Tags: Red State Democrats

Grimes, Davis, and the Great Democratic Rural Hopes


It is the time of year when leaves fall from the trees and races fall from the national committee’s priorities list.

Republicans went through their sad moment a few days ago when the National Republican Senatorial Committee pulled their ads from Michigan, an ominous indicator for former secretary of state Terri Lynn Land. If the NRSC is going to spend an additional $6 million trying to help Thom Tillis in North Carolina, those resources have to come from somewhere.

Now the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is pulling the plug on its television ads in Kentucky, to help Allison Lundergan Grimes: “The DSCC had not reserved time for the final three weeks of the race and, as of today, is no longer on the air.”

Grimes follows a long and not-so-proud tradition of Democratic candidates running in traditionally red states who were heralded by the national media as signs of a changing era, helping usher in an era of a permanent Democratic majority. Call them the Great Democratic Rural Hopes. The national media loves to write these sorts of stories. They’re usually pictured on a farm or at a state fair. The headline is some variation of, “You may think that [insert Southern or Midwestern state here] is Republican territory. [Insert candidate name here] is about to prove you wrong.”

The glowing profiles go on to showcase how the candidate grew up on a farm, goes to church, wears cowboy boots, offers some kind of pro forma claim to want a more efficient government, and then veers into standard anti-corporation populism. Their campaign commercials feature them shooting a lot, but they’re often leaving some wiggle room for the nebulous “common-sense gun reform.” If they’re not managed by “Mudcat” Saunders, they’ve at least read his book.

Sometimes the Great Democratic Rural Hopes go on to win. Sometimes they have decent careers. Very rarely do they genuinely signal a shift in a state’s identity, and quite often they end up flopping, a greater indicator of what the national media wants to see in these states than what’s actually going on.

Bill Clinton and Al Gore technically qualify as Great Democratic Rural Hopes, although the irony is that Arkansas and Tennessee shifted more to the Republicans after 1992.

A reasonably successful Great Democratic Rural Hope includes Mark Warner in Virginia, and we can put former senator Jim Webb of Virginia and Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius in the “somewhat successful” category. (The cabinet is where rising stars go to disappear, isn’t it? Has anyone seen Julian Castro lately?) North Carolina’s John Edwards certainly got this treatment. Georgia governnor Roy Barnes was set to get this until he lost his reelection bid in 2002.

Every once in a while, you see a Blue State Republican get roughly the equivalent coverage — Scott Brown, Rudy Giuliani, Chris Christie — although in the case of Christie, the profiles tend to emphasize how moderate and sensible and centrist this Republican is compared to all of those scary, extremist ones elsewhere.

Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis also got the treatment this year. This year Alison Lundergan Grimes raised more than $11 million; Davis raised more than $13 million. Lucky for Republicans that media hype helped persuade Democratic donors to give money to their longshot campaigns instead of races where it could have made a bigger difference.

Tags: Alison Lundergan Grimes , Wendy Davis , DSCC , Red State Democrats

Democrats Still Seeking Anybody to Run Against GOP Senate Incumbents


Nate Silver sends a chill down Democrats’ spines by declaring:

Our best guess, after assigning probabilities of the likelihood of a G.O.P. pickup in each state, is that Republicans will end up with somewhere between 50 and 51 Senate seats after 2014, putting them right on the threshold of a majority.

One reason Democrats may find 2014 so daunting is that at this (still early) date, quite a few Republican incumbent senators have no Democratic challengers — not merely no big-name or well-funded challengers, but any challengers at all. The few Republican incumbents who do have declared challengers are mostly looking at gadflies and amateurs, operating on shoestrings or less. While there’s still time for bigger-name, better-funded, veteran candidates to jump in . . . knocking off a longtime incumbent is rarely a last-minute venture.

In Alabama, where Senator Jeff Sessions seeks his fourth term, Democrats have . . . well, no one yet.

In Georgia, where Senator Saxby Chambliss is retiring and six Republicans will be competing in a bare-knuckle primary for the open seat, Democrats have . . . first-time candidate Branko Radulovacki, running on the slogan “Dr. Rad for Senate,” and John Coyne, who has no website.

In Idaho, where Senator Jim Risch seeks his second term, Democrats have . . . no declared candidates yet.

In Kansas, where Senator Pat Roberts seeks his fourth term, a self-declared “Moderate” candidate and an independent candidate have filed papers, but Democrats have no declared candidates yet.

You’re probably familiar with the race in Kentucky, where Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell will take on a legitimate first-tier challenger, Kentucky secretary of state Alison Lundergan Grimes. Hey, good job, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, you found one!

In Maine, where Senator Susan Collins seeks her fourth term, Democrats . . . are still looking for a challenger. No declared candidates yet.

