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Last week I promised to figure out what went wrong in the Mark Pera-Dan Lipinski race. I've been delayed in that assessment for two big reasons -- the elections and work finishing up my book, Taking on the System: Rules for Radical Change in the Digital Era which I must deliver to Penguin on March 20th.

However, my book writing and my efforts to figure out what went wrong in Illinois crossed paths, as I was working on a case study dealing with Rep. Carol Shea-Porter's unlikely victories in both the primary and general election in 2006.

On September 13, Shea-Porter rocked the political world by winning her primary by a 54-35 margin despite the fiercest efforts of the party establishment. She had been outspent $192,558 to $19,023 in the primary, yet had been the beneficiary of record low turnout that allowed her small grassroots army to swamp Craig’s voters.

The Jim Webb-Harris Miller primary battle in Virginia in 2006 also featured dismal turnout, around two percent if I remember correctly. So could it be that our nascent movement can only able to win tough primary races in low-turnout affairs, in which low-information voters are kept away from the polls and only the most informed and engaged participate?

There may be something there. The Pera campaign worked to identify the most likely voters and persuade them to back his campaign. However, the presidential race and Obama's presence on the ticket spurred massive turnout and a flood of new voters that had not been previously identified. And faced with an unknown race on the ballot, they went with the safety of the incumbent.

But is that a perfect rule? The 2006 Montana primary between Jon Tester and John Morrison had extremely high turnout, as did the primary between Joe Lieberman and Ned Lamont in Connecticut. Then again, Tester had enough money to advertise in a state that was cheap to advertise in, unlike Webb's Virginia or Pera's Chicago media market. And Lamont had plenty of money to get out his own message. And in both those cases, those primaries were the top-of-the-ticket contests. Voters turned out precisely to vote for Tester and Lamont, unlike last Tuesday's voters which turned out to vote for Obama.

So my tentative lesson in all of this is that we're most effective in races where we can get two out of the following three:

  1. we're the main attraction on the ballot,
  1. we have the money to get out our message (duh), and
  1. turnout remains low.

So what does that say about today's primary in Maryland between netroots hero Donna Edwards and Al Wynn?

It's an expensive media market, the main attraction is the presidential primary, and turnout will likely be near record highs. If Donna Edwards wins -- and observers on the ground are gung-ho that she can pull it off -- she will have done so by bucking the lessons from those previous primaries. In other words, it'll be a tough task.

But no one ever said that taking on entrenched and corrupt machine politicians would ever be easy.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 02:57 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Interesting Analysis... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    psycho liberal, NotGeorgeWill, RUKind

    Any bets on Maryland then? :)

  •  Low turnout is a key (7+ / 0-)

    but not decisive.

    You can run those numbers and see.  A mentee of mine did a paper for his research pre-thesis paper on turnout and results in the 2006 mid-terms.  Maybe I can get it from her.    

    "We have been told that we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics who will only grow louder and more dissonant..."

    by LarsThorwald on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 02:59:44 PM PST

  •  er, Him (0+ / 0-)

    "We have been told that we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics who will only grow louder and more dissonant..."

    by LarsThorwald on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 03:00:13 PM PST

  •  Huckabee's deceitful "Fairtax" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Great Uncle Bulgaria

    refuted here.

  •  So are you saying... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    that low turnout is better because most voters don't know what they are voting about, what the issues are, where the candidates stand on the issues.

    Using my free speech while I still have it.

    by ebgill on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 03:00:41 PM PST

  •  Well (4+ / 0-)

    Lipinski was also an incumbent.

    Taking out incumbents is a fuckton harder than winning primaries.

    I want to win. You want to beat him, and that's a problem for me, because I want to win. -The West Wing

    by AnnArborBlue on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 03:02:15 PM PST

    •  too bad there's groups like club for growth... (0+ / 0-)

      ...funding wingnut challenges to respectable Republicans, like Joe least he was back in the 90s/early part of this decade when I was still in Michigan...

