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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

CA-50 Post-Mortem Open Thread

Posted by James L.

So, what can we read from these results? In CA-50, depending on who you talk to, this was either a sign of great things to come, or another dismal failure by a Democratic campaign to mobilize the base. There are even those who postulate that the Republicans could snatch victory from the jaws of defeat this November by putting a greater distance between themselves and Bush on immigration, like Bilbray did, as opposed to trademark Democratic caution and moderation on the issue. Wherever you look on the blogosphere, it seems that there's another spin on the issue.

There were lots of outside factors that prejudiced Busby's campaign at the polls yesterday--an off-putting, nasty Gubernatorial primary that likely did not help turn out many base voters in the district, the goofy 'papers' comment (quite a shock considering how disciplined and professional Busby has been as a messenger during this campaign)--but if we're going to be reading CA-50's tea leaves as a sign of things to come, I think we should all be a little more cautious of our expectations for this November. The GOP has thrown a huge monkey wrench in the form of Immigration into the Democrats' 2006 strategy, and it's unclear yet how the Democrats plan to manage the issue. Personal opinions aside--and I'm extremely liberal on the issue, so it's probably a good thing that I'm not in charge of Democratic policymaking--the Democrats better find a way not to end up on the wrong side of a voter backlash on immigration woes.

There's another take on this, though, and that's the Busby campaign's failure to fire up their base. I'm inclined to agree with this assessment--when I saw a plea by Busby on the DCCC blog on the 11th hour of race, saying that they needed 100 more volunteers to execute their ground game effectively, I knew that this was gonna be rough. If the Busby campaign was more effective at firing up the base, they would have had more than 300 volunteers for their election-day ground game and wouldn't have needed that last-minute plea.

Also frustrating was the continued Republican dominance in early voting. To be fair, the Busby campaign did a great job in narrowing the traditional gap between Democratic and Republican absentee votes, but why the heck do Republicans always come out on top? The Democratic machine from state-to-state and district-to-district is going to have to seriously overhaul their absentee voting strategy--or maybe even get one, in the first place.

So I turn the floor to our readers. What went wrong in CA-50? What lessons should we take from this? Or maybe you're of the opinion that this was a pretty decent result; afterall, the NRCC was forced to dump a cool $5 million into a ruby red district, while the DCCC only kissed $2.5 million goodbye.

Posted at 01:52 PM in 2006 Elections - House, California | Technorati

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Where was DEAN?
where was PELOSI?

We needed BIG TIME DEM muscle
and the big guns were a no show.

This is friggen irritating.

WE NEED TO HIT HARD or go home.


Posted by: wellstoner [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 7, 2006 03:36 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Exactly. Finger-pointing and calling Republicans corrupt is NOT going to win elections for us. We need to be strong, stand for something, energize voters to vote FOR us, not just AGAINST the other guys. The corruption angle gives us an angle, but it's not the whole story. WE have to be the whole story, making the case for exactly what we'll do that will be different from, and better than, what the other side is doing. No more of this extreme caution!

Posted by: The Caped Composer [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 7, 2006 04:08 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

That's exactly why I think Jon Tester is gonna win in November, TCC.

Posted by: James L. [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 7, 2006 04:34 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Here are my comments on this thread.

I know this is an “Open Thread” but I wanted to say great post James. You’re reading really hit the nail on the head.

Posted by: terry chay [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 7, 2006 05:23 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Right on, James L. Tester impresses me; the only disappointment about his victory is, why the hell haven't the east coast newspapers talked about it? There was nothing-- NOTHING-- about Tester this morning in the New York Times, and only a small blurb in the Washington Post. Am I the only Tester fan on the east coast? Sheesh!

Posted by: The Caped Composer [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 7, 2006 05:34 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Personally, I think Busby's showing was pretty much a disaster for us. Yes, people say, "We forced the GOP to spent $5m (or $10M) on a race they shouldn't have had to spend any money on. They can't afford to keep this rate of spending up."

But the problem is that we spent half as much as they did. Given the NRCC's big fundraising advantage over the DCCC (and the RNC's much bigger advantage over the DNC), this is a serious problem.

We can act like Busby out-performed and Bilbray had a shockingly narrow victory. But we can't spend $2.5m or $5m in every marginal district just to become more competitive. In other words, we can't afford this kind of expenditure any more than the GOP can. So it's a wash.

Posted by: DavidNYC [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 7, 2006 06:16 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I completely agree with you, David. A lot of people say: "The GOP spent $5 million on a safe seat! This is the 50 State Strategy at work!!!"

But, um, no. If that's your strategy, then you've gotta dump millions into deep red territories everywhere. I understand and appreciate some of the criticisms of the DCCC and its narrow focus, but sometimes, it's really a question of finite resources. The counter-argument is that the DCCC sunk $2.5 million into a seat they're never gonna win anytime soon.

Posted by: James L. [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 7, 2006 06:30 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

BTW, to be clear, I don't blame the DCCC or anyone else for putting money into this race. It made sense at the time. Hindsight is not helpful here.

But, on a going-forward basis, we can't do this in every race.

Posted by: DavidNYC [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 7, 2006 06:49 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

In your article you just really don't seem to understand that this is one of the most anti-immigrant districtts in the country. Running on that sort of platform would be pretty good. Most districts aren't near so bad.

Posted by: ArkDem [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 7, 2006 07:34 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Note this:
Busby mobilized 53% of her 2004 voters.
Bilbray mobilized 35% of Duke's 2004 voters.

Posted by: masstom [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 7, 2006 09:40 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I'm becoming more convinced that the best the Dems can hope for in 2006 is the completion of a geographic realignment much like the Republicans benefitted from in 1994, when they took back Congress by dominating races in the South and Rocky Mountain West where Clinton was the least popular. This year, I expect the Dems to do very well in the House races in the northeast, where Bush is the least popular and where the war in Iraq is likely to trump immigration as the major issue of the day. As for the rest of the country.....

The Republicans could very likely GAIN seats outside of the northeast simply because the Democrats are embracing an immigration platform that is both wildly unpopular and in direct contradiction with their historic reputation as the "party of the working person", a reputation that is already being challenged by much of Middle America. Living in the heart of the Upper Midwest where hard-working and economically liberal blue-collar folks are already facing the stiffest challenges to their livelihood since the Great Depression, the immigration policy embraced by George Bush, John McCain and most Congressional Democrats gets virtually zero support outside of the agribusiness barons salivating at the prospect of a government-sanctioned cheap labor pipeline. I hang with a crowd that is very liberal on nearly every issue, but have yet to hear a concurring opinion on McCain-Kennedy style immigration policy.

If the Democrat-sponsored immigration platform is this unpopular in the Upper Midwest, I can only imagine how unpopular it must be in the South...and I'm increasingly convinced that the issue could tip races otherwise favored for Democrats like Charlie Melancon, Brad Ellsworth, and John Barrow, to the GOP. Months ago, I predicted that the immigration issue had the potential to be the Democratic Party's achille's heel in 2006 as it was clear the issue would be under the spotlight, likely used as a means for the House GOP to distance themselves from Bush. I'm more convinced of that than ever now and am frankly scared to death. If the Dems' quid pro quo with George Bush and the Chamber of Commerce over immigration, turning a blind eye on an institutionalized modern-day cheap labor apartheid today in exchange for a hypothetical gold mine of Democratic voters tomorrow, the Dems are gonna get smashed in November. Francine Busby was the first casualty of McCain-Kennedy, but I very much doubt she'll be the last.

Posted by: Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 7, 2006 10:31 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I think we were seduced by what looked like an early opportunity for a gratifying flip with an early cash-out date.
We all worked like dogs because it was an open seat with a special-election payoff before November.
We set aside our awareness that under normal circumstances CA-50, with its long history of voting GOP
and substantial registration margin in their favor, would never have been a top-tier target.

Hindsight is rich. At least we made them spend themselves blind, to keep it.

I want to pick a winner next. Less of a long shot.
I'm looking at Larry Kissel, who's ahead in the polls; Lois Murphy, who came SO close last time in PA-06; Claire McCaskill... a few others.
And at some state legislature races that are not so expensive.

Posted by: Christopher Walker [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 7, 2006 10:59 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Mark: I agree. I feel like immigration is turning into the 2006 version of what Iraq was to us in 2002. In 2002, it was: Ignore Iraq, focus on the domestic issues which are our bread and butter, where most people agree with us.

Now, we're trying to do the same thing vis-a-vis immigration - stick our heads in the sand on that issue and hope everyone comes home to us on everything else. I think we have NO idea what we are doing with immigration, and we are gonna be fucked for it.

Posted by: DavidNYC [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 8, 2006 01:10 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

In a bright-red district many Democrats become used to Republican dominance and turn to defeatism as a defense mechanism. Republicans winning congressional elections is seen as automatic, so many wonder why they should bother.

This kind of attitude cannot be overcome by a lackluster candidate. You need a candidate with charisma and fire, someone who will inspire and re-light that flicker of hope. You need someone like Paul Hackett.

