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Monday, May 15, 2006

NH-02: History Lesson

Posted by DavidNYC

Well, unsurprisingly, the movers haven't shown up yet, so I've got time for a post today. I brought up this topic a while ago, but with the attention Paul Hodes has been receiving of late, I thought it worthwhile to revisit it. I haven't hesitated to point out that Hodes got crushed by Charlie Bass last time, losing 58-38. I've also stated my belief that losing now can help you win later - and check out the list of politicians who took that route.

Generalities aside, New Hampshire's second congressional district also offers a much more specific history lesson - a lesson in how fortunes can change dramatically in just two years, and how when the stars are aligned, even seemingly entrenched incumbents can be toppled.

NH-02 1992 Results
Dick Swett (D-inc.): 62% (Spent: $784K)
Bill Hatch (R): 36% (Spent: $233K)

NH-02 1994 Results
Dick Swett (D-inc.): 46 (Spent: $1.029M)
Charlie Bass (R): 51 (Spent: $448K)

Despite the Republican candidate losing by 26 points two years earlier, and despite being outspent by more than two-to-one, Charlie Bass moved the needle an astounding 31 points in his direction. Paul Hodes, meanwhile, only needs a shift of 20 points. I should add that Charlie Bass is no stranger to losing in NH-02 - he got beat by Judd Gregg in the Republican primary in 1980.

As always, I don't mean to suggest that the two situations are perfectly comparable. I don't think 2006 will be nearly as big for us as 1994 was for the GOP. And Bass is a six-termer, while Swett, when he lost, had only served two terms. On the flipside, Hodes has the advantage of demographics shifting in our favor. In 1994, Bass caught a wave that surged so far from the South in lapped up against the shores of New Hampshire. If there's a wave this year - even a much smaller one - it's starting in the Northeast.

History may not repeat itself, but as Mark Twain said, it certainly does rhyme. And you've got to familiarize yourself with the first couplet if you want to catch the cadence. Will 92-94-04-06 go (for you English majors) abba? Or perhaps we should say, DRRD? I don't know that it will, but I know that it can - and that I'll be listening for it.

Posted at 02:11 PM in 2006 Elections - House, New Hampshire | Technorati

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I wonder if Dick Swett knows Swheaty Bhalls.

Posted by: optimusprime [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 15, 2006 03:23 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

In 1994, there were actually seven Democratic losers who had received at least 60% of the vote two years earlier, including Neal Smith of Iowa who had served 19 terms. In addition, in 6 of the 20 open seats that the Democrats lost, the Democratic incumbent received more than 60% in 1992.

This is why the desire of some in the DCCC to focus on the so-called competitive seats is wrong. The competitive districts is going to be precisely where the Republicans will be devoting most of their resources. I guarantee that some of the losses that will occur in November will be in seats that were no one's radar screen.

Posted by: Vadranor [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 15, 2006 04:22 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Vadranor, good observation. Expect some pickoffs from our third-tier races that nobody saw coming. As has been cited by a couple other posters, Tim Walz of my former home district MN-01 could make incumbent Gil Gutknecht the Neal Smith of 2006.

Posted by: Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 15, 2006 04:39 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Vadranor, I know of only six (not seven) Dems who won with 60%+ in 1992 who lost in 1994:

David Price (NC-04)
Jill L. Long (IN-04)
Dick Swett (NH-02)
Neal Smith (IA-04)
Dan Glickman (KY-01)
Bill Sarpalius (TX-13)

I also show nine (not six) open seats where the Dem won with 60%+ in 1992:


The first two, amazingly, had been won with 70%+.

Posted by: DavidNYC [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 15, 2006 04:41 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Mark: Speaking of Ol' Gil (that's just too perfect, for you Simpsons fans), Tim Penny won, as you probably know, by 74-26 in 1992. He retired after that term.

Then Ol' Gil went and won by 55-45 in 1994. He moved the needle FIFTY-EIGHT points, in what was a Dem-leaning district.