      I'm sure the other side is saying the same thing about us....

  •  Presidential candidates shd help down tickets (2+ / 0-)

    Mark Pera should have rallied with Obama.  

    Fact check Obama spins on Hillary

    by timber on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 03:02:29 PM PST

  •  All I know is (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hannibal, pileta, brother country

    She got three out of three votes from my family.

  •  So how do we suppress turnout (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jxg, brother country

    and excite the progressives?  Especially if the establishment entrenched candidate learns from this lesson and puts a lot of effort into a GOTV effort?

  •  turnout may SUCK.The weather here is the worst (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skiddie, dharmafarmer

    possible. So I guess it's "Pre-Spun" either way.

    I came in peace, seeking only gold and slaves

    by revenant on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 03:03:28 PM PST

  •  Second Time? (5+ / 0-)

    I wonder if the results will be better if these candidates enter the primary again in two years. They will start with a base and, this time, name recognition.

    Canada - where a pack of smokes is ten bucks and a heart transplant is free.

    by dpc on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 03:04:46 PM PST

  •  higher turnout is key (0+ / 0-)

    I disagree.  The more voters go to the polls, the better it is for us.

    I shall not rest until right wing conservatives are 4th party gadflies limited to offering minor corrections on legislation once or twice a year.

    by davefromqueens on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 03:08:28 PM PST

  •  Winnable (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ray Radlein, Odysseus, BlackGriffen

    IL-03 should have been winnable. Lipinski is not popular in the district. But I think running in the shadow of the Presidential contest did not help.

    Most of the people I talked to in the district were unaware that the seat was being contested in the primary.

  •  Appreciate (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    the thoughtful analysis, after having become interested in this race.

    We need to learn as much as we can from our primary challenges, and we often learn more when things don't turn out as expected than we do from races that appear to be successes but could have been luck or due to unknown factors.

  •  Primary the entire Capitulation Caucus (5+ / 0-)

    Once again, the Democratic Senate's "Class of 9/11" caved in to the Bush administration, this time on telecom immunity.

    The whole sorry-ass lot of them deserves to be primaried.

    John McCain's Straight Talk Express runs on fossil fuels.

    by Dump Terry McAuliffe on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 03:10:08 PM PST

  •  If it was easy..... n/t (0+ / 0-)

    Never confuse kindness and patience with stupidity and weakness!!

    by Joes Steven on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 03:10:23 PM PST

  •  Is it worth someone like Edwards (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    campaigning with Obama (if the district looks to be swing heavily toward Obama)?  Would a presidential candidate be open to such a thing? It would be rather risky to lend support to a primary challenger, I think, has it been done before?

  •  Pera was advertising here (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ray Radlein

    Not pervasively, but certainly on a regular basis.

    Mostly on cable stations, except right before the actual election.


    Having trouble finding stuff on Daily Kos? This page has some handy hints and tricks.

    by dmsilev on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 03:10:41 PM PST

    •  Broadcast wasted (5+ / 0-)

      Any media money not spent on cable was wasted. Better to take every dollar off broadcast -- buying time on stations covering Greater ChicagoLand must take a small fortune -- and try to be pervasive on cable. No half-stepping.

      My hunch is that low-info voters are overworked, exhausted, and almost broke -- our Democratic base voters. But they got cable, it's good value entertainment for their limited money. They work night shifts and two shifts and stand on their feet all day with tools in their hands. I don't blame them when they get a couple of hours off and plop down in front of the tube to nurse a cool one.

      So buy ads on ESPN running 24 hours, to catch the sports fans coming home after working half the night. Buy ads on TBS and other networks to get viewers watching re-runs of Fred Thompson playing a D.A. and CSI and other hits. Those viewers missed the shows the first time, because they were cooking or serving dinner at your local restaurant five nights a week. Buy ads on the Weather Channel, because working class people often drive or work outdoors and will check the weather. Buy the History Channel and Discovery and the SciFi Network, buy them all, try to be pervasive. But only buy cable that covers your district, don't pay for any broadcast viewers in Gary, Indiana, southern Wisconsin, and ex-urban Illinois.

  •  Florida lie and Potemkin Village Conference (2+ / 0-)

    You've hit on something important and I'd like to "birdwalk" to a lot of hype about how Hillary Clinton "won" Florida. Here's the deal. There was a big, high profile tax initiative on the ballot. Florida people turned out in big numbers for it. Then they quickly vote for a primary candidate. The "known quantity" Clinton wins. That's because, knowing the primary didn't count and seeing virtually no advertising about Obama, they just voted on name recognition. No credit, no meaning in the results.

  •  every once in a while i forget how smart kos is (0+ / 0-)

    and then he reminds me.

  •  I hate to say this to a fellow writer ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sacrelicious, mcmom

    ... but I hope Donna Edwards makes you have to rewrite that chapter again! :)

    First, oversight; second, investigations; third, impeachments; fourth, war crimes trials!

    by ibonewits on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 03:11:49 PM PST

  •  Isn't that a little discouraging? (0+ / 0-)

    Did you do any analysis of how successful those incumbent-beaters were in the generals that followed?

    The "high information voter" vs "low information voter" is a pretty sounding spin, but, the low-turnout thing could be read as saying that incumbents are most likely to lose to challengers who would be toast in a larger election, like, say, the general.

    In a lot of places that doesn't matter -- the primary really is the election because local voters won't cross party lines, but still...

    Free speech? Yeah, I've heard of that. Have you?

    by dinotrac on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 03:14:17 PM PST

    •  IL-03 and MD-04 (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sacrelicious, Woody

      was one of those places where the primary is really the election

      What you said earlier is what happened to Lamont. He won 48% of how many Democrats turned out of the Democratic Party of the state of Connecticut. For him to even get 40% in the general meant he gained A LOT during the campaign. I don't know what turnout was, but 40% of Connecticut voters are Democrats. If half of them turned out, then one can say Lamont only got like 10.5% of Connecticut votes in the primary. Lieberman still had the support of 9.5% and pretty much everyone else. Lamont needed a decisive primary victory to beat Lieberman in the general.

      Lieberman also, I fear, set a precedent. If Donna Edwards wins and Wynn decides to pull a Lieberman, can she win a general? Can Pera? Will everyone we successfully primary run as an Independent and win the votes of everyone else?

      •  My gut tells me (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Odysseus, sacrelicious

        that the Lieberman tactic would not work as well in a House race as it would in a Senate race, but what do I know - it is only my gut and see how far that got W.

        8/29 changed everything Your political compass Economic Left/Right: -6.13 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -8.10

        by wsexson on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 03:38:41 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm not sure (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Odysseus, Christopher Walker

          it works in districts like MD-04 where the primary decides things, but it could work in swing districts and in Senate races, which is why we need to be careful who we primary. People like Feinstein or Wynn can be primaried, but running liberal challengers against Bayh or Gene Taylor would be ridiculous.

          Hence my issue. Lieberman's victory in 2006 said something to me. It said that, even in Connecticut, the majority either doesn't agree with us or doesn't care enough to agree with us. Pera's loss, and let's face it, it was a massive loss, has really disheartened me.

          •  You may be taking the wrong lesson... (0+ / 0-)

            As I generally tell people, I'm not really the DK demographic -- an independent who leans conservative on many issues, but...

            Y'know, I've actually enjoyed "meeting" lots of you.  The "next step" might just be learning more about how much people disagree with you and where, and taking advantage of common concerns to win a few that you can't carry by yourselves.

            They do it in parliamentary countries all the time -- it's called coalition building.

            Free speech? Yeah, I've heard of that. Have you?

            by dinotrac on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 04:37:57 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  See but that's what (0+ / 0-)

              pisses me off about some kossacks, they don't want to know why people disagree with them. They're right, you're wrong and we'll win because of it. The end. We lose because we can't build coalitions. Building coalitions requires swallowing a little bit of pride.

