If there's one message that has really resonated with me since I started visiting and blogging here at Dailykos, it's that Democrats should always have a viable candidate in every race.
Despite this, there are six Republican Senators up for election this year who currently have zero Democratic challengers (Based on Wikipedia; let me know in the comments if this information is not up to date.). Coburn can be excused since he only recently announced his retirement so his seat wasn't under consideration. Compare this to only four Democratic Senate Seats that currently have zero Republican challengers, and this means Democrats are playing defense.
I realize that Democrats currently hold a majority in the Senate, and so a lot of attention is being paid toward pickups in the House, which the Republicans currently hold. Obviously, like any other Democrat, I am just as intent on decreasing their disastrous hold here.
And I realize that some of these filing deadlines are still months away, so some of these might likely already have a Dem challenger or two in the works.
And I also realize that because resources are limited, the major political groups often have to focus their energies on the most statistically possible pickups. And since all of these seats except Mississippi are safe Republican seats, picking up any of these is considered a long shot at best.
However, given all of these caveats, I still think that the benefits of having viable Democrat candidates run in these races, and as soon as possible, even if they are not statistically likely to win, are well worth the investment.
After all, imagine if Bridgegate had been unraveled just three months earlier.
Imagine if Democrats didn't have a strong challenger to Tea Partier Richard Mourdock in Indiana. Indiana voters went overwhelmingly for Mitt Romney, 54%-44%, so it could easily be excused if Dems wrote this race off. But if they didn't have any challenger, they would not have been able to capitalize off Mourdock's blunder.
Most analysts expect Democrats to fight heavily just to maintain their majority in the Senate. From a strategy standpoint, perhaps this is the most effective use of resources. However, I'm of the position that the best defense is a strong offense.
And just like forcing a country to fight a war on multiple fronts is always an effective strategy, we must bring the war against Republican depravity to every open seat.
Below, I will try to make the case as best I can.
Again, the main points Steve Singiser made for why Democrats should run in every race:
1. Never underestimate the ability of GOP primary voters to mess the bed.
One of the most critical by-products of the bubbling internecine war in the Republican Party is that GOP primary voters, smaller in number and more pure in their ideology, have managed to elevate some truly unelectable candidates over the years.This factor is especially important in these very red seats that Democrats don't want to challenge under normal circumstances.
2. Thinning the playing field plays into the hands of the Republicans.
This means that not a dime of money, nor a minute of effort, has to be spent on these seats. Even if none of them are appetizing prospects (and they probably aren't), you'd rather see a GOP incumbent have to make a nominal effort at re-election, rather than none at all. In my (admittedly limited) experience, incumbents are infinitely more likely to hoard their resources when they draw a challenger ... any challenger. Freed of that burden, they can bolster their own vulnerable incumbents, and assist in efforts to oust vulnerable Democratic incumbents. They can lend their fundraising prowess to the team, since they no longer are under any individual burden to do so.3. You simply never know when a wave is going to build.
If a wave does develop, in either direction, a critical side effect of that wave is seats that have been completely stricken from the list of competitive seats for years become races to watch. One must think that the Republicans are quite grateful that they lucked out and had Blake Farenthold running in what was viewed as solid blue territory in heavily Latino South Texas. His defeat of veteran Rep. Solomon Ortiz had to be considered one of the biggest upsets in recent House history. And an election like that can only happen in a wave election. Absent that GOP wave of 2010, Farenthold gets smooshed, like pretty much every Republican that had come before him in the long tenure of the Democratic incumbent.In addition to these points, in the comments of that diary I added some more, which I will re-iterate with some updates here:
4. It gives Democrats an opportunity to discover new talent/be discovered.
As a Democrat, running in one of these dark-red districts, or whatever, where the incumbent would otherwise go unchallenged, offers that Democrat a chance to gain experience running for a state office, allows them to gain exposure for their platform, and allows them to build name recognition for future campaigns, the importance of which belies many of the polls that we so often rely on, and without the pressure of high expectations.
The other thing is that for higher offices, the political parties are always looking for candidates who personify the demographics they are trying to reach. Finding Democrats who identify with these districts and still stand up for the party's values makes them attractive candidates for future campaigns.
5. Coat-tails and reverse coat-tails.
In the US election system, all these elections are related. Local, state, and national. Candidates at the top feed support to candidates below them. Candidates at the bottom share more familiarity with the constituents and can drive overall perceptions for the candidates at the top of the ticket. When Democrats, and Republicans, run a candidate in a race, it affects all the races on that ticket, and not having a warm body in that slot is essentially a wasted vote.
6. It forces the Republican to run a more active campaign.
It's easier for a Republican, in general any incumbent, to hide their horrendous views, agendas, and voting records when nobody is shining a light on them. Having a challenger actively combating them opens more opportunities for the constituents, and the general public like us, to catch wind of their true colors.
And with the Republican Party of today, as we all have seen, the more we get them out into the public as often as possible, the better off our chances become. The more chances there are to force one of those Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock moments, that tanks their campaign and gives Democrats the chance they need.
7. At the very least, Democrats in those districts deserve a candidate.
When a Republican incumbent goes unchallenged, the Democratic Party is basically abandoning its constituents in those districts. They should not be penalized for living in a red area; if anything, we need to make sure they have someone representing them more than any place else. Even if the Dem candidate has very little hope for winning, it keeps the Democratic grassroots in those areas strong. Building networks and connections to local media and fundraisers and organizations, for example.
