Thursday, March 23, 2006

What IL-06 Can Tell Us About CA-11

On Tuesday there was a much-watched primary race in IL-06 between Christine Cegelis, Tammy Duckworth, and Lindy Scott. Scott was never considered the front-runner, and the main focus on the race was the dynamic of Cegelis vs. Duckworth. Cegelis had run against Henry Hyde in 2004 with no Democratic support and had pulled a respectable 44% in a Republican district. After Hyde announced he’d retire in 2006, Rahm Emanuel and the DCCC decided that Cegelis wasn’t viable and went about recruiting another candidate. They settled on Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War vet who’d lost two legs when he chopper crashed due to enemy fire. Duckworth had an incredible resume (at least from a marketing perspective) but she had no ties to the district and no indigenous support in the district when the DCCC and the party establishment got behind her. Duckworth’s campaign was massively aided by Dick Durbin, Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel, and the rest of the Democratic Party establishment. This, despite the fact that Cegelis had managed to inspire the grassroots in a district with no Democratic elected officials and almost no Democratic Party infrastructure. I hope, in broad strokes, the parallels to CA-11 are apparent.

In any event, on Tuesday night Duckworth, who probably outspent Cegelis by about 6 to 1, narrowly eked out a 44% to 40% victory (the margin was just over 1,000 votes). And in the aftermath there has been a lot of post-mortem analysis. What’s interesting is that I have seen both Duckworth supporters, Cegelis supporters, and neutral observers all agree on one thing: that the DCCC was full of shit when it came to this race.

Chris Bowers of MyDD wrote:

At the very least, I, for one, would hope that this does at least some damage to the "Rahm Emmanuel is hyper-effective" meme for a long time to come. It hard to imagine how anyone could have fucked up a district worse than this. Well done man -- you built an utterly ineffective political operation in the area and simultaneously embittered every grassroots activist who could have helped breath some life into that operation. This just gives me loads of confidence for November.

Matt Stoller of MyDD wrote (the bolding of text is mine, the italics are in the original):

Like Chris, I screwed up on Cegelis. I didn't realize that the party establishment was as weak as it was, and I didn't get the basic dishonesty of the DCCC in this fight. The DCCC was squeezing donors hard to give to Duckworth, as did golden boy Barack Obama who appeared in Duckworth's commercial. But what offends me is not that they weighed in on Duckworth's side, but that they pretended like Cegelis did not exist.

Incidentally, for an example of the DCCC pretending McNerney and Thomas don’t exist, check out this post by Howie.

Now it’s important to point out that in IL-06 it was not just the DCCC that ran over the local grassroots. Some other people got suckered by the DCCC bullshit. To see how this worked, I think it’s important to read this excerpt from Daniel Biss, a Duckworth supporter (emphasis mine):

On the Duckworth side, the assumption was just that these people [i.e. Cegelis supporters] didn't know what they were talking about. From what I can tell, everyone, from the bigshots who pushed her candidacy in the first place on down, just assumed that it was all smoke and mirrors and when push came to shove, she wouldn't have a real organization.

We now know, of course, that the Cegelis camp was right (well, with a caveat; it's important to remember that turnout was godawful all around) [Ed Note: Turnout was higher than in the primary in 2004 and 2002].

But so anyway what really bugs me is the way the Duckworth supporters came to their conclusion. Their belief, ever since November of 2004 (and possibly before), was that Cegelis wasn't a credible candidate. I believed it. (I still believe it, in the sense that I still believe that she'd have no chance against Roskam.)

And because they believed that so strongly, they were perfectly content to assume that nothing about her organization was credible. Now, I'm usually hesitant to bandy about internet buzzwords like top-down/bottom-up, but this is literally the most advanced case of top-down sickness I've ever heard of.

And I think this is really corrosive, or at least represents a whole legion of missed opportunities. The problem wasn't, like some have suggested, that "the establishment" was scared of Cegelis, an independent Democrat. The problem wasn't, like some have suggested, that "the establishment" hates progressives. The problem was that people took a look at Cegelis, decided she was a bad candidate, and concluded there was nothing valuable about her campaign.

I've said from the beginning that Duckworth's candidacy was introduced in an avoidably awful way that did damage to grassroots morale (see Lynn Sweet's column in today's Sun-Times for her thoughts about this). But that bothered me in a mostly abstract way: I think it's never a good idea to punch progressive activists in the gut. I bought into the groupthink that while it was a little ugly, it wouldn't really matter in the long run, because surely the Cegelis team didn't have much to offer anyhow.

Well, we now know that was just wrong, and just dumb, and we found out the awful way, by in one fell swoop proving that a group of volunteers could deliver and simultaneously demoralizing them, perhaps irreparably.

Right now there is a lot of discussion about what the Cegelis supporters are going to do. A lot of them feel very little inclination to support Duckworth in any substantive way. And consequently, Duckworth’s victory is somewhat pyrrhic from the perspective of electoral politics. (From the perspective of the pols who were trying to retain power in the party, her victory served its purpose).

Anyhow, I just want to bring this up because I think that IL-06 raised two pertinent questions:

1) Why ought we to believe that the DCCC is any less full of shit with respect to CA-11 than IL-06?

2) Suppose Filson does win. How do we avoid the ill will that will be generated at the grassroots?

23 Comments:

Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

Great post Matt!!! I just want to answer one of your questions-- the one about how to avoid ill-will after the DCCC screws the grassroots here the way they screwed the grassroots in Illinois. In CA-11 there is something that was missing from the Illinois race: Richard Pombo. He is uniquely terrible-- not run-of-the-mill terrible-- uniquely terrible. It trumps everything else.

After the scumbags inside the Beltway do their worst to McNerney (as they did to Cegelis), everybody has to take a deep breath and remember that Richard Pombo is worse-- at least somewhat worse-- than Rahm Emanuel. If we wind up with the DCCC-puppet candidate in CA-11, we need to remember than a "C" is better than an "F." Or join the Greens.

Before then, everybody who believes in grassroots democracy needs to talk to friends, neighbors, relatives, colleagues and explain who Jerry McNerney is and why he would be the best candidate in a battle with Pombo and the best congressman in a battle with the Forces of Darkness (Forces that very much include the Rahm Emanuels of the world).

3:39 PM, March 23, 2006  
Anonymous Rick said...

Based on your post, I'm still not exactly sure why Duckworth is such a bad candidate. And I would hardly take Bowers' or Stoller's claims as gospel, particularly since most of their information appears to be second hand.

But this brings up the broader issue of bloggers appointing themselves experts about Congressional races that many of them have only distant knowledge of. As Tip O’Neil noted, "All politics is local." Needless to say, it comes across a just a bit presumptuous for bloggers who live hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away to bemoan a nominee who has won a plurality of his or her district's primary votes.

Lastly, I’ll note that as demonstrated in Illinois and Texas, self-proclaimed "grassroots" or "netroots" credentials don't carry much weight at the Congressional level. Financial support, political support, and message are the factors that decide elections.

6:00 PM, March 23, 2006  
Anonymous nicholas said...

i'm gonna agree with rick somewhat...

another huge difference (besides pombo, the differing grassroots weight) is that McNerney has the united support of Labor.

So, how much does Rahm, Nancy or Clark want to piss them off by running against their candidate?

its going to be an interesting two months...

(disclaimer: im posting this more as a thought..not representing anything or anyone but my beautiful brown self...and oh yeah, i do volunteer with the McNerney camp...just in case someone doesnt know that...and dont worry be happy. end of disclaimer.)

6:25 PM, March 23, 2006  
Anonymous rick said...

Well, I'm going to have to agree to disagree with Nicholas somewhat...

First, labor consists of more than AFL-CIO affiliated unions. SEIU hasn't endorsed any candidates yet, nor have any of the public safety unions. In short, there are plenty more labor endorsements up for grabs. I should also note that Filson received the backing of the Contra Costa Central Labor Council.

Moreover, labor is but one of many constituencies in the Democratic sphere of influence. Business, environmental, women's, civil rights, and community groups all have substantial, if not more, sway among various Democratic constituencies than labor.

Finally, it is quite common for various groups to endorse different Democratic candidates in the primary. Eventually, nearly all of them put aside their differences and coalesce behind the nominee in the General Election. Labor and other groups that have been around politics understand this, and I doubt any of them are "pissed off" that other groups and Democratic elected office holders have supported Filson.

9:27 PM, March 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Per Rick,"I doubt any of them are "pissed off" that other groups and Democratic elected office holders have supported Filson." ROTFLMFAO!!!

9:54 PM, March 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1) Why ought we to believe that the DCCC is any less full of shit with respect to CA-11 than IL-06?

We shouldn't. The DCCC is full of shit.

2) Suppose Filson does win. How do we avoid the ill will that will be generated at the grassroots?

Filson won't win.

Nuff said.

1:48 AM, March 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this website is absolutely ridiculous.

5:44 AM, March 24, 2006  
Anonymous nicholas said...

1) i despise anon granades...

2) within this district, from my understanding, afl-cio, seiu and cta are the major labor groups that can be considered part of the democratic base...it looks like cta is staying out of it...hopefully seiu will make their announcement soon.

3) oh yeah, CC. man, the process of that endorsment was brutal. i guess i tend to block them out cause i dont want to relive/rehash all that drama. ;) i do wish they had followed the normal interview, q&a process though..but oh well.

and with that being said, theres a process set up by all the dem clubs and labor groups that has been followed for ages (well, with the exception of CC Central Labor this time out)...the DCCC is attempting to destroy this vetting processs. and its going to leave our base (grassroots and labor) de-motivated when it counts (ie, beating Pombo).

someone recently asked me what were the keys to successful sales and i responced

1) listening
2) empathizing/relating
3) making the customer/client feel they are a part of the process

Rahm and the DCCC have failed miserably on all fronts...they mismanaged this thing horribly.

and look at il-06. they now have a candidate who barely won, has very little money and no base of support...wheres the win here folks? (i do admit i dont know much about this race. so additional perspective would be appreciated..)

6:51 AM, March 24, 2006  
Anonymous nicholas said...

oopsies...one point of clarification..when i say "drama" i mean my own dissapointment and frustration in Jerry not getting that endorsement...

7:07 AM, March 24, 2006  
Blogger VPO said...

Nicholas said:

someone recently asked me what were the keys to successful sales and i responced

1) listening
2) empathizing/relating
3) making the customer/client feel they are a part of the process


It also helps if you have something people want to buy.

10:01 AM, March 24, 2006  
Anonymous Fiat Lux said...

William Rivers Pitt does an excellent job exploring what happened in IL-06. For those unfamiliar with the campaign, it's a good primer/post-mortem.

The similarities to CA-11 are chilling and enlightening all at once.

From the concluding paragraphs:

The Lindy Scott factor likewise cannot be ignored. In the end, he got nearly 8,000 votes, amounting to somewhere around 16%. It is telling, when thinking of Scott, to see the blog post he made days before the election, in which he bragged that a majority of the votes he expected to get would come from erstwhile Cegelis voters.

The "If" factor cannot alter the outcome, but there is a significant lesson for the Democratic party establishment to learn here. Tammy Duckworth, Rahm Emmanuel, the DCCC and all those big-time endorsers got brought down to the wire by a grassroots campaign with a tenth of the money, and in the end came within an eyelash of losing. Conventional wisdom says Cegelis should not have made it that close. She didn't have the cash, the endorsers, or the media team Duckworth had. It should have been an easy win, but it wasn't.

The next time the Democratic establishment decides to come barnstorming into a district to force an outsider candidate upon a grassroots network that has been working day and night for an already-established and campaign-seasoned candidate, they will look at what happened in the Illinois 6th and, perhaps, think twice. The next time a grassroots organization in a district looks at a big-money primary challenger and sees no chance to succeed, they will look at the Illinois 6th and, perhaps, think twice.

In the meantime, many Cegelis supporters have begun the process of swallowing the bitterness of defeat in order to organize for the defeat of Peter Roskam. They do this not because they suddenly like Tammy Duckworth, but because of the larger issues at hand. (Cegelis campaign manager) Kevin Spidel noted in the aftermath of the election that the point is not to elect Duckworth in November simply for the sake of electing Duckworth. The point is to win the November race in order to take one step closer to ending the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. The point, Spidel will tell you, is to see Rep. John Conyers Jr. sitting as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee when all is said and done.

That, Spidel says, is the worthiest and most progressive-minded goal he could possibly imagine.

10:43 AM, March 24, 2006  
Anonymous Wayne Johnson said...

Hey guys, Wayno here. Just thought I would weigh in on the question: "What can IL-06 tell us about CA-11".

Simply put, IL-06 tells us that we will beat you every time when you stupid Dems choose irrational feel-good loyalty over cold, calculating strategy. Your Dem base fragmentation strategy is working quite well. God I love my job.