In Mississippi, where Senator Thad Cochran seeks his seventh term, Democrats have . . . no declared candidate yet.

In Nebraska, where Senator Mike Johanns is retiring, two Republicans have announced bids: former state treasurer Shane Osborn and former assistant state attorney general Bart McLeay. At this point, no Democrat has filed papers to run.

In Oklahoma, where Senator Jim Inhofe may or may not seek his fifth term (he hasn’t announced yet, and he’s approaching 80), the Democrats have a declared candidate! You can peruse insurance executive Matt Silverstein’s bare-bones website here. So far it is clear that he has a beautiful family and dog.

In South Carolina, where Senator Lindsey Graham seeks his third term, there are two Democrats that have declared bids, lawyer Larry Pavilack and businessman Jay Stamper. As of March 31, Stamper had raised $14,000.

Also in South Carolina, appointed senator Tim Scott will seek election to finish a term ending in January 2017. At this point, no Democrat has declared a Senate bid for this seat, although it’s quite possible one of the Democrats could shift to this race.

In Tennessee, Senator Lamar Alexander seeks his third term and faces at this point only one Democratic challenger, Larry Crim. (The Nashville Scene mocked his self-published, self-promotional newspaper here.) According to FEC records, as of March 31, Crim’s bid had not raised any money but spent $896.

In Texas, Senator John Cornyn seeks his third term. GreenPapers lists Tim Day as a Democratic challenger, but this site identifies him as an independent Senate candidate; he ran in 2012 as a Republican for Congress in the state’s 14th congressional district. He has apparently also filed papers to run in the 14th district again.

In Wyoming, Senator Mike Enzi seeks his fourth term and faces a GOP primary challenge from Thomas Bleming (and perhaps, soon, Liz Cheney). At this point, no Democrat has filed papers for a Senate bid.

Most of these are very red states, and obviously even the best-known Democrat would start as an underdog. But you never know when an incumbent might develop health issues, become entangled in a damaging scandal, or suddenly have some terrible YouTube gaffe that jeopardizes his chances for reelection. While most incumbents will cruise safely to reelection, a party can capitalize on unexpected swings of fortune by having a credible candidate in place as an alternative. With all due respect to the little-known candidates above . . . most of them don’t appear to be credible candidates.

A party’s task of winning elections is helped when they get their best candidates on the field. But in most of the red-state Senate races, Democrats are still looking to get any player on the field.

Tags: Senate Republicans , Red State Democrats

Obama’s ‘Jobs Act’ Tour Strangely Avoids Wavering Democrats


White House press secretary Jay Carney declared, “The president is campaigning for jobs.” But instead of heading to states where there are persuadable senators, he’s heading to 2012 swing states.

As NBC News correspondent Norah O’Donnell noticed, Obama somehow feels the need to hold events to promote this legislation — again, the legislation, not his reelection bid — only in states that are considered in play in the 2012 presidential election.

Immediately after his address to Congress, Obama touted the act in Richmond, Virginia; Columbus, Ohio; and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. In Virginia, Obama’s job approval/disapproval split is 40/54; in Ohio it’s 44/52; in North Carolina, it’s 40/54.

So Obama can’t quite intimidate wavering members of Congress to support his “American Jobs Act” by impressing them with his immense popularity. If you think about it, the lawmakers most likely to be persuaded would be red-state Democrats. At least with them, he can appeal to party loyalty and the argument that their fates are tied; a country vastly disapproving of Obama is likely to throw out a lot of red-state Democrats along with him in 2012. If his numbers improve, their chances of survival improve.

So on paper, Obama would be better off reaching out to Sens. Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, Jon Tester of Montana, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. And then there’s Ben Nelson of Nebraska, who sounds iffy. (The Senate’s other Democratic Nelson up for reelection next year, Bill of Florida, is making generally positive noises.) Of course, all those senators probably don’t want Obama coming to their states, and Louisiana, Montana, West Virginia, and Nebraska aren’t really on Obama’s target list for 2012.

Even then, it doesn’t appear that the rallies for the Jobs Act are really working, at least on Democrats who represent states Obama has visited, or at least not yet:

Senator Kay Hagan declined on Wednesday to say her support for the bill that Mr. Obama spent the day promoting in her state was indubitable. “We’ve got to have legislation that is supported by Democrats and Republicans,” she said. “I’m going to have to look at it.”

Representative Heath Shuler, another North Carolina Democrat, said Congress should tame the deficit before approving new spending for job programs. “The most important thing is to get our fiscal house in order,” said Mr. Shuler, a leader of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition. “Then we can talk about other aspects of job creation.”

On Thursday, Obama’s Jobs Act tour goes back to the swing state of Ohio. Coincidentally, of course.

Tags: Barack Obama , Jobs , Red State Democrats

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