I don't know anything about Penny's 1992 race. Did he run against a career criminal or something?

Posted by: DavidNYC [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 15, 2006 04:47 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

David, Tim Penny was so close to being a Republican that he won over all but the hardest GOP partisans (his '92 opponent was Tim Droogsma, who tried to outflank him from the right and couldn't find much room). I still hear GOP hard-liners in southern Minnesota lament the loss of their favorite Democrat, Tim Penny. While he's a generally decent guy (he actually grew up in my home county and his mother still attends DFL county caucuses), I actually preferred the voting record of then Republican Senator Dave Durenberger to future Cato Institute shill Penny, who was every bit as cozy with Reagan and Bush-41 on meat-and-potatoes issues as the era's prominent DINO's like Richard Shelby, Sam Nunn and David Boren. I will give Penny credit for chairing the campaigns of less conservative Blue Dog Democrats who challenged Gutknecht in future years, such as Mary Reider and Tracy Beckman

In 1994, I was expecting a closer race, particularly since every newspaper in the district endorsed Dem challenger John Hottinger over the plastic warrior Gutknecht. It didn't hurt that Gutknect was from Rochester (Hottinger was from decidedly less influential Mankato).

Aside from name recognition, Gutknecht goes into this race with two significant triangulatory moves to his credit. His high-profile opposition to the Bush administration over CAFTA and prescription drugs (where he took a leadership role in tormenting the Bushies) will definitely be feathers in his cap. If Walz is to win, MN-01 voters will have to have the war on their minds.

Posted by: Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 15, 2006 05:22 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

You guys beat me to the train of MN-01 caveats. As a resident (though now a college student out of state), I can testify that we have our work cut out for us, but Walz is a great candidate and has the potential to be a sleeper if we can get a wave going. I'll definitely be volunteering when I get home in July.

On the subject of losing in one cycle and winning in the next, another Minnesota race to keep an eye on is the Sixth District. Patty Wetterling is challenging Michelle Bachmann (who is absolutey nuts) in the traditionally Republican district. In 2004, she got 46% of the vote against entrenched incumbent Mark Kennedy, who is now the GOP nominee for Senate. Though this may represent a cap, one would hope that a substantial portion of district voters would be turned off by Bachmann's extremism. Dump Michelle Bachmann is a great local blog that chronicles her various adventures into Wingnuttia.

Posted by: Max [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 15, 2006 05:58 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

If anyone is interested there is an amazing game called Senate Seeker. (www.senateseeker.com) Basically you run for the senate, the house, and for governor. If you have four senate or governor terms you can run for president. The game is actually realistic and if you're a representative or senator you can vote on bills daily. We vote on Supreme Court nominees, Legal things, and many other subjects. The game is absolutely free and you can run two senate accounts, two governor accounts, and four house accounts. You can even become leader of the party or even whip!!! I'm not trying to advertise but the game is really fun and I'd like to share it with others.


Posted by: Craig [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 15, 2006 08:27 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I play that game too. Got a couple of seats my first week, now I'm trying to hit the swing states. Cool to run into you here. This is Tom Webster from CA.

Posted by: Webster [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 15, 2006 08:40 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Here's some more perspective from '04 that bodes well for Hodes in '06. I managed Hodes' '04 campaign, and I can tell you our mission was to help John Kerry win NH, not to win the seat. We got in late, Paul had no name recognition, we had no support from the party, we technically had a primary, and that also constrained donors until the last 8 weeks--not that donors ever stepped up in any significant manner. We were not targeted, and therefore could not raise money. Plus, NH had a brutal governors race that also took attention and resources from our effort. We barely had the money to make it to TV and could not run the campaign we wanted to run.

This time, Paul has been running and fundraising for over a year already, has been able to hire more experienced staff (we won't discuss some of the people I was relegated to hiring in order to fill positions last time, and I wasn't exactly a ringer either), and has a strong base to run from. Plus, DCCC is targeting the race, and that will make a dramatic difference in fundraising.