              It's not a winning strategy.

  •  Mark Pera of course also had the (0+ / 0-)

    added pressure of a high turnout rate to vote for the hometown candidate.  It seems likely some of Lipinski's network and some of Obama's network crossed paths at some point.

    It's amazing what people will do to others in the name of themselves.

    by ABlueKansas on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 03:14:47 PM PST

  •  book needs a little editing. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Delaware Dem

    haha, I know how that goes.

  •  Hillary Clinton: Iraq, Iran, Immunity (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Hillary was not present for the vote against the Telcom immunity today.

    Is there any excuses left for her?




    These are the 3 I's that will cost her the nomination.

    Obama, you gotta see the Dodd love now.  Obama/Dodd 08!!!

    Am I the only one who can't get enough of BBC's Planet Earth?

    by AntonBursch on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 03:16:58 PM PST

  •  kos keep this list in mind as time goes on so (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    we know where to most effectively put our money.

    The list of retiring rethuglicans in the House.


    I'm not voting for Barack Obama because he's black. I'm voting for Barack Obama because he's brilliant. --Oprah Winfrey

    by EquationDoc on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 03:18:57 PM PST

  •  In other words. You've thrown away your money (0+ / 0-)

    but feel good about it because Kos does.

    Or something.

    Another day, another devalued Dollar. -6.00, -6.21

    by funluvn1 on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 03:18:59 PM PST

  •  wow! (0+ / 0-)

    Kos impresses me with some original and well thought out election analysis.  I usually have to get that from Chris Bowers.

  •  question: (0+ / 0-)

    if your candidate is the main attraction on the ballot, and you have the bucks to compete with the incumbent, then does low turnout still help, or does high turnout benefit a high-profile, well-funded challenger?

    The reason I ask is because it seems counterintuitive to say that lower turnout = better result for liberals....

  •  Are we focused too much on "against" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ben masel, sacrelicious, GregColeman

    the incumbent? He/she is a scoundrel, knave, corrupt, despoiler. A wolf in sheep's clothing.

    A district that feels he/she is their 'junkyard dog' will not desire to throw the despoiler out.

    Carol Shea Porter gave voice to her District's voting constituents' concerns.

    That voice may not have been exactly the concerns of the Netroots.

    Did Mark Pera give voice to the voting constituents?

    Beware the Will o'the Wisp.A lantern that leads to the edge of the chasm is not a true light...

    by portorcliff on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 03:22:18 PM PST

  •  Donna Edwards . . . (0+ / 0-)

    may benefit from endorsements by papers like the Washington Post.  Also this is her second run at Wynn which gives her name ID that she wouldn't have had as a first time challenger.

    I'm curious to see how it plays out.  This time around she definitely had the money to compete.

  •  High turnout & bad weather (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    probably favors Obama, since his supporters seem to somewhat more committed.

  •  Just a thought . . . (0+ / 0-)

    Would Harris Miller have voted for telecom amnesty the way Webb just did?

    What a disgrace.  What's the point of electing these people?

  •  Kos - formula maybe (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I gotta tell you.  I am in NOVA - Fairfax, smack dab in the middle of the Webb-Miller (Miller was past chair of Fairfax for 6 years) primary and it is the fever of the supporters that favor an unknown and / or the underdog.  (Turnout FC 5.8%)

    Those same people came out for Dean / Clark / Obama.

    I am going to say this (and hopefully my fellow kossacks from NOVA that read this take it the right way).  They are obsessive with their support, pull all stops and do not stop during the campaign at all to get their candidate (in this case Webb) elected.  

    If you can capture those supporters at the national level and then filter to critcal district it will be a goldmine.

    "America Rising" - John Edwards we are with you.

    by totallynext on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 03:26:58 PM PST

  •  Big City Machines can be tough to beat (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ben masel, Crisitunity, NotGeorgeWill

    This is another lesson of the Pera primary well diaried here.

    The Chicago machine is not what it once was, but in the areas of the city that are in IL-3, including Bridgeport (where the Daley family is from), the machine is still going strong.

    Hey Hillary: How did you go from "It takes a (whole) village" to "It takes a (solitary) President"?

    by Jim in Chicago on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 03:28:21 PM PST

  •  Thanks Kos (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    And looking forward to another book I initially close and roll my eyes over and eventually buy three copies of.

    Any more thoughts on the Pera race?  It's tough to enter politics, and defeat an incumbent.  Any other thoughts you or others have are most welcome.  

  •  Webb v. Miller . . . (0+ / 0-)

    another factor in the contest was that neither was a known figure in Virginia politics.  Miller got a bit of a head start and was able to cultivate some support with some local leaders.  He won the Washington Post's endorsement -- perhaps due to his IT lobbying work (Melinda Gates I believe sits on the Washington Post board of directors).  He spent more money -- about 3 times more than Webb, but it was still a relatively low dollar expenditure (about $100,000 for Webb versus $300,000 for Miller).  Miller was almost entirely a self-financing candidate.

    The Kerry endorsement was a huge boost for Webb.  It helped to legitimize his Democratic bonafides, which were his main vulnerability point in the Democratic primary.  Webb also had a substantially larger volunteer network -- most of Miller's people were paid staff.

    The low-turnout factor though was a factor.  The low name ID for both challengers was a factor as well (Webb had a little bit more ID thanks to his work as a best-selling author and work in government).  Webb's family connections also helped in southwest VA.  A lot of variables at work.

  •  the takeway is "did the message reach the voters? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, Woody

    I don't think it's so much that you have to have two out of three, as did the voters get the message?  Being the top race on the ballot inherently increases this ability.  Money does too.  Low voter turnout of course helps in the reverse manner, either limiting who you have to target (e.g. Tester) or limiting low information voters.

    If most people are dissatisfied with Wynn or thinking positively of Edwards, she has a chance.  But if her name recogition is like that of Pera - maybe they've heard of her but don't know much - then she's in trouble.

    And that is the one flaw with our major weapon - the primary.  The mass of Americans are low information voters, even reliable, intelligent, educated Democrats, like my liberal friends who don't think McCain is too bad.  When you talk about the movement as a long term project, that is perhaps the biggest thing we've got to figure out - how do we get the average voter informed enough to vote wisely?  If we did that, we wouldn't win everything, but we would win a lot of the races that matter the most.  I suspect that the answer is going to be some combination of strategies involving new media that may not even exist yet, and real grassroots organization that nevertheless has some structure at the top.

    "Use Jesus as a body shield while you rob the country blind" - Jud Caswell, The Men behind the Bushes

    by eparrot on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 03:30:56 PM PST

  •  Must be hard to write a book (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    with the election going on. Cripes, I have a deadline on Thursday and I am sooooooooooooo f'd.

  •  Running from issues doesn't work. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I approached the Pera campaign offeriung gto outreach the marijuana community in the District, as Lipinski had voted against the Hinchey/Rohrabacher Amendment to the judiciary budget, which would have cut off Federal funds for raids and prosecution of patients.

    The Marijuana Policy Project had polled one of the State Senate Districts on medical access a year ago, in context of a State medical bill, found 80% support.

    While he'd verbally expressed tentative support for medical access at a meet with bloggers, Pera would not take an on the record linkable stance. I could have enlisted bands, worked Myspace as I had for my Senate run in '06, but he gave me essentially nothing to work with, so I found other projects.

    These were not 'most likely' voters, but they could have been.

    Democrat for US Senate, Wisconsin 2012.

    by ben masel on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 03:31:11 PM PST

  •  I fear that most people are very like myself..... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    My ignorance is a vast wilderness, as far as politics goes. I've 'heard' of super delegates, but didn't know exactly what it ment.

    I knew that the Party machinery had had something to do with more progressive voices being squashed. But didn't know how it had happened.

    I think the 1st time it dawned on me that the party insiders 'managed' keeping a candidate from being able to fair well in a primary was in Austin in 94'.

    Kos, I thank my lucky stars that someone like you is finding the bumps in the road and that I can now follow the dotted line and gain in understanding some of the process.

    Your post illustrates that you are also learning as you go.

    What I think is happening....... many Americans are getting a taste of how bent the line is between one man/woman, one vote. It seems that putting kinks in the path of fair play has been to the benefit of those that want to maintain power. Even in our beloved Democratic Party.

    And not because individule members are not committed to freedom and justic for all citizens. But not all are committed to it. And somehow a small collection of less committed individules have been able to circumvent and confuse the system.

    I sincerly hope more and more of us are on the path to a better understanding and appreciation of what it takes to gain and maintain a better system. Hopefully the new learners will not become so disillusioned that they give up just before the miracle happens.

    Right now too few still don't know how subverted our own Party is and the underlying problems that we need to 'fix'.    

  •  via OpenLeft... (3+ / 0-)

    Al Wynn Donna Edwards ballot
    How shameless for him to try to hitch himself to Barack Obama.

    Regime change begins at home: Vote Democratic. (Economic: -7.88 Social: -6.31)

    by R Rhino from CT4 on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 03:31:54 PM PST

  •  Here's another factor (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Woody, dmsilev, NotGeorgeWill

    The role of the old-school urban political machine, and its top-down hierarchical structure and ability to GOTV. We were running against the machine candidates in both Pera vs. Lipinski and Lamont vs. Lieberman (see Lieberman's strengths in the big cities of Connecticut, which are typically the most Democratic areas). Conversely, there was no dominant local machine to fight against in Tester vs. Morrison and Webb vs. Miller. As for Shea-Porter, well, I don't know enough about local New Hampshire to pass judgment... is there a Manchester machine?

    I heartily endorse this event or product Obama. (I actually like your candidate too. Just not quite as much.)

    by David Jarman on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 03:33:34 PM PST

    •  Great point . . . (0+ / 0-)

      in Richmond, VA former Governor Wilder does have a well-developed network from decades in politics, but it's my recollection that he sat out the Virginia primary in 2006.  There are some pretty well developed local parties within the state, but the state party is not the kind of machine that you'd find in states where the Democratic party is the only show in town (Rhode Island -- Maryland too strikes me as similar where party politics are dominant).

  •  I hope Mark takes him out in '10 (0+ / 0-)

    I was very confident our tough but tender, bug eyed enthusiasm for Mark would win out this year. Tragically, we came up short as a kossack and LGBT community. But we must NEVER GIVE UP! Following the lead of Act Blue and our leader, Mr. Kos, we must stand broad shouldered with bug eyed enthusiasm and let weak Democrats know that we are not satisfied with more of the same and coddling the Rethugs. We demand justice and constitutional protection for the LGBT community and other kossack ideals.

    We can correct the Lipinski tragedy tonight by electing Donna Edwards! Let's fight to end for Donna and show corrupt Rethug-lites that with people powere we will defeat them.

  •  is it possible (0+ / 0-)

    that Saint Ned was the anomaly, i.e., that it is next to impossible to knock off an incumbent?  Even Lamont needed a compelling issue and his checkbook, and still he barely beat you-know-who.

    Enterpriser; Hard core Libertarian: +6.63 / -4.41

    by jimsaco on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 03:51:20 PM PST

    •  and lost in the end (0+ / 0-)

      uneducated, loyal voters are hard to counter; that said, a number of 'general election' Lieberman voters are so pissed off, that the will tow the line in the future -- I've had some not-so-gentle-ribbing that they are REPUBLICANS.  grins evilly

  •  Disagree on the subject of low turnout. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I can't speak for what happened two years ago in Maryland.

    But here in Chicago, one ignores the advantage provided by the Chicago machine at their peril.  They WILL get their voters to the polls.  Moreover, Chicago turnout was depressed this year because, frankly, John McCain was the only presidential candidate doing any advertising.  No one was particularly energized.  

    For an insurgent to win, they have to overcome the turnout advantage provided by the machine by generating their own turnout from scratch, and have to overcome the pro-incumbant bias of early voting by doing an incredible amount of voter education.  

    That's tough odds unless you can generate high interest and high turnout on election day.

  •  Something like this happened in IL-19 (0+ / 0-)

    where a fellow named Daniel Davis defeated Joe McMenamin in the Dem primary on Feb 5.

    McMenamin had raised substantially more money than Davis (~$110,000 to ~$15,000), and had, on paper, a better resume (Afghanistan veteran, practicing lawyer -- Davis is 26 and a political novice). McMenamin had ground staff and volunteers; Davis had no staff and few volunteers.

    On Election Day, though, Davis won 60-40.  Dem turnout was huge.  McMenamin's campaign had really targeted only hard Dems (phonebanks, door knocks and some direct mail), but hard Dems were a small minority of total turnout.  And, our guess anyway, is that those new voters saw the name Daniel Davis and the name Joe McMenamin and picked the easier name (which is also reminiscent of Danny Davis up in Chicago).

    Please don't think I'm suggesting Daniel Davis is not a progressive or is somehow a bad Democrat; I honestly don't know enough about him to say, and I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt because every race counts.  My point is that the McMenamin campaign's story seems to support Kos' argument, that a high turnout meant that the impact of committed supporters was drowned in the wave of new voters.

  •  Hey, Kos! (0+ / 0-)

    To maintain your veneer of cool, you could fix your typos:  In the blockquote, you have Shea-Porter winning her primary by a 54-35 margin, "ddespite"... and winning her primary by a 54-34 margin.  I do not know if the second statement was meant to be about the general election, or just a sloppy overlap of two previous drafts.  The other typo is in the next paragraph.  ....can only able to win....

  •  This reminds me, Kos, of 1972. (0+ / 0-)

    McGovern took the caucuses in Idaho. I was at the state convention, and the McGovern delegates knew absolutely nothing about the issues we were voting on, or any of the other candidates. In my legislative district I explained the issues/people, and told them how I was going to vote, and they followed my lead, to a person. My point is, one-issue or one-person voters will tend to vote "establishment," which seems counter-intuitive, but seems to be what you have found in your analysis.

    "This is not our America and we need to take it back." John Edwards.

    by mcmom on Tue Feb 12, 2008 at 04:07:43 PM PST

  •  The main reason Pera lost? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IndySteve, cjaznik45

    He went up against a still powerful Regular Democratic organization -- remnants of the old Chicago Machine -- which still holds considerable sway on Chicago's Southwest Side and suburbs. You can be sure that the his dad, the ex-congressman Bill Lipinski, made damn sure the Dem organization delivered for his son.

  •  This race was heartbreaking for me. (0+ / 0-)

    though I'm now in San Francisco, I lived in Chicago when Lipinski Jr was appointed to the congressional seat by his father and the Cook Country Demoratic machine.  Even more than his Bush-aligned views, it was the corrupt process by which he was elected and continues to govern that is damaging to democracy and the Democratic party.

    I sent Mark Pera money some months ago when I first heard about the campaign.  I hope that we can get to the bottom of why Mark lost, and maybe the IL-03 dems can make another challange of it, and this time succeed.  Whereever I'm living then, I'll be behind them with my checkbook, however meager it may be.

  •  Running against a party pick is an uphill battle (0+ / 0-)

    even if you don't have an incumbent (Shea-Porter race was open). You HAVE to have malfeasance or something that has really ticked off a major constituency within the party (like labor) that does a public shift to the insurgent.

    At the end, the turnout and the party machine worked against Pera. Not to mention other names on the ballot which split the anti-Lipinski vote up.

  •  Include in your formula... (0+ / 0-)

    ... not attacking progressives like Dennis Kucinich -- at least not until you've got a few victories under your belt where you've actually managed to defeat entrenched incumbent Democrats in primary challenges.

  •  Pera Volunteer Info re Turnout - But What Kind (0+ / 0-)

    Lipinski was endorsed by the Regular Democratic Organization.  That meant that all of the voter cards, judge race cards, ads etc... touted Lipinski.  He was also endorsed by other prominent Dems, like Rahm Emanuel.

    As Kos has often mentioned - endorsements on the local level where there is muscle to turn out voters counts.  So it isn't just high turnout, but what kind of turnout.  Here, it was "Regular" Dem, i.e. organization Dems.  Had it been an election with a contested top of the ticket or a locally hot race that drew progressives, turnout might not have told the story.

    Also, there was another race in the district where there was an unendorsed candidate that turned out impressive numbers across Cook County - but especially Hispanic and Latino voters in the IL-03 and that was Cook County State's Attorney candidate Anita Alvarez who defeated TWO highly organized and well known opponents.  So, you had lots of "Regular" Dem hispanic and latino voters who likely voted the ticket for endorsed races but came out for an independent.

    I don't have precinct level numbers - but I worked 2 old-style precincts that didn't have turnouts any higher than the last election.  I suspect that an analysis of who voted, where and demographics would provide important additional information for the next challenger.

    We need to recruit someone to start challenging Lipinski now.  He moved left on some of his issues to try and cut off Pera - let's keep him moving.

    •  Alvarez isn't the model to study. (0+ / 0-)

      No offense to Alvarez, but she won with only 26 percent of the vote.  Tom Allen was the Machine candidate, and he got 25 percent.  Unfortunately for her, fellow reform candidate Larry Suffredin also put up a strong candidacy, and drew 22 percent.  Either of them could have won strong victories without the other in the race; Allen was that weak.

      Perhaps the race to look at as a model was Barack Obama's primary campaign for US Senate in 2004.  As a relative unknown, he took on the favored, establishment candidate State Comptroller Dan Hynes, well known Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas, Former Chicago Schools Chief Gery Chico and 3 other candidates.  With this crowded a field and his own name recognition starting well below these other candidates, Obama didn't just win -- he won with 53 percent statewide, 64 percent in Cook County and 67 percent in the City of Chicago, where 36 percent of all statewide votes were cast in the democratic primary.

      Good thing for Obama that Early Voting did not exist in 2004.  As activists, that should be the first target to abolish.

      •  Well, The CW (0+ / 0-)

        The conventional wisdom before the vote was that Allen would win hands down.  The other 4 candidates were supposed to split the hispanic/progressive/white/asian etc... vote and then Allen would walk away with his aldermanic supporters + the African-American community.  I agree that Allen was nominally the machine candidate, but in this race the Regular Dems did not endorse anyone.  The lack of formal endorsement meant that he wasn't on any mailings or poll cards or voter materials - or on the precinct captains' go to voter lists.  In the end, that hurt.

        The only poll I saw (about a week before the primary) had Suffredin up by a point or two over Allen and Alvarez running a distant third.

        The point I was making is that Kos' theory about high voter turn-out is too simplistic.  I think it depends on why the voter turnout is high.  In Illinois this year, voter turnout was high for a favorite son candidate (Obama) and, in Cook County, for some other races.  

        Because the Illinois Obama voters were voting for one reason (favorite son and to be part of history) and the Maryland Obama voters were voting for a different reason (change), they reacted to the down-ticket races differently.  That's how we got Donna Edwards.  If Pera could have hooked onto the Obama change voter thing (not possible in Illinois this cycle for a number of reasons), like Donna Edwards did, high voter turn-out would have helped, not hurt.

        P.S. Since I can't get IL-03 primary turnout numbers from 2006 & 2004 - I can't be sure that this year is high - we need both (and maybe more) because, as I recall, in Illinois 2006 primary was very high turnout because of Obama and because of the Governor's race.

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