12:12 PM, March 24, 2006  
Blogger CF said...

This website has done a remarkable job in setting up the DCCC as the straw man and distracting everyone from the relative merits of the two candidates. Shocking as it may be to you, Filson has actual supporters (i.e. voters and volunteers) in the district who have decided that they prefer Filson to McNerney on the merits.

There are all kinds of reasons for this, among them:

1. Filson's moderate politics resonate with some Democrats. Not everyone is a progressive in our party. Some people prefer what Filson has to say on the issues.

2. Filson is a better public speaker. It is no secret that this is a weakness of McNerney's. Nor is it a secret that Filson blew McNerney out of the water at the LaMorinda forum. (People wrote to this website saying they switched their support as a result of that meeting.) Other comments have mentioned that even at meetings where Filson didn't necessarily get the endorsement, they agreed with his message.

3. Some in the district think Filson can be a winner in the general election - whether it is for his stance on issues, his fundraising, or his overall personality. Some people are thinking beyond the primary, and beyond the borders of CD-11, understanding the impact this race has on a national scale.


The point is, none of these people were hypnotized by the DCCC or Rahm Emanuel. So as we get closer to the primary, maybe we can stop hashing out the DCCC vs. grassroots argument, and start talking about who is the better candidate, standing alone. When was the last time this website told its readers just what is so great about McNerney?

12:35 PM, March 24, 2006  
Blogger Matt said...

CF,

I never said that Steve Filson has no volunteers and supporters in the district. All the candidates have volunteers and supporters in the district. But having a handful of people support you is much different from having any meaningful grassroots support. This isn't a school board election. This is a Congressional race. And nobody knew about Steve Filson before the DCCC had anointed him. And nobody who hadn't already know Filson would have paid any attention to his candidacy if not for the DCCC's involvement.

You think being a better public speaker gets people somewhere? Steve Thomas is hands down the best speaker in the Democratic race. See how far that got him?

Moreover, Filson's fundraising, while impressive, has demonstrated almost no indigenous support within the district. As of the last FEC report, out of the roughly $20,000 in large contributions Filson had raised in the district, well over half came from the one block he lives on. And a good chunk of the remainder came from pilots. And he reported very little in small-dollar contributions.

The bottom line is that 80% of Filson's money has come from political PACs and people who live outside the district.

Let's compare this to Jerry McNerney. Though McNerney has raised much less than Filson, and though half of McNerney's receipts are in small contributions (and therefore not itemized on FEC reports), we know that McNerney has raised almost as much money in hard contributions as Filson in the district, has 150% the number of large contributors as Filson within the district. Plus, if you include the small contributors it's likely that McNerney has raised much more in the district than Filson.

Furthermore, from a non-monetary perspective, McNerney has overwhelming support of the Democratic clubs, the members of those clubs, and Labor.

And let me just say this. People do not support McNerney because they think he's a good public speaker. Now the Lamorinda event was a particularly bad performance, but McNerney is never going to be a renowned orator. (I must say, though, that I thought McNerney did a better job at the Boxer Event than Steve Filson, who seemed off).

The thing about McNerney is that he's not your normal slick politico. But that's part of why people like him so much. It is disarming to see him speak because it's clear that he's been straight with you. And in his own way he has been able to convince people that he cares about them and the things that matter to them. People believe that he is an honest man with integrity who will fight for them in Congress. And there is a power to that.

Steve Filson, with all of his strengths and assets, still has not been able to win over people to the degree that McNerney has. I think the California Labor Federation endorsement speaks volumes about this dynamic. There was no other reason for the CLF to endorse McNerney over Filson other than the fact that they liked McNerney better. And you cannot argue about this on ideological grounds because I know some of the people who were strong supporters of McNerney in the Labor community, and they were not all progressive as can be (or even all that ideologically driven in the first place).

In the next week Filson will have a fundraiser hosted by Pelosi and another one hosted by George Miller. These are, in most respects, among the most progressive Democrats in the Bay Area. And they are not supporting Filson on ideological grounds. And collectively, I fully expect them to raise more money for Steve Filson at these two events than Steve Filson has raised for himself within the district. I think you need to consider that. I will never say that people were hypnotized by Emanuel and the DCCC into supporting Filson. But the truth is that support from DC has been disproportionate compared Filson's support within the district. He's supposed to have a message that resonates in the district, but so was Elaine Shaw. We saw how far that got her.

