A Primer on the 2010 US House and Senate Elections

By Al Giordano

The national conversation among political junkies, insiders and reporters over whether the Republican party can take the US House and/or Senate this November is fraught with dysfunction, so it’s really hard to reach beyond the many smokescreens and attempted manipulations of public opinion to get a good read on it.

The comparisons to 1994, when then-House Minority Leader Newt Gingrich and his “Contract for America” brought GOP triumph in 52 Democratic congressional districts, ending 72 years of Democratic control of the House, are manifold. It was the midterm election after a Democrat (Bill Clinton) won the White House, and the ghost of ’94 still has Democrats spooked, Republicans pumped and political reporters and pundits reaching for the easy comparison.

I covered those elections in ’94 for The Boston Phoenix, and let me please just point out some key differences between then and now:

As of last year, 62 percent of Americans had Internet access in the home (and 82 percent of those had broadband). That wasn’t the case in 1994. As late as 1997, only 17 percent of Americans had Internet access in the home. And, today, about 90 percent of US homes have cable or satellite TV. That was a healthy 62 percent in 1994, but without the screaming cable news channels like Fox on the right or General Electric’s MSNBC counter-programming to reach a liberal demographic audience. CNN was basically the only national cable news channel in town in 1994.

Back then, network TV news and daily newspapers were all powerful in determining the political discourse in the United States: ABC, CBS and NBC, and their local affiliates, were royalty. Their news shows were the most important slot for candidates to place their campaign ads, because that's where most of the voters could be found each night. Network TV news and daily newspapers still enjoyed the illusion of authority. People actually believed that what the local TV newscaster or the editorial page writer said was true!

What has changed since 1994 is that the American populace has splintered into thousands of sub-demographic groups and is getting its news and forming its political opinions based on a wide variety of media sources. The golden age of network and daily newspaper dominance over the electoral choices made by citizens has evaporated.

I take you on this stroll down this Amnesia Lane because the new media landscape makes it less likely that electoral history in 2010 will so cleanly repeat what occurred in 1994. I’m not saying that it is impossible that the Republicans could take the House or the Senate or both. What I’m saying is that if it does happen, it won’t happen because the dominant national media discourse (as it did in 1994) stokes an electoral stampede, but, rather, it will happen because one party outmaneuvered the other, one contest at a time, in 50 or 60 key congressional districts and senate contests, more or less.

November will not be a national election, but a series of separate state and congressional district elections each with their own dynamics. (Ironically, former US House Speaker Tip O’Neill’s credo, that “all politics is local,” is even more true today than it was when he said it in the years leading up to 1994.)

Much ado has been made over a recent Gallup poll showing a reported ten-percentage point gap between Americans who say they would vote for a generic Republican over a generic Democrat for Congress. First of all, generic candidates aren’t going to be on anyone’s ballot this November. (I’m reminded of another popular political axiom: that most Americans hate Congress but they like their own district’s congressman.) But even if we presume that the generic poll offers at least some guidance as to what will happen in November, the fact remains that the Gallup poll is almost an outlier among the sum total of public opinion surveys on that question.

Mark Blumenthal at pollster.com points out that the average of all polls on the question show not a ten percent difference in generic party preference for Congress, but, rather, a five point (and according to the average that includes newer polls, a four point) advantage for Republicans (which, if it doesn’t increase by November, would point to GOP gains in Congress but short of an outright majority that would shift which party controls the gavel and the committee chairmanships). Five points is actually quite normal for a year like this, given American voter tendencies to lean toward the party not in the White House during midterm elections:

But headlines that merely tell the truth – “Normal Election Forecast for November” – don’t sell newspapers, or keep you glued to the TV or Internet screen. And beyond the transparent effort by so many in the media to grab your attention with apocalyptic warnings for Democrats or triumphant teasers for Republicans, there is another level of duplicity going on behind the curtain.

If you look at the comments section under Blumenthal’s “just the facts, M’am” essay you can see the partisans on each side cheering or attacking each pollster based on whether the results fit what the commenter wants to happen. But that’s the rank-and-file party activist or sympathizer position. Up above, in the war rooms of the political consultants and party operatives, Democrats are actually stoking the reports of their own demise under the belief that they will scare their grassroots troops into action. (And that explains, for example, why the Democratic-leaning New York Times has already sensationalized its new team member Nate Silver’s Senate projections to imply something that Nate’s own numbers do not: a GOP takeover of the Senate: the headline accurately states “New Forecast Shows Democrats Losing 6 to 7 Senate Seats,” but the lede paragraph jumps immediately to the doom and gloom scenario: “The Democrats now have an approximately 20 percent chance of losing 10 or more seats in the Senate.”)

Using the 538 model, which is still useful if one can look beyond the NY Times editors’ spin on it and just at the hard numbers, there are in fact just eight states in which the aggregate difference in the polls show a contest to be within five points. It is in these states where the control of the Senate will be decided: Democratic seats in Colorado, Nevada, Illinois, Washington, California and Wisconsin plus Republican seats Kentucky and in Florida where Governor Charlie Crist, running as an independent, could wrestle the seat from the extremist Marco Rubio. Other states still in play include Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, while Senate elections in Alaska and Delaware could take turns toward the crazy and still get into play by November.

If you live in one of those states, then, yes, you’ve got a battle on your hands. If you live in an nearby state without a competitive contest, and you were active in the 2008 presidential campaign, you’ll likely receive an invitation to come knock on doors (or make phone calls from your own) in the neighboring state very soon, if you haven’t already.

A similar political logic is at play in the House. If there are 50 or 60 or 70 congressional districts where one party might wrestle the seat from the other, that means that 80 to 85 percent of Americans live in districts where the incumbent party will almost certainly retain control. In the coming weeks I will try to produce a list of the remaining 15 to 20 percent of congressional districts that are in play, because that is where the action is going to be this fall. Feel free to use the comments section here to offer your nominees for that list and explain how you know that contest is close enough to go either way.

In those closer contests, a lot depends on the individual candidates and the competence of their campaigns. Organizing for America – Obama’s grassroots political army, now part of the Democratic party – has made lists of all the first time voters from 2008 in each of those contested districts and a lot will ride on whether they can be inspired or pulled by the ear to actually vote. That’s not going to happen because of duplicitous scare tactics. That kind of thing only happens the way it did in 2008: through person-to-person recruitment, effective door knocking, phone banking and the deployment of community organizers in social networks, and not just the online variety.

Another factor that cuts somewhat against GOP chances to retake the House or Senate is the dysfunction in its own party ranks, between the Republican establishment and the in-house radicals broadly painted as “tea party” factions. Think Progress has a very interesting story that reveals seven congressional and three senate elections (as well as various gubernatorial races) where the Republican candidate defeated in that party’s primary has not endorsed the party's nominee: there is a lot of internecine bad blood flowing inside the GOP ranks. And in cases where the more radical “tea party” associated candidate won many primaries, the sheer battiness of the nominee produced is going to scare some voters away (and this phenomenon could still happen in some contests yet to have their primaries, such as the Republican senate primary in Delaware).

In this sense, a political parody site like Wonkette has become more relevant to the 2010 midterm elections than the entirety of the so-called Netroots, which in 2006 became a kind of kingmaker in the Democrats’ midterm electoral triumphs. I tuned out completely on the Netroots blogs since June and only started browsing them again recently, and its as if they’re stuck on autopilot, still debating “Obama, good or bad” and blissfully disinterested in the midterm elections, certainly compared to where they were in 2006. On the eve of the 2010 elections, they’re still infighting like it’s 2009! Meanwhile, day in, day out, Wonkette is producing wonderful caricature profiles of the insane class of GOP congressional and senate nominees this year, and is actually driving the media discourse about them.

Likewise, the cable TV political shows on Comedy Central – The Daily Show and The Colbert report – have become far more relevant to the national political discourse than any host on MSNBC or even Fox, which has gone down the Glenn Beck rabbit hole in a manner that only increases the dysfunction inside the GOP. Fox and the “tea party” minions it has stoked are now the Republican Party’s own version of the 2010 Netroots: mirrors on each side of the partisan divide that seem more concerned with asserting their own illusory relevance and factional power than with actually getting out there and winning general elections in November.

In the cases of Wonkette and Comedy Central the defining edge is, of course, a sense of humor, or, more importantly, not having lost one. My own coverage of the upcoming US midterm elections will try to adhere more closely to theirs than to the humorless pundits, talk show hosts and bloggers of the right and the left. That took a summer of turning all of them off to rewire my own news gathering habits and get back to the basics of researching what the actual numbers really show us.

The two main points I would like to make are: First, that it will not be the end of the world if a new generation of GOP circus clowns take over the House or the Senate (an event, that if it happened, would create its own backlash by 2012), and; Second, that it is still more likely that the Democrats hold onto both houses than that the GOP takes either of them. The outcome will be decided by efforts like those of Organizing for America, and whether Democrats can successfully package their opponents in so many districts as the mentally unstable whack jobs that so many GOP primaries have produced for 2010.

The fact is that there is not one election this November, but up to eighty separate ones where the control of the House and Senate will be determined. Each one has its own unique candidates and dynamics. And on the congressional district level, and in the less populace states, these are contests where a sole volunteer with good community organizing chops could still make the difference between victory or defeat.

Update: Wonkette asks the Internets, with a quote from this essay, Are You People Driving the Media Discourse? Heh.

Are you ready for some football, Field Hands?


Makes sense to me. I think

Makes sense to me. I think Nate's model is probably overestimating the impact that the national narrative will have on Senate races, given that there isn't a presidential race on top of it all to nationalize things. The past year is littered with proof of the axiom that all politics are local from special elections, most especially the one in Massachusetts.  We'll have to wait and see on the House model, but something tells me the same may be true. We'll see. I just wish the many of the Dems on the Hill weren't so prone to curling into a fetal position, because they could probably do something more to bolster their outlook if they were a tad bolder.

Welcome back!!!

Been a very long summer without your sanity!!!!!!!!!! your thoughts have been missed terribly! I have bookmarked this page and will read it over and over knowing it will restore my sanity......

Thank you!

One thing people ought to

One thing people ought to keep in mind is that the biggest Senate swing EVER won in a particular election was in 1994, +8 for the Republican party and -8 for the Democrats (I can't remember how many seats were up for each of them, but that Senate 'class' was a Democratic majority just like the full Senate was). For them to win 10 seats this year would be an immense statistical outlier (and bear in mind that this Senate class dates back to 2004, which was 19-15 in favor of the GOP - for the GOP to pick up 10 seats in one fell swoop, it'd have to swing to a whopping 29-5). They'd have to win an even GREATER majority, by an incredible percentage, within a Senate class that the GOP already dominates. The immensity of such a victory, cast in this light, helps to show how absurd it would be.

Paying attention to history and to how things work will do a LOT to help show you how crazy the idea of the GOP taking the Senate is.

Of course, looking down the line, 2012 and 2014 are going to involve Senate classes that are slanted heavily toward the Democrats (coming off of 2006 and 2008 respectively) - and 2016 will involve one that is, especially after this November, heavily slanted toward the GOP again. It'll be interesting to see how this affects the Presidential elections in 2012 and 2016 (and the popular perceptions and misperceptions of them). Another factor to watch going into 2012 is how Supreme Court politics are going to come into play if, as I suspect, Obama will replace all four liberal SCOTUS justices with younger ones by the end of his first term, and if, as I suspect, Anthony Kennedy will be retiring not too terribly long after the 2012 elections, it would mean that 2012 will potentially be a year in which not only the Senate and the White House are in play, but also (by proxy) the balance of the Supreme Court for quite a long time to come.

As far as the classes-of-the-Senate thing is concerned, that's why 2010 is a big deal in my eyes - it should have been the last chance for the Democrats to make pickups in the Senate for the third election in a row, as something of a bulwark against the likely inertial slide toward the GOP in 2012 and in 2014, and the GOP is certainly seeing it as a way to set things up so that that same inertial slide will put them in control of the Senate in 2012.

This isn't considering the specific races involved, for which apologies to Al.

Thank God for authentic journalists

Sober analysis is what's missing these days.  This blog is like a breath of fresh air.  Sadly, too many on the Left, as well as the Right, have difficulty turning off the raging dialogue of the story of the week -- or day, as it really is with online media. 

We could all stand to sit in the dark for a few minutes, TV and internet boxes off, and think. 

Thanks, Al. 

I'm sure I'm apostate for

I'm sure I'm apostate for saying this, but I like Chris Bowers' model. Just average all the recent polls together. It was a fairly accurate predictor in 2008 and he's modified it now. I'm not sure if that is going to be kept up, which is a shame, because I'd like to see it in action.

Also anecdotally I seem to recall that Dems overpeform in generic ballots by about 2%.

Thanks for this Al and I'm

Thanks for this Al and I'm glad you're back. This is the first blog I've seen to actually list which Senate seats are in play and therefore which states need our energy and participation. The pragmatic nature of this blog always brings me back.

I've already been contacted by the local OFA

And local Democrats for canvassing. While I can't really canvass in the heat, if I can find some other way to help I will do so. The biggest gift that Obama has given the Democratic party is OFA, like Dean did with his DFA Both groups are focusing on getting out the vote again, and they are already doing this without fuss or much attention. Meanwhile the Republicans look like they will once again depend on their 72-hour strategy. But a 72 hour strategy can only work in the previous vaccuum of a no-hour strategy by the Democrats where they waited until Election Day to mobilize anything. The Dems this time are working on early voting in many states, which will bank votes weeks in advance. Another development you might write about Al, is the increased voter registration happening in Ohio through welfare offices. Apparently it's at a record pace, and I expect that's true around the nation as people apply for food stamps and other bennies. Motor Voter might be more potent than people realize.

One Nation

What impact do you think the Oct. 2  One Nation rally will have on Dem enthusiasm and poll attendence?  I think they're just now putting together some of the logistics.

Personally I think nationwide rallies are a better idea this year or a lot of political, financial and logistic reasons.  And while GOTV contacts may be the top priority it seems to me this event could help give the Dems a small boost.

Not waiting for OFA

Well the scare tactics might not work on first time voters, but they worked on me.  I was going to sit this election out and wait for 2012, but now I've contacted my county Dems and intend to roll up my sleeves on this one, if for no other reason than to be able to sleep after the elections.

Welcome back, Al...this is great.

@ CarolDuhart

In light of your comments on registering people to vote at welfare offices, the DoJ recently began requiring public assistance offices in all 50 states to provide voter registration forms:


Ohio is ahead of the game here because ACORN previously sued the state to enforce the Motor Voter law.

Registering to vote at Public Assistance offices

The Motor Votor act requires more than just making voter registration forms available.  It also requires that the workers help the applicants fill our the forms and then transmit those forms to the proper agency.

Sec. 1973gg-5 Voter registration agencies

(i) Distribution of mail voter registration application forms in accordance with paragraph (6).

(ii) Assistance to applicants in completing voter registration application forms, unless the applicant refuses such assistance.

(iii) Acceptance of completed voter registration application forms for transmittal to the appropriate State election official.

This is a wonderful organizing tool.

Feingold will win by 200,000+ votes.

Averaging bad polling doesn't fix the flaws common to all of them.

Magellan's the worst, their universe is 2008 voters, categorically excluding 18 and 19 year olds, who always vote at the top rate in the nation here, thanks largely to our at the polls registration. We also have medical marijuana referenda on the ballot in Madison and River Falls.

The UW Badger poll called random land lines in late June-early July, until they had 500 respondents. 248 were 60 or older, just 17 under 30. They then weight, of course, but don't tell us if ANY of those 17 were in the youngest eligible demographic.

My ears on the ground have libertarian-minded republicans and Libertarians reconsidering Feingold. "I don't like McCain-Feingold, but the Supreme court has already settled that." To this sector, Russ' Patriot Act stance, opposition to the Afghan war, and decisive vote to block renewal of the assault weapons ban may outweigh the economics. Johnson's actually more a neocon than Tea Party Republican.

Despite oue easy ballot access laws, there's no Green Party or Libertarian candidate running.

Once they appear together in debates, it becomes a rout.

(The Governor's race will indeed be very close, as Barrett can't escape a gungrabber record in a State that voted 74% to put an individual right to keep and bear in the State Constitution as recently as 1998.)

Scott McAdams in AK

He's got a real shot at winning, especially given how the Republicans split down the middle between Murkowski and Miller. This could be at least one pickup that no one saw coming.  I have family in Sitka who speak highly of McAdams.  He's built a lot of solid connections around the state both in education and in governance.

Anyone else having a Gandalf

Anyone else having a Gandalf moment here? Al, the grey wizard, disappears for a long period during a dark time, when crazies on the Right and chicken little poutragers on the Left seem to be overwhelming the country's discourse. But then, just at the nick of time, Al the White Wizard returns to bring his light of Thoughtful Sanity to the political world.

OK, so I haven't noticed any color changes so far, and I don't know how Al is with magic tricks, but other than that, whew! It's been a long dark summer, especially with no Field updates, and us regular readers are glad you're back.

Welcome back, Al!

It's good to have you around for the fourth quarter stretch run when the game will be won or lost.


I have a question about your list of Senate seats: you don't mention North Carolina, which is a decidedly vulnerable Republican seat (the truly awful Richard Burr). Is that an oversight or do you know something I don't know? Elaine Marshall is an excellent candidate who is well-known in the state, currently serving as NC's Secretary of State. She's a tough, no-nonsense fighter for working folk. She's hovering within 5 points in early polling, and Burr is below 45%. The OFA network here is strong, with a good track record in turning the state blue in 2008. Tea Partiers here peaked during the health care debate and have lost a lot of steam since then, as far as I can tell.

Murray vs. Rossi in WA

Here are some factors that make Washington State, Patty Murray vs. Dino Rossi one to watch for a close race.

Primary results appeared to favor Republicans.  When I add the total votes for all the candidates who indicated they preferred the Republican/GOP party I got 723,250.  When I added the total votes cast for Democrats, I got 703,878.  That left 22,917 votes for either centrist, reform or no party preference.  The key county in this race is King County which overwhelmingly leans Democrat.  In this election King County voters only turned in 37.81% of their ballots in time to be counted.  At least 8,000 ballots were received with postmarks later than election day.  Washington State is 100% vote-by-mail.  I’ve read that this low turnout in King County for a primary is normal going back many cycles, and that general elections bring in more votes.  The King County GOTV apparatus is really going to have to step up their game and emphasize early voting to avoid so many ballots being cast late.  Some education about dropping ballots in mail boxes that have already had their last pickup, etc. is in order.

Dino Rossi has run statewide campaigns before and performed well.  He came within 103 votes of becoming Governor in his first attempt and still had a very strong showing in his second: 46.76% to Gregoire’s 53.24%.  Bear in mind that it was 2008 and Obama was on the ballot.  Not the case this time.

Libertarian candidate Clint Didier scooped up a lot of Rossi’s support in the Primary, receiving about 185,000 votes or 12.76%.  Thus far Didier has refused to endorse Rossi, but his voters will hold their noses and vote for Rossi even without an endorsement.  Lesser of two evils.  I believe the sticking point is abortion, which is the third rail in WA politics.