8. It challenges the perception of the Democratic Party being pushovers.
Deservedly or not, the Democratic Party has a reputation for not putting up strong fights, at any level. Always having a candidate for every race, with a solid network of supporters for every election, close or not, should be the basic example we have for overcoming this perception.
Also good points by a fellow commenter Russells 10:
9. Spending dollars on Democratic messages matters.To be sure, these aren't the only reasons we should find challengers for these races. And for sure, there are many people who can offer up valid reasons for why it might not be worth.
Even if a state legislative candidate raises and spends only $5 or $10k, s/he spends it on SOMETHING. A mailer, a newspaper ad, some paid canvassers going door-to-door. That money can be spent to reinforce a key message -- sane immigration policy, for example. Plus, the local media's coverage of the campaign -- and things like Op-Eds -- add up. Even token opposition is important to simply make an argument.
10. You activate volunteers in local communities.
Sooner or later Texas will go for the Democrat in a Presidential election. When it happens, it will take a massive volunteer effort. The more volunteers you have to make calls and knock on doors in every state race in the off-years, the better your chances of getting them to start contacting voters in March or April of the Presidential year.
But in the grand scheme of things, I feel like it's much easier to reconcile putting up an honest fight in these elections with Democratic principles and convictions.
Here is the current list of Republican Senators facing re-election in 2014 without any declared Democratic challengers:
"The state is one of the most conservative in the country and incumbent Jeff Sessions is relatively popular there. The state Democratic party is in disarray and is unlikely to put forth anything more than a token challenge."
Kansas (Romney 60%-38%)
Incumbent: Pat Roberts
Filing Deadline: June 2
"Kansas is a starkly Republican state, but the scant polling released in 2013 has showed Roberts quite unpopular. However no serious Democratic candidate has emerged and even his Republican primary challengers are lower tier, meaning that Roberts is in a strong position."Mississippi (Romney 55%-44%)
Incumbent: Thad Cochran
Filing Deadline: March 1
"Perhaps the most polarized state in the nation for federal elections, Mississippi is solidly Republican under any and all circumstances. Longtime incumbent Thad Cochran is relatively popular among the general electorate, but recent polling has shown him to be viewed as insufficiently conservative by the Republican primary electorate. That has prompted a strong and well-funded challenge by tea party state senator Chris McDaniel who has courted controversy with ties to neo-confederate organizations. Still in this age of vigorous tea party challenges demanding ultra-conservative voting records, the likely support of outside money groups like the Senate Conservative Fund, and Cochran being viewed as inadequately conservative, at the moment I believe that McDaniel is a modest favorite to win the primary. As for the general election, there had been talk of Blue Dog former representative Travis Childers running for Democrats but even he would be exceedingly unlikely to prevail even over McDaniel given the current state of Mississippi's electorate."Nebraska (Romney 60%-38%)
Incumbent: Mike Johanns (Retiring)
Filing Deadline: March 1
"Despite this being an open seat, Democrats have no hope in solid red Nebraska. Former senator Bob Kerrey got stomped by a 2nd tier state senator in 2012 and national Democrats aren't keen on investing here again. State treasurer Shane Osborne and Midland University president Ben Sasse are the two Republicans to watch here."Oklahoma, Special Election (Romney 67%-33%)
Incumbent: Tom Coburn (Retiring)
Filing Deadline: April 11
"This 2nd seat in Oklahoma will be open with the early resignation of incumbent Tom Coburn. The field is not yet set on the Republican side but anyone who wins the nomination would win the general election under any circumstances short of a conviction."Wyoming (Romney 69%-28%)
Incumbent: Mike Enzi
Filing Deadline: May 30
"Wyoming is among the most Republican states in the country and Mike Enzi is quite popular. With Liz Cheney dropping her quixotic primary challenge he could sleepwalk through the primary and general."If anyone can think of any viable Democratic candidates to challenge these seats, please mention them in the comments and explain why you think they would be good representatives of the Democratic Party.
Of course, having potential candidates is a far cry from actually convincing them to run. After all, nobody wants to be a sacrifical lamb. And anyone who makes a run should not expect much national support from the Democratic machine that largely runs on its own survival. Then again, these are exactly the political leaders that have driven the agenda away from the populist strategy that leads to Democratic victory. And to wrest control from these biased actors, we have to get back down to grassroots organizing, such as drafting unexpected candidates.
And if we want to see Democrats win as big in 2014 as they did in 2012 and 2013, we have to attack on all fronts.
Thanks also to terjeanderson for identifying potential candidates in Mississippi, and that Nebraska also has a Democratic challenger: Run Dave Run: Domina for US Senate Representing Nebraska.
AL-SEN: The filing deadline was actually moved to February 7, leaving only 1 week to find a candidate.
KS-SEN: Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor formed an exploratory committee in November. I cannot find any news on when he will announce whether he is running, but he has a website up now with the message "coming soon."
OK-SEN: 2 Democrats have expressed interest in running. Defense attorney Clark Brewster says he will decide in the next couple weeks. State Senator Constance Johnson, who has sponsored a bill to legalize marijuana in Oklahoma, is also considering running.