In other words, the '04 margin is meaningless. The important thing to look at is the UNH poll that has Bass at 42-35 over Hodes right now. Bass has never polled that low, and Hodes hasn't even begun a media campaign yet.

This year is different. People are ready for a change, and Hodes is perfectly poised to take this seat. What will make the difference is people getting on board now and contributing rather than sitting on the sidelines reading the tea leaves. It's going to take a lot of effort and money in the home stretch, and it all has to build now, so give him a boost!

Posted by: carpedonut [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 15, 2006 09:40 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment


Thank you for the added perspective. Paul told me I should give you a call and see if we can get together to chat. Little did I expect to first encounter you on SSP.

You'll be pleased---and possibly and understandably envious--to know that many of the players who last time around were occupied elsewhere, including organized labor, are really coming around this time. People are starting to really get it that Paul is a really good candidate, and if he gets the resources and we execute a sound plan that he can win.

Posted by: staffathodesforcongress [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 15, 2006 10:25 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Tom Barlow (KY-1) received 60.4% of the vote in 1992. Some of the "open seats" you list had had by-elections won by the Republicans, so that in November 1994, there were technically Republicans incumbents in the seats previously held by Natcher in KY and English in OK.

Posted by: Vadranor [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 15, 2006 10:38 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Vadranor: I screwed up. I had KY-01 listed, but I marked it as Dan Glickman, who was KS-04. So in any event, I still only show 6 people with 60+% in 1992 who lost in 1994:

David Price (D)
Jill L. Long (D)
Dick Swett (D)
Neal Smith (D)
Tom Barlow (D)
Bill Sarpalius (D)

You are indeed correct about KY-02 and OK-06. However, that still leaves me with 7 open seats where the Dem won 60+% in 1992.

Posted by: DavidNYC [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 16, 2006 02:19 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I am still hoping someone has some info on PA-13. Is this a possible pick up seat? I am not in the area now and I am out of touch.

Posted by: IndyDan [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 16, 2006 05:38 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

PA-13 is already Dem. Allyson Schwartz is the Dem incumbent. She should win again.

Posted by: DavidG [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 16, 2006 09:02 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Schwartz will have no problem, especially since the GOP candidate is a 20-something former "Apprentice" finalist. That really shows how blue the Philadelphia 'burbs have become -- in a little over a decade, this has gone from pretty solid GOP territory to a district where the best the Republicans can do is put up a game show contestant!

Posted by: IndianaProgressive [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 16, 2006 09:54 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Allyson Schwartz is running an interesting race. She's a strong incumbent in a Dem district but she's running against some guy who used to be on the reality show 'The Apprentice.' Because of that, this guy is well-funded and has the ability to run a strong campaign. But I believe Schwartz will win.

Posted by: safi [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 16, 2006 09:59 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I wouldn't exactly call Schwartz's opponent well-funded. He's raised $221K to her gajillions ($1.7M). Given that this seat is D+8, I doubt it's on the NRCC's target list. (That makes it more Dem than the most-Dem GOP-held district, Rob Simmons' seat, which is D+7.6.)

Posted by: DavidNYC [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 16, 2006 12:08 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Doesn't Schwartz's district contain the wealthy Philly burbs known as "The Main Line"? I bet nobody would have expected what a Dem stronghold this region would become 25 years ago.

Posted by: Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 16, 2006 12:12 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Yes, I believe that is Schwartz's district. From 1916-1992, it never elected a Democrat, and after several very close elections in the '90s, it's now solid blue. Funny how the pundits who always scream about the realignment in the South never take note of that one.

Posted by: RamblinDave [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 16, 2006 01:13 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment


I also messed up. On my spreadsheet, I miscoded Mike Kopetski as a loser rather than OR-5 being open. What happened was that he withdrew late in the cycle for several reasons including a DUI citation and a messy divorce. Six losers in 1994 60% or more in 1992 is accurate.

Posted by: Vadranor [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 17, 2006 02:32 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment