The Netroots ActBlue page, maintained by MyDD, Swing State Project, and Daily Kos, has added a bunch of new candidates in the past few weeks (while I was distracted by the end of the book tour and YearlyKos), and is about to grow by four candidates today.
The recent candidates are Darcy Burner in WA-08 and Patrick Murphy in PA-08. I'll write more about them soon. Today, we'll be adding Paul Hodes in NH-02, Linda Stender in NJ-07, Jerry McNerney in CA-11, and Jim Webb in the Virgnia Senate race.
Matt Stoller, Chris Bowers, DavidNYC, and me are splitting up the "endorsement" posts, and I'll link to theirs when they get them up. Me, I'm happy to talk about why Jim Webb is a race-changing candidate.
It was way back in October 2005 that this Q&A interview in a San Diego newspaper ignited speculation that Webb would enter the Senate race in Virginia.
As I wrote at the time:
Plenty there for litmus test Dems not to like about Webb, he would definitely bring up the party's right flank (though he is a critic of the Iraq War). And I'm not going to waste much time speculating about what may be a throwaway comment at the end of a newspaper Q&A. But he's definitely the kind of guy that could play well in places outside Northern Virginia.
It would be brilliant for him to challenge Allen.
What would litmus test Democrats not like? Webb was a Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan, and is a moderate- to conservative Democrat.
Or so I thought at the time. Since then, I've been pleasently surprised with Webb's politics, exhibit A of the new breed of pragmatic Libertarian Democrats that I think can win tough territory long ceded by Democrats to the Republicans. Gay marriage? He doesn't want government in your church. Abortion? He doesn't want government in your doctor's office. He doesn't want government in your bedroom. And, just as importantly, he's not too crazy about Big Business sticking their nose where it doesn't belong either.
A real war hero, Webb has been clear in the need for the U.S. to get the heck out of Iraq. Thanks to serving in the military, where servicemembers never have to worry about healthcare since it's provided (and it's top-notch), he knows how important it is to have a society in which people have access to affordable healthcare, as opposed to protecting HMO profits.
His top issues? I'll quote from his website, WebbForSenate.com:
There are many challenges facing Americans today: an unpopular war, skyrocketing health care costs, a shrinking job market and rising inequality in society. I believe in the strength of American character and the ingenuity of the American people. With the right leaders we can overcome all of these obstacles. America doesn't lack ideas, it lacks leaders willing to stand up and make courageous decisions.
I have fought -- and continue to fight -- to protect American values. I fought in Vietnam with the hope that the Vietnamese might share the same freedoms we enjoy. I fought as a congressional committee counselor to guarantee our veterans the treatment they deserve. I fought as Secretary of the Navy to maintain the excellence of our military. I fought, pro bono, on behalf of countless veterans and refugees, in order that they might have their voices heard in the vast government bureaucracy. And I will fight in the Senate to give all Americans the chance to achieve their dreams.
But you know what excited me about this race, more than anything? The promise of becoming a template for people-powered electoral victory. Sabato noticed something that most observers of the race missed:
Democrats made a smart, strategic choice in selecting former Reagan Navy Secretary James Webb as their nominee in a primary on June 13. Webb was dramatically outspent by high-tech lobbyist Harris Miller, and Webb didn't air a single TV ad or employ any of the usual campaign technologies, such as robo-calling.
Miller, on the other hand, spent hundreds of thousands on television, direct mail, and the usual trappings of the usual campaign.
While no one thinks television advertising and direct mail are going anywhere, the fact that Webb won the race without ANY of that stuff is shocking. (Correction: Webb did one direct mail piece.) And how he did it was even better. Webb advisor Mudcat Saunders:
[N]o question about it, the bloggers were driving this [...]
[E]ven if Webb cannot match Allen's staggering $7 million campaign kitty, the challenger has shown that he can use old-fashioned grass-roots word of mouth and newfangled Internet campaigning to spread the word about this ex-Republican military man who wants to bring Reagan Democrats back to the party of their youth.
This was people-power in action. And no, I'm not talking Daily Kos. I'm talking about the kick-ass, aggressive, and effective Virginia netroots. Fresh off their help in getting Tim Kaine elected governor, blogs such as Raising Kane, Not Larry Sabato, and VA Progressive have helped build buzz and activism for Jim Webb.
Ultimately, all of Miller's television and radio ads, all his direct mail, all his robo calls, weren't enough to overcome a truly populist movement. People matter.
(And fyi, the same thing happened in the Montana Senate primary with Jon Tester.)
So what do we have in Jim Webb? A candidate that won't be easily demonized or swift boated by the usual conservative cowards. We have a candidate who is backed by a genuine and proven people-powered machine. And we have a candidate who can win and put us one seat closer to a Harry Reid-led Senate.
And what about George Allen, the incumbent Republican Senator? Poor Georgie has spent the last few months in Iowa telling potential caucus voters how bored he is with the Senate, and how he wishes he could have been born in Iowa.
Alas, Allen has sent notice that he won't be able to visit Iowa again until after November. You see, his mistress Iowa calls him. But if Virginia finds out he's two-timing her with Iowa, she might divorce him and keep the house.
And Allen is not quite ready for that breakup. Not yet. Problem is, the state's demographic trends are running away from Republicans. Not Larry Sabato sees the trend:
In 2000 George W. Bush carried Fairfax by 6,081 votes. On the same ballot Chuck Robb beat George Allen by 16,584 votes in Fairfax.
That's a 22,665 vote margin that voted for George W. Bush yet voted against George Allen.
Since then the margin has increased every election for Democrats.
Mark Warner wins Fairfax by 26,013
John Kerry wins Fairfax by 34,041
Tim Kaine wins Fairfax by 61,497
One thing about Fairfax is that federal events (i.e. the Presidents approval rating) impact elections here in a major fashion. Since Kaine's win the President's approval rating has fallen another few points.
With the higher turnout in federal elections, one friend at the DSCC whispered a number to me that would have been unthinkable a short time ago. "If all goes right, and the President drops about five more points, and we could be seeing a 100,000 vote Webb margin out of Fairfax County".
That would do it.
Let's do whatever we can to help Jim Webb turn Virginia Blue, get us one seat closer to the Senate majority, and destroy the budding presidential ambitions of George Allen.
Update: This is what a libertarian democrat looks like. From a just-released press release on the Flag Burning Amendment:
"Jim Webb has great respect for our national flag and great respect for our Constitution, and is proud of the many contributions his family has made in defense of both. Like many combat veterans such as General Colin Powell and former Senators John Glenn and Bob Kerry, he does not believe it is necessary to amend the Constitution in order to protect the dignity of our flag. This is yet another example of deliberately divisive politics that distract Americans from the real issues that are facing our country,” said Kristian Denny Todd, spokeswoman for the Webb campaign.