I'm sorry Chris, but on a nuts-and-bolts level, from money raised to free media generated to access to consultants, the DC power brokers have been the major impetus for Filson's campaign. All of these things can, and will, influence and affect voters in the district. But that says more about the power of established political parties than Steve Filson.

1:51 PM, March 24, 2006  
Blogger VPO said...

Basically, I look at it this way -- if you like your guy, work to see him elected.

For me, I have found Pete McCloskey a great candidate and am learning a lot just watching him and listening. There is a real candidate, someone who has charisma and personality that draws people in. So, I have endorsed him and am encouraging people to vote in the R primary for him. That is my take on this, and it seems to be gaining momentum, with Dem clubs and "progressive dems" hosting McCloskey.

The other candidates (except Pombo) have their good points. If you like one of them, do what you can to help his campaign.

Bottom line for me is that I don't feel it is helpful to the ultimate goal of ousting Pombo to be criticizing the DCCC and Filson all the time. Things are what they are, and that is how the cookie has crumbled in this race. People on this blog seem not to like the DCCC intrusion in this race, and I can agree with that, but remember the goal is ousting Pombo. Reforming the Dem party is a great goal also, but that is longer term and it won't happen in time to make any difference in this race.

If you want the "grassroots" to triumph, make it happen. Show your strength. Find ways to make it happen. This is your "live TV" show going on, right now.

YOU are the grassroots, now what are YOU going to do?

"Lights, camera, action!"

2:05 PM, March 24, 2006  
Blogger brian said...

Hi Matt,

You write:

In the next week Filson will have a fundraiser hosted by Pelosi and another one hosted by George Miller. These are, in most respects, among the most progressive Democrats in the Bay Area. And they are not supporting Filson on ideological grounds.

Please expand on this. If you have evidence I'd like to hear it.

3:55 PM, March 24, 2006  
Anonymous Vicki said...

To CF.

I have said any number of times, and will say again.....

The reason I support Jerry, and the reason I give all of my time to his campaign, and the reason I encourage others to do the same is because he is as EXPERT at solving one of America's most critical problems. ENERGY.

I think that we need to start looking at people for what they can offer our country. Expertise in an area such as renewable energy goes ALOT farther in my book than being able to fly an airplane.

Jerry has devoted his career to solving America's dependance on foriegn oil. I cannot understand why it's so hard for people to see how important that is.

Renewable, clean energy. Less asthma in the district. An industry that can create an amazing economy in the 11th CD. Electing Jerry to Congress will help get this program started.

I believe it's time to start populating all our halls of government...locally, statewide and nationally...with experts at solving problems. Enough with the power brokering and consultants marketing what they want us to vote for. Let's look at what candidates have to offer and let's start fixing our country!!!

8:59 PM, March 24, 2006  
Anonymous Dwayne Johannson said...

Ja hey dey ja-

Dis is Dwayne Johannson, der Swedish cousin of Vayne. I dink dat da vomman named Vicke has hit the moose in der her head. I mean der nail.

Vhy vould der vomman vork for der Irish guy if she didn't believe, Ja? She make der gut point for der Dems dat is gut to have der fixers of der problems indstead of pilots and der bureaucrats. Wie have lots of dem bureaucrats in Schveden, Ja?

Go get 'em der vun named Jerry! Der Filson guy seems a bit - vell, missing a set of antlers.

Der C3PO guy vas in der Star Vars movie no? He sound like a smart American guy too. Vhy don't you let it play out like he says because my cousin Vayne say der Pombo guy gonna continue to vipe the floor with any of da vuns you call der Dems?

12:59 AM, March 25, 2006  
Anonymous edj said...

Vicki -- you absolutely NAILED it.

Jerry is a public servant, not a politician. He is an expert in renewable energy who will bring that deep knowledge and passion to Congress at a time when politicians are playing hot potato with America's future.

Even George W. Bush now agrees that it will take renewable energy solutions to end America's dangerous addiction to oil. The nexus of our national security debate on energy is now firmly in line with where Jerry McNerney has been situated for decades. Furthermore, Jerry has a vision to make the 11th District the epicenter of the renewable energy sector, bringing a full spectrum of jobs to the area.

Simply put, Jerry McNerney is the right man in the right place at the right time.

Finally, as Matt so eloquently pointed out, Jerry is a genuine and authentically honest man who will bring integrity to Washington and be accountable to the people who elected him.