Posted by: quaoar [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 8, 2006 02:05 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Postmortems are so often just a bunch of woulda-shoulda-coulda's, and I am wary of them if they're too freestyle with no structure. But personally I don't think Busby's campaign made any major mistakes in its efforts. I do have a complaint about the low Dem registration. As I recall, the registration in 2004 was slightly higher than during this last year. Where were the efforts by local Dems to build and maintain that base?

Unless there were egregious errors by the campaign justifying serious finger-pointing, I believe that any campaign, successful or not, should be used to focus on building future efforts. Hopefully the Busby campaign efforts will result in better Democratic infrastructure for this traditionally heavy and rabidly rightwing Republicant area.

Conservatives understand that every effort, win or lose, can contribute to a future successful effort. That's what they've been doing for the last 40 years. Don't copy their ideology but do copy their determined effort - just don't take 40 years to do it!

And before I forget it, Busby should be strongly commended for keeping Bilbray below 50%!!! This means that he is very vulnerable to future challenge. This happened to him in 1998. In 2000 he was defeated. No, Busby didn't win. But I am so proud of her if for no other reason than she didn't let Bilbray break 50%.

Posted by: phonatic [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 8, 2006 03:14 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Another moral victory for a party that
is SICK of moral victories.

Can you imagine what the news cycle would
have been like on Wednesday if Busby had won?
"GOP Shaken by Busby Win" or "Busby Win Sign of things to come?"

instead nothing. You can't BUY that kind news.
Wait a minute, yes you can. The Dems could have
made a big push and made it happen.

another lost opportunity chalked up to leadership laziness
and lack of imagination.

Dean and Pelosi are WHO WE ARE
why shy away from that as a dem??

Embrace it or get out of the way!

Posted by: wellstoner [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 8, 2006 11:06 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I think most of these comment by and large are accurate but I wanted to add a perspective from my days in Texas when it really went into the GOP toilet. For a short time, I was the Democratic County chairman for Harris County, Texas (Houston), the state's most populous county. For years we argued for campaigns that focused on getting our voters to the polls: address their issues, we kept insisting and forget about the swing votes which we kept losing. Our problem or our obstacle was that the candidates at the top of the ballots were paying a lot of money to consultants who told them the results of polling would not support such a campaign and that they should avoid "stirring up" our voters and focus on issues of competency, etc. in effect, this told folks that Dems were just like the GOP but competent; they would not disturb the social order but would be competent. For example, Judicial candidates (Texas elects judges) were told to tell voters how respected they were by the bar but not tell them that they are pro choice or that they might have serious reservatations about the death penalty or might favor pre trial diversion for drug offenses or would give injured plaintiffs a fair trial etc. this kind of approach made us indistinguishable from the GOP. in 2002, Texans fielded a Hispanic candidate for governor (Tony Sanches) and an African American for Senator (whose name I can't recall now). Sanchez publicly told the electorate that he would support Bush in his 2004 reelection bid ( a message that the white folks of Texas could simply read as a non threatening Hispanic candidate). The Senate candidate wasn't much better and both got beaten like bastard step children in the November election.

Against this is a GOP electorate that knows what its candidates stand for - minimal taxation, a racist anti immigrant message, divisive hatred of gays and women and an elevation of theocracy ( I know this sounds like ranting but I've been reading Kevin Phillips "American Theocracy"). GOP candidates learn to talk in a code that their voters understand - vote for me and I'll deliver the promised land.

So voters have a choice - vote for a competent candidate who isn't that much different from the GOP but won't use the code words or the GOP who will. in a district like CA-50, guess who's going to win?

in 1994, the GOP adopted a platform of Contract with America; our only response was that it was a contract on America - but the GOP had a message and they relentlessly pounded it. and angry voters bought into it.

I know that our party's leaders don't want to give the GOP a target for the fall but absent articulating a message that allows voters to find a reason to vote for us. it's not that we are competent or that we are particularly honest. we have our share of scalawags as well - but we do stand for something and some of those values benefit most americans including conservatives. Until we articulate that message, including messages that address the concerns of our own voters, we'll continue to be a minority party, even after this fall.

The message doesn't have to be a liberal one; it just has to be a principle that we stand for or that the candidate stands for.

Posted by: mike_charlton [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 8, 2006 11:42 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Running against Duke Cunningham in 2004, Francine Busby received 105,590 votes. If she had convinced only 58% of these same people to come out and vote for her on Tuesday, she would won, even if no one else in the district had changed their vote because of disgust with corrpution, Iraq, Katrina or what have you. She could not do it. This is something to think about.

Posted by: Vadranor [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 8, 2006 02:55 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment