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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

VA-Sen: Ben Affleck Should Challenge George Allen

Posted by Bob Brigham

As blogosphere junkies know, Swing State Project has a very special relationship with MyDD. We're all friends and see eye-to-eye on most issues. But, I have to disagree with Chris Bowers when it comes to the 2006 Virginia Senate Race.

When rumors first surfaced that Ben Affleck was considering mounting a challenge to Republican Senator George Allen, Chris Bowers wrote:

Someone like Affleck would be a horrible, media sucking distraction from the 2006 campaign. This would be the equivalent media circus of the 2003 California recall election. It would destroy the generic advantage Democrats are poised to hold in 2006, and from which they will reap huge benefits if Bush's approval rating stays low.

So, please God, no, don't let Affleck run.

While I appreciate where Bowers is coming from, I disagree and think Affleck should seriously consider running for a number of reasons...

First, the (subscription only) National Journal had a great column by Chuck Todd today, via Daily Kos:

Democrats could have nine or 10 races in their crosshairs instead of just seven (one over the bare minimum to win back control).

The reality is that if one were to handicap the current Senate battle race-by-race, a 0-2 Democratic pickup would be very realistic. But as Charlie Cook has pointed out, Senate races never break evenly for both parties.

The key for the party that's got that little breeze at the end is putting enough races in play to win all those toss-ups. In a neutral climate, the 0-2 Democratic pickup prediction would make sense. But it's hard to foresee a neutral 2006 environment.

The makings for a Democratic advantage are brewing. There's no difference between netting three Senate seats and netting six or seven. Once the Democrats are in a position to net a third, it probably means all those slightly-leaning GOP seats are going their way and the gain will be closer to six than to two.

The amount Affleck makes on a single movie is enough for a serious ante and his name recognition, good looks, wife, future baby, and access to political support would instantly make the race competitive. According to Todd's analysis, this race could then easily become a pick-up, helping Democrats win the Senate and ending George Allen's 2008 presidential ambitions.

As for Bowers concerns that Affleck would hurt the Democratic message, I think the following indicates Affleck understands the dynamics, but wants to participate in democracy:

"I seem lately to bring to with me, whether I want to or not, a certain amount of media attention," the 31-year-old actor told reporters Tuesday before a Democratic National Committee fund-raiser at a bar outside Fenway.

"But I think you have to be smart and you have to be judicious and you have to be tasteful and you have to be respectful and you have to know your place," he added later. "I am not an elected official. I am not a political expert. I perceive my capacity here mostly in terms of being somebody who grew up here and wanting to be an ambassador for this city."

When a television reporter suggested that being good-looking, articulate and famous would make him a natural candidate for office, Affleck responded: "Uh, you know, that's a nice idea and I'm very flattered that you say it, but it's a tough fight, you know? I mean, if I think that the entertainment press is tough on me now, I can't imagine what it would be like to have a political agenda, as well."

It's not as if this talk comes out of nowhere. In an interview for the May 2001 issue of GQ magazine, Affleck said: "My fantasy is that someday I'm independently wealthy enough that I'm not beholden to anybody, so I can run for Congress on the grounds that everyday people - be they singers or poets or bankers or lawyers or teachers - should be in government."

While Affleck received a great ton of ink for his work to help John Kerry during last year's senate race, Affleck also stumped hard for Al Gore:

In the final hectic weeks of Campaign 2000, Affleck spent his time passionately campaigning for the Democratic ticket, supporting Al Gore, repeatedly delivering a get-out-the-vote plea: "It's very important to vote. The president will appoint three or four Supreme Court justices."

During the final week of the race, Affleck stumped for Gore in California, Florida, and Pennsylvania. During a stop in Pittsburgh, the star--along with Helen Hunt, Martin Sheen, Rob Reiner and other actors--spent an hour at a phone bank calling registered Democrats. "People in my generation have a low voter turnout. One of the reasons that I'm here is to demonstrate that no matter who you are going to vote for... I think it's important to get involved and get out and vote," Affleck told reporters. "But I'm going to tell people to vote for Gore."

On October 28, 2000, Affleck flew with the First Lady (Hillary Clinton) to Ithaca, New York, where he introduced her at a Cornell University rally. Affleck told the college crowd that Clinton had been advocating for women and working families since "Rick Lazio was running around the frat house in his underwear." Lazio, then a Long Island congressman, was Clinton's Republican opponent.

On Monday, November 6, the final day of the campaign, Affleck was one of several A-list celebrities summoned to Miami Beach by Miramax Films boss Harvey Weinstein for a late-night Gore rally, just hours before polls opened nationwide. The Gore campaign's last event, a final effort to energize South Beach voters, didn't end until about 1 AM, but Affleck flew back to New York that morning and made a surprise live appearance on The Rosie O'Donnell Show. It was 10:15 when he made his final public pitch from a Rockefeller Center studio, noting that he was "a little bit tired...I've been out getting involved, doing stuff and trying to get people to vote. And that's why I came by here." Also, "Today is the get-out-the-vote day and...I think this is the time to get involved, especially the young folks who are here ... I'm about to go vote," Affleck then said, adding later, "I am personally gonna vote for Al Gore."

Affleck has some political experience, I healthy respect for democracy, strong Democratic beliefs, and the ability to instantly make the race competitive. While Virginia Governor Mark Warner was my first choice to challenge Senator Allen, I think it is important that we put the seat in play. If Ben Affleck is interested, I think he should file.

UPDATE: Bowers joins the bandwagon, meaning Affleck could have the makings of some blogosphere backing if he decides to run:

I now think Ben Affleck should run for Senate in Virginia. Here is why.

The Jack Carter announcement today increased the number of competitive Democratic challenges to Republican-held Senate seats to eight (Arizona, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Tennessee). Over the past week, with Hoeven bowing out in North Dakota and Capito bowing out in West Virginia, the number of potentially competitive Republican challenges to Democratic-held Senate seats has been reduced to seven (Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey and Washington). Thus, for the first time, in the 2005-2006 cycle, Democrats have actually pulled ahead in the number of potentially competitive seats they are challenging in the Senate. [...]

Apart from a decided monetary advantage, one key for Republicans in 2002 and 2004 in the Senate was to create more competitive challenges to Democratic-held seats than Democrats created to Republican held seats. In the final weeks of the campaign, this stretched Democratic resources very thin, and allowed Republicans to pick up almost all of the close Senate races in both years. For example, ion 2004, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania never emerged as highly competitive Democratic challenges to Republican held seats, while Washington and Wisconsin become, if not truly competitive, a lot closer than most people expected. The DSCC was forced to help defend Murray and Feingold, while the NRSC wasn't forced to do much of anything to help Bond, Specter and Voinovich. Democrats managed to do this to Republicans in 2000 as well, when they scored a net gain of five seats.

This is a strategy that should have been obvious to me from day one, since it is exactly the sort of strategy I have been advocating in the House for quite some time. Challenge every seat, aim for the leadership, and reduce the number of minimal challenges as much as possible, thus draining Republican resources away from the swing seats during the campaign as much as possible. It makes sense for the Senate as well.

Thus, no matter how much of a media circus an Affleck candidacy might become, it seems to me that he would be an excellent bonus to Democratic chances in the Senate in 2006. He is already very well known, has good looks and good politics, is a strong speaker, and could easily self-finance his run against Allen, who pretty close the the under-50 incumbent tipping point. Thus, Affleck would instantly increase the number of competitive Democratic challenges to nine seats, further stretching the Democratic advantage in this area. If Lott retires, that could potentially make ten serious challenges to Republican-held seats. And who knows, maybe we will continue to experience good news in places like Maryland, Nebraska and New Jersey, pushing Democrats out to a huge edge in seats we are seriously challenging. [...]

Humble and tasteful, well-spoken and smart, liberal and instantly competitive--Affleck suddenly looks very good to me. With the way things are going, over the past three months 2006 has looked better than better for Democrats all the time. Let's keep that roll going. Run Ben, run.

MyDD also has a poll, go vote.

Posted at 03:11 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, 2008 President - Republicans, Democrats, Netroots, Virginia | Technorati

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Tracked on October 5, 2005 07:01 PM


When I first heard that Affleck was considering running I was elated at the prospect of taking an extra Senate seat that I had not counted on, but now I tend to agree that it would take steam out of the other Democratic sails and if Affleck messed up in any way (said something crazy or something) it would get so much media attention that we might not recover. Affleck running is not a risk I am willing to take.

Posted by: Tal East [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 5, 2005 04:45 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I have to disagree with any of the Affleck for Senate in Virginia talk... There are a number of reasons:

1) He would be viewed as a northeastern, liberal carpet-bagger in Virginia (VA ain't NY). While there have been people who have run in Virginia after moving there shortly before, they rarely make any headway, though they are often ex-White House politicos. While Northern VA could vote for an Affleck, the rest of the state, where Dems need to gain at least 40% of the vote to win, would probably never accept Ben as a viable representative of the state.

2)There is a viable Democrativ Party in Virginia that should be able to produce its own candidate. Warner is very popular and there are respected members of the VA legislature who are Dems.. all of whom could do better then Ben.

3) Affleck has lots of baggage -- besides being a known womanizer (not necessarily a disqualification in VA), he is not that bright on the issues. He is a good Dem who supports the party in many ways, but if you have ever heard him interviewed on issues he sounds like a guy who just took a high school civics class and met with a lefty group after school -- He may be very famous but in practice he is uniformly unimpressive.

While Virginia is SLOWLY turning blue, Affleck would lead to a backlash that could actually set the party back both from the reaction and the fact that the Dems will be viewed as too week to put up a homegrown candidate.

Posted by: Ian in DC [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 5, 2005 04:47 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I'm with Ian here. Virginia may not be ground zero for anti-Hollywood fervor, but it's certainly in the periphery of it. While an Affleck candidacy would certainly generate excitement for our cause nationally, I don't believe it's the kind of excitement that would benefit Claire McCaskill, Jon Tester or Paul Hackett.

If we were to lobby on behalf of a celebrity candidate in a red state, I would much prefer we go with country singer Tim McGraw, who is a known Democrat, has voiced interest in running for Senate "a few years down the road" and who is not connected to the proverbial Middle America bogeyman, "Hollywood." It probably wouldn't take any more time to polish up McGraw for primetime politics than it would Affleck, and I'd bet money that Ed Bryant wouldn't have a lead in Zogby's Tennessee Senate race poll if McGraw jumped into the fray.

Posted by: Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 5, 2005 05:03 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Why doesn't he run from hometown Boston? I can think of one US Senator from Massachuetts who offers Demos lots of doubletalk, waffling, bad politics, and bad strategy.

Besides Kerry's rich, he can go skiing and be for losing before he's against it.

Posted by: Greg Dewar - Schadelmann.com [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 6, 2005 05:24 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment