some reasons for confidence
One year ago, in the fall of 2005, I was locked down in the process of ghost-writing a grant proposal to fund an effort to empower blogs to help Democrats take back the House of Representatives.
My first task in writing that proposal was to convince people a Democratic take-back of the House was even remotely possible.
Things have changed.
None of us will know the reults of the 2006 mid-term elections till...well..later tonight. But here's a couple reasons I'm confident and here's some of the exit poll data I'll be looking out for...
Reasons for Confidence:
1. I think history will look back and see the election of Democrat Tim Kaine in Virginia in 2005 as a turning point in United States politics.
The GOP put everything they had into that race and lost. The President's effort did not produce a victory in a red state. That election, admittedly for a governorship, proved that the Democratic domestic agenda had real appeal in a state like Virginia. Kaine was a good, but not great candidate, his victory was telling us that Democrats could win in the post-2004, post-9/11 environment.
2. There are a number of key races where we should be more vulnerable than we are, and there are also races that we are surprisingly competitive.
The Washington and Minnesota Senate races are surprisingly uncompetitive. Both Republican opponents could easily have mounted better campaigns. However, given that, the GOP is simply not threatening the Democrats in two states where two, four or six years ago, they likely would have done so.
That is a reason for confidence tonight. Our surpising competitiveness, however, is an even greater reason.
There are races like CA-11, which I've seen first hand, and CA-04, which I've seen from a distance, where the GOP was re-districted into a safe seat in 2000...and despite that fact, the GOP is facing honest-to-goodness challenges from Democratic insurgents. These races should be GOP cake walks.
The fact that the nation will have to tune in tonight to see if Jerry McNerney defeats Richard Pombo says something enormous, imo, about the state of domestic politics in the US.
3. Murtha, the War and "Cut and Run"
Americans want a change of course in Iraq. I think history will see the "smack down" that greeted Representative Murtha as the central GOP mistake of the 2006 elections.
The GOP Congress failed to understand that Americans wanted a change of course in Iraq. The proper strategic response to Murtha would have been legislation that agreed with or co-opted Murtha's message.
Instead the GOP Congress vilified Murtha. That sent a clear message to the nation. Whatever one thinks about the Democrats vs. the GOP on national defense and security issues, at the end of the "Murtha moment" it was clear that there was only one party interested in offering a change of course and an exit strategy in Iraq. Imo, the GOP will lose Senate and House seats on that moment alone.
Those are my three reasons for confidence. Here's the three exit poll factors I'm looking for:
1. How do Catholics vote?
Studying the GOP weak "band" that stretches from NH, upstate NY, into PA and OH and Indiana makes me wonder if the GOP has begun to lose some Catholic voters in that region who had "held on" to the GOP over social issues. I will be watching the Catholic vote.
2. How do Latinos vote?
From what I saw doing GOTV in California, the GOP assault on immigration policy may have created a backlash among Latino voters. (Not enough to change the tide of the CA Governor's race...I don't think.) I am very interested in how Latinos vote and how strongly they identify with one party or the other. The GOP may have created a critical weakness in the West and Mountain West by indulging immigration rhetoric that put off millions of Latinos and came off as simply xenophobic and anti-immigrant.
That issue may be the stealth issue that costs Richard Pombo his seat in Congress. (JD Hayworth too?)
3. Finally, I'm very interested in how Parents with Children vote.
The Democrats lost this demographic cruelly in 2004. An even modest return to split household voting could have enormous impact on races around the country.
Families with children are the one demographic who interact with out political system at pretty much every level (schools, health care, senior policy, home ownership, taxation etc. etc.) If families move, even slightly, back to being receptive to Democratic domestic policy iniatives, we are looking for a whole new playing field for the 2008 Presidential election.
I have no predictions to make. But I am confident that signficant changes are happening within the American electorate.
I look forward with hope and interest to the returns tonight. There's alot here to examine and learn from.