drag. In Georgia, a state that has voted Democrat for President just three times in 48 years, the likely Democratic gubernatorial candidate is leading all potential opponents. Another PPP poll shows former Gov. Roy Barnes beating Republicans 40-39, 41-36, and 43-38. Another red state where I look forward to the Governor’s race is my native Texas, where our best candidate since Ann Richards goes against an incumbent with a 32% approval rating. And though it would be a hold rather than a pick-up, it looks like Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper has regained the lead in Colorado.

These encouraging numbers come in the midst of a bad political environment for Democrats, and it’s an environment that’s only likely to get better. Democratic candidates fare poorly when their party fares poorly, and the party may be about to run into some welcome successes: The Census Bureau’s coming hiring blitz will knock half a point off the unemployment rate, yesterday’s bipartisan White House meeting suggests the Kerry-Graham clean energy bill is inching towards passage, and health care reform is in the endgame. February groundhogs are not October pumpkins, so it makes sense that February’s political messes won’t be October’s messes.

House GOP Retirement Creates Democratic Opportunity

Rep. George Radanovich (R-CA-19, Fresno) announced today that he will not run for re-election, due to his wife's ovarian cancer. It is a sad situation no one wants to face or wish upon their nastiest rivals, and so we wish and pray for emotional stability for the whole Radanovich family and for a full recovery for Ethie.

According to the Hill, Radanovich is the first House Republican this cycle to leave the House without looking for another office (and the 13th overall to retire). Like the four Democrats who have also done so, I believe that his retirement creates a potentially competitive seat - good news for progressives.

Radanovich's district could also be competitive. Like many California districts, it swung strongly toward the Democratic side in the 2008 presidential election. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) still won 52-46, but the district appears much more accessible to Democrats now than it was earlier this decade.

Former Fresno Mayor Jim Patterson threatened to challenge Radanovich in a primary and appears to be a good bet to enter the race the succeed him.

Radanovich, who was elected in 1994, is just 54 years old.

The Swing State Project isn't quite so rosy about the Democrats' chances this time around, looking ahead instead to 2012:

Radanovich's seat isn't prime territory for a pick-up. However, although its PVI is R+9, Barack Obama dramatically improved upon the old Democratic baseline in the district, losing the CD by only 52-46 to John McCain. Compare that to John Kerry's flattening here by a 61-38 margin four years earlier. A good deal of that shift can be attributed to the demographic changes occurring within the district, which has seen a marked increase in its minority population since 2000. Those demographic gains haven't reached the tipping point here yet, but this district could be susceptible to a bit of nipping and tucking in the next round of redistricting in order to hasten that process.

I'm more inclined to agree with The Hill than I am Swing State. While the district may be a red one now, Radanovich's predecessor was a six-term progressive Democrat. McCain may have won 52% of the vote, but this came after Bush won with 58% in 2000 and 62% in 2004. Dianne Feinstein also carried the district in 2000 (though she failed to do so in 2006). Remember also that the Democrats are likely to win the races at the top of the California ballot, retaking the Governorship and re-electing a Senator. A bloody primary could also further help Democratic chances (see NY-23); the Republican primary field will be a crowded one.  You already read about Patterson, a number of state representatives may also run, Hotline's Reid Wilson says former Rep. Richard Pombo is looking at the race, and Radanovich is himself backing Sen. Jeff Denham (not to be confused with hilarious ventriloquist Jeff Dunham). With a nasty GOP primary, some gubernatorial coattails, the right local candidate, and some committed organizing, this newly open district is winnable.

2010 is going to be a rough year for House Democrats - more so Blue Dogs than progressives, but the whole party is vulnerable. That said, given the country's equally high dissatisfaction with Republicans, the slowly recovering economy, and the poll numbers of past presidents after one year in office, I don't think it's going to be anything close to the watershed year some pundits predict. There will be rays of hope penetrating the darkness, something Republicans were unable to claim in 2006 and even 2008. CA-19 may well wind up as one such ray. A Google search for "California 19th Radanovich Democrat" brings up nothing - so progressives, start recruiting.

There's more...

NH-Sen a toss-up again?

The ads against Ayotte, the predictions of a Palin backfire - it seems to be working. NH-Sen between progressive champion Paul Hodes and likely Repub contendor Kelly Ayotte was supposed to be one of the marquis races of the cycle, a perfect chance for a Democratic pick-up in a Repub year. And yet five different polls have had Ayotte leading by double digits, and only 2 of 16 polls had Hodes cracking 40 points - that is, until now.

A new PPP poll out today shows that this race has turned into a dead heat: Ayotte 45, Hodes 42 with 13% undecided. I was right - Palin's endorsement backfired. Hodes is also now leading two of the other four GOP candidates for the first time. Obama has a net approval rating at 49-47, and the health care bill also does better than in the nation at large, tied at 47-47. Focusing on health care could actually help Hodes with GOTV rather than lose him votes.

PPP's polls are automated, so I look forward to a new live interviewer poll, but at least they have a three-day frame unlike Rasmussen's one. One thing I like is that respondents said they voted for Obama by a 48-45 margin, much lower than the actual 54-45 results. That's probably a decent way of reflecting what 2010 voter turnout may be.

The next poll will tell us if this is an outlying fluke or not. I doubt it, given that it's not coming out of the blue, but after an aggressive Democratic push and several developments favorable to Hodes. To enshrine the results and keep the momentum going, donate to Hodes at our ActBlue page.


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