That is about as "electable" as it gets.

2:47 AM, March 25, 2006  
Blogger CF said...

See, now those are some positive comments about a candidate that I appreciate! I look forward to more people commenting who aren't closely linked to either campaign or working for this site.

Now back to what the initial post was about: IL-06.

Cegelis received ~23,000 votes in the 2004 primary. Her opponent (Berry) received around 12,000.

In 2006, Cegelis received just under 13,000 votes. Duckworth won with 14,000 votes, and Scott garnered 5,000 votes. (I think six precincts have yet to be counted)

Two questions:

1) Scott obviously had an impact on the final vote count, likely taking many of Cegelis' potential votes. Matt, you mentioned Steve Thomas' charismatic speaking style, and more 'progressive' values. Will Steve Thomas' presence in the CD-11 primary parallel the situation in IL-06, in that McNerney may lose critical votes in a close race?

2) Even with a 3+ year head start in establishing a campaign, solidifying volunteer support, and making people aware of her presence and stance on the issues, Cegelis lost about 7000 votes in 2006 (using the number of people who voted for her opponent(s): 12000 in 2004 --> 19000 in 2006). Why did so many decide not to support her the second time around? Was this solely a outspending issue? People rallying around Obama's endorsement (a Senator that is widely supported and trusted)? People not wanting to go with a candidate that already lost once before? Were voters more excited by the other candidates?

There are multiple reasons (as I stated in my previous comment) that Filson has obtained increasing support from inside and outside CD-11. Matt, when you say that various candidates who have endorsed Filson "don't support him on ideological grounds," you seem to imply that they are being underhanded and dishonest in their support. It isn't as if someone is extorting endorsements from honorable and trustworthy people like Rep. George Miller, State Sen. Mike Machado, and General Wesley Clark. They are behind the candidate that they prefer, and the candidate they trust most to serve CD-11. In addition, Filson is making great strides in five months to try to catch up to the 100 or so volunteers that McNerney has gained over the last two plus years. It took some time to get the ball rolling (I mean, do you remember his initial website!?), but there is increasing momentum now.

We'll see what John and Jane Voter have to say on June 6th.

1:53 PM, March 25, 2006  
Anonymous Rick said...

To answer the first question, I strongly doubt Thomas will have a significant effect on the results. While he is more skilled at public speaking than Filson or McNerney (or for that matter most people who run for elected office), that's all his campaign has. (As an aside, I should note that Thomas has stated publicly that his public speaking skills are why he is going to unseat Pombo). He hasn't reported raising any money, nor has he picked up any significant endorsements. I would estimate that he would get, at most, 10% of the primary vote.

Second, the obvious point about IL-06 is that a plurality of the electorate had a different opinion about the Democratic candidates than the self-touted "grassroots." Like the 2004 Democratic presidential primary, perhaps this suggests that the "grassroots" may not reflect the types of broad voter sentiments it claims to represent.

6:54 PM, March 25, 2006  
Blogger Matt said...

CF,

I'm only going to give quick comments because I have things I need to do. But bear with me.

1) As I understand it, Scott was a university professor with a strong base of support around the university. Steve Thomas has no comparable base in the district. That's part of his problem. He does not have any money to get out his message, has no institutional support to get out his message or from which to recruit volunteers, and thus even people who like him on a personal level won't get behind his campaign. Most folks who're paying attention at this point are practical enough to like Thomas' speeches but back another candidate. Unless the race is ver, very close, or unless something weird happens, I doubt Thomas' votes will be deciscive. That said, I think it's pretty likely that the votes he does get will most likely come from people who would have voted for McNerney over Filson.

2) I think you have to recognize that it's very difficult to win a Democratic primary in Chicago when you're running against the Democratic machine, especially when national Democratic figures like the senators (Obama and Durbin), Hilary Clinton, etc. support your opponent. Furthermore, Duckworth has a very compelling story (an Iraq War vet who lost both her legs and is now running for Congress) and that story plus the institutional support got her tons of free media. George Stephanopolous interviewed her on television, he didn't interview Christine Cegelis. And lastly, Duckworth massively outspent Cegelis. A ground game can compete with some things, but television ads done by Barack Obama in Illinois, where he's hugely popular, are effective. The whole point of the article is not that Duckworth won, it's that everyone was talking about her winning by 20%. The fact that it was so close showed how strong Cegelis was and how substantial her base of support was. If the DCCC et al had stayed out of the race, there's no question that Cegelis would have mopped the floor with Duckworth.

3) I did not intend to imply that the people endorsing Filson were doing so out of compulsion. What I meant was that Miller and Pelosi specifically were not endorsing Filson because they shared his ideological backing. So there's something else going on.

Plainly, they prefer Filson to McNerney. But my point was that while the simple fact that they are backing Filson will have some (probably significant) effect on the primary, that does not imply that their preference is warranted based on the strength of the candidates.

To bring this back to IL-06, everyone in the DCCC wrote Cegelis off and went on and on about how her grassroots support was just hype. Well it plainly was NOT hype. And though Tammy Duckworth won a narrow victory with the help of Obama, Hilary Clinton, Rahm Emanuel, the AFL-CIO (obviously the fact that they're not aligned with the DCCC in CA-11 helps McNerney), etc., Cegelis still proved that the DCCC was WRONG about her strength and her support among the grassroots.

Furthermore, I think we need to remember that the forces a member of Congress are subject to are different than the forces that a voter are subject to. For someone like George Miller, it matters whether Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emanuel are backing Filson in a different way than it matters to your average voter. And I think that the bare fact that Ellen Tauscher and Rahm Emanuel backed Filson gave him some sort of institutional inertia within the Congress and within the Democratic elected officials. But as much as I cannot deny the effect of this inertia (for example, I fully expect Filson to raise tens of thousands of dollars in the final week of the FEC quarter due to the support of Pelosi and Miller), we still can look back retrospectively and ask whether the support was warranted. Put another way, if they knew then what we know now, would they still have made the same decision? I hope that Zoe Lofgren and Nancy Pelosi backed Filson because they thought he'd be able to get grassroots support, that he'd get the backing of Labor, and that he'd raise more money on his own within the district than he has, in fact, raised. I understand that there cannot be any way that the Democratic Party establishment can save face other than to continue backing Filson at this point. But there is a strategic problem when you run someone against your own party base. And I really hope that the party leadership didn't understand how completely they were doing this when they backed Filson. And the case of IL-06 certainly makes me think that the Democrats in DC might have been affected by a serious case of group-think premised on some basic miscalculations. I know we'll have to see what happens in June, but I can tell you now Steve Filson's support among the Democratic grassroots is minuscule. He might still win. Duckworth won after all. But I do know that if Steve Filson wins in June, he will do so only at great cost to the long-term health and vitality of the Democratic Party grassroots within his district.

4) Chris, you are sorely mistaken if you think Jerry McNerney has only got 100 volunteers in the last couple of years. McNerney got over 100 people to attend his kickoff in Tracy. He also got more in-lieu of filing fee signatures than any Congressional candidate in California. These signatures had to be gathered by people in the district and they could only gather the signatures from the county in which they resided. And McNerney still got 1,661 which at 5 signatures/hr (5 contacts/hr is pretty standard door canvassing rates, and I know they were canvassing for these sigs) equals something like 332 man-hours. And if you factor in normal errors is collecting signatures that weren't valid for one reason or anther, you're talking about a minimum of 350 man-hours of canvassing (not everyone's favorite activity) four to five months before the primary! And, let me reiterate, this was all by definition volunteers from the district. So even if Filson has 100 volunteers, he still has lots of work to do to catch up to McNerney's number of volunteers.

7:23 PM, March 25, 2006  
Anonymous nicholas said...

i think we, within the mcnerney campaign, have done our support base a deservice by stating *100 volunteers*. when we say that we mean 100 individuals who are either full-time volunteer staffers, part-time volunteer staffers, committee chairs, precinct captains, phone bank workers or are in charge of a specific project...

what folks need to keep in mind is that precinct captains and committe chairs have anywhere from 0 to 10 persons supporting them.

additionally, we have recieved contributions from over 650 individuals (last quarters numbers...updated figures in a couple weeks).. and we have a couple thousand folks who recieve communications from us via email.

and thats all before we even get into all the Labor members whom Jerry stays in continued contact with...(and im not just taking labor leaders..jerry stays in contact with rank and file too)...nor does it include the dem clubs that have endorsed Jerry.

i could go on but i think cf mentioned a desire to hear from others...

sos out!!

7:46 PM, March 25, 2006  

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