After the 2000 election, recount, and Supreme Court decision, Democrats nationwide were furious with Pres.George W. Bush, convinced the presidential election had been stolen. They were several years away from trying to defeat his reelection bid, but the 2002 cycle provided them with the next-best target: The reelection bid of his brother, Florida governor Jeb Bush.
A political party less filled with fury would have recognized that incumbents are tough to dislodge, and that there was likely to be lower-hanging fruit elsewhere. Jeb Bush had won election with a wide margin, 55 percent to 44 percent four years earlier. Nonetheless, DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe and numerous Democrats pledged he was their “number one target.” Numerous big-name Democrats jumped into the primary, including Janet Reno. Just about every major Democrat — Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Jesse Jackson — appeared for primary winner Bill McBride. Democratic leaders made confident predictions:
”Jeb is gone!” Mr. McAuliffe declared brazenly, brushing aside the determination of the White House to protect the president’s brother. ”There won’t be anything as devastating to President Bush as his brother’s losing in Florida.”
It was a rout, with Bush winning reelection, 56 percent to 43 percent.
In the end, taking on Bush in Florida was a waste of resources for Democrats. While they dumped their money in Florida, their Senate incumbents went down in Missouri, Minnesota, and Georgia. John Sununu held a GOP open seat in New Hampshire. Republicans won gubernatorial races in traditionally Democratic states like Maryland, Massachusetts and Hawaii.
I mention this because the Democratic challenger to Sarah Palin in 2010 is likely to be exceptionally well-funded from contributions from the netroots . . . and probably as doomed as Bill McBride. Larry Sabato:
ALASKA — Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK): Assuming Palin runs for Governor again instead of challenging U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), as is likely, Palin is close to a shoo-in for a second term, despite her recent troubles in and out of the state. John McCain had been faring poorly in Alaska until Palin was put on the ticket, and then the GOP won the presidential race in the Frontier State with 60%. The controversies that dogged Palin nationally will have relatively little effect on her reelection bid, at least in terms of the outcome. However, her controversial candidacy for Veep has made her the target of much new criticism in Alaska, as residents have learned things about her and her family that they don’t like, and wonder if she is dedicated to her current job or one in a White House in Washington. So far little-known business consultant Bob Poe, a former state administrative official, is the only Democrat in the race. REPUBLICAN HOLD.
Then again, maybe Democrats will have learned since then . . .