What does Patty Murray have going for her?  She is a much better politician than Rossi’s former opponent Gregoire.  Gregoire is great at governing, but sucks at running for office.  Patty Murray (in my opinion) is completely non-threatening and has done very little to tarnish her mom-in-tennis-shoes image.  She’s pretty tough and a very hard worker and not afraid to hit below-the-belt.  I believe she has the support of the military and Boeing employees.  She’s worked tirelessly to bring money to WA to create jobs and protect the ones that are here.  I think she has what it takes to fill the vacuum that Rossi leaves by refusing to define himself.  Her campaign is capable of stepping in and defining him for the voters.  I know nothing about her apparatus or how nimble it is.  Having Obama come to Seattle on Primary day was a nice touch.  I believe she knows how to play the game.

This is not going to be a cakewalk for Murray.  Rossi is an experienced politician with a great deal of support in WA.

Random responses

Ben - I tend to agree that Feingold will hold on. He's a dogged campaigner and won't take anything for granted (Martha Coakley style). What are your prognostications for David Obey's vacancy seat in WI 7?

Alan - Before getting too invested in Alaska I'm waiting to see if Murkowski really does jump in as an Independent. And then, if she does, does she pull a Crist and whisper about caucusing with the Democrats? But, yes, that is a contest to keep a close eye on and put some money into if it becomes three way.

Fighting Bill - Everything you say about the playing field in North Carolina is spot on. I will give it a closer look. Do you have any thoughts on Larry Kissel's reelection hopes in NC 8?

Tien Li - Thanks for the primer on WA Senate contest. My instinct is that Murray will pull through but it will be real fight. What can you tell us about the contests in WA 3 (where Baird retired) and WA 8 (Reichert's seat), where anybody's gotta be a better D candidate than Darcy Burner was (she was good on issues but Meh as a campaigner; didn't emanate a ready-for-prime time glow).

If the Rs take the House

I agree, they'll screw themselves in 2012. I'm in Darryl Issa's district (no chance of getting rid of him--you never even know the name of the Dem opposing him until you see the ballot), and I guarantee that if the Rs take the house they will impeach Obama, with Darryl Issa leading the charge. It's rumored that Issa's staff are trying to calm him down, because he's gone nuts over all the subpoenas he wants to issue. 

Doesn't matter that they have nothing to impeach him for. That didn't stop them with Clinton. Doesn't matter that they can't convict. That didn't stop them with Clinton either.

The want to grind the legislation process to a complete halt so that the country can't recover before the next election. 

I think that will happen anyway. Even if we keep the House, I doubt there will be much more legislation. Obama said as much in his interview with Brian Williams. There are more things he can do, he said, but mostly not through legislation. I would imagine that's the reason Obama worked so fast--he knew these last two years were his only shot in this term.

Ergo, I'm not going to be all that upset if the Rs take the House. They merely would spend two years reminding the country how they crashed the economy in the first place, and demonstrate just how far outside the mainstream they are. It would be quite a spectacle. It may make me want to immigrate, however.

So glad you're back to writing about 'Murrika for awhile, Al! I know you do fantastic work south of the border, but I think you're needed up here almost as much.

WA 8th

WA8 will feature Suzan DelBene.  Her first hurdle will be to overcome the lack of name recognition against Reichert.  Something different this time than when Darcy Burner was running is that The Seattle Times has withdrawn its support from Reichert. That’s big.  They claim he was ill-prepared and defensive when he met with the editorial board and they’re quite unhappy with his record in office.

The 8th has been close to going Dem for some time now, and I’m feeling positive about her chances.  She really seems to have her ducks in a row and appears to have unqualified support from the entire Democratic system.  She’s smart, has an interesting life story and has a proven record of leadership and job creation.  She also has the advantage of bringing the Microsoft culture to the table, which is important in the 8th

Her mixture of ‘likeable nerd’, local mom, business entrepreneur, Microsoft alum is a winning combination.  The grassroots in the 8th are very active and determined.  I think they want this more than the opposition does.  They have a long, uphill row to hoe, but man I like her potential.  I think they will quickly bridge the enthusiasm gap

Wish I could be more ‘insider’ for you, but I’ve been on hiatus myself and recently moved from the 7th to the 2nd, where, by the way, Rick Larsen is not exactly a shoe-in either.

I know nothing at all about WA3.

Hello from MO

Good to hear from Al and the Fieldhands! 

The Missouri Senate Race between Robin Carnahan and Roy Blunt is tight.  $$ is flying in from all over the right side of the fence.  Robin is our Secretary of State.  Roy Blunt is in the House.  Robin is the daughter of Mel Carnahan, who beat John Ashcroft in the election for the Senate, after he died in a plane crash.  Robin's brother is Russ Carnahan, is running for re-election as my Representative in the House. 

So...I am working for a sister and a brother to go to Washington. 

Thought this link would be of interest.  Comments included.  Senior Citizen Journalists with Cell cameras rolling.


WI 7

Julie Lassa should hold the seat for the Ds, but i'm much less confident than I am in Feingold's re-election. I'm not very fond of her, she was the decisive vote killing our medical marijuana bill in the State Senate Health Committee earlier this year, but the silver lining is if she wins she's out of state government. It's not even there was a political risk in her backing us, there's a large campus and rural hippie vote in her Stevens Point District, where I racked up my best totals in my primary v Herb Kohl.

I think that if the Rs take the House or Senate

It will set them back a decade. What the Republicans really need is another decade in the Wilderness, so that they can purge the crazies and create out of the hollowed party a Colin Powell/Rockefeller Republican coalition that can compete in moderate states. Such a coalition could be the "adult" party and an acceptable alternative. But if the kids in the Teabagger sandbox take over and convince the Democrats that they simply cannot be allowed to take the reigns-they will have to wait perhaps 50 years this time for another majority. Why? The Hispanic, and immigrant vote will completely turn against them along with the Millenials. The old 65+ Teabagger coalition simply cannot outvote, outorganize, and outmotivate this more diverse group. And what's worse, the barrier between generations is too wide and diverse for the Teabaggers to attract younger recruits. The Republicans will suffer badly because of this.

Funny comment on Wonkette

Comment posted by Aquacatero in response to the Field's article about Wonkette 'driving media discourse':

Being a political blog and getting praised by Al Giordano is like being a band and getting praised by some incredibly savvy and somewhat obscure critic who only unusually cool people even know about. Or else like having Velvet Underground cover YOUR song. In other words, good.

welcome back AL

good to see you posting again.


well, here in Illinois, I think Alexi will win, and I'm not enthused about him..


but, Pat Quinn will lose the Governorship.

Al, good to hear from you.

                                                                   E   v ery one    at the left is freaking about the economy and how it's going to kill the dems, blah.. blah... blah.

What's your take on that ?


Getting "Bandwagon" voters on, well, the bandwagon

Al, a while back you had a post about "Bandwagon" voters, http://narcosphere.narconews.com/thefield/3746/bandwagon-voters-and-dysf... , i.e., independent voters who don't follow politics closely and often choose on the basis of which party seems like the most fun (I'm paraphrasing, but your point was that poutrage and its various dysfunctions help send such voters elsewhere). In addition to doing the hard work of knocking on doors and similar good stuff, how does one appeal to bandwagon voters in tight congressional races? With official unemployment stuck at nine and a half percent, it seems like an awfully heavy lift (saying that things would be way worse with the other side in charge is a tough sell).


Murkowski cannot jump in as an Independent in Alaska, because she's past the filing deadline. She was denied the Libertarian Party nomination as well. She's not going to be part of the Senate race in Alaska.

NM-01 and NM-02 should definitely be on your list Al

It's probably already a given that NM-02 will be on your list, it's a Democratic-held seat in normally Republican territory with the former congressman running for the seat on the Republican side. There are probably plenty of people who are just writing the seat off and assuming that Steve Pearce will beat out Harry Teague, but while I'd probably consider Pearce the favorite to win the seat, my sense of things is that Harry Teague is actually pretty popular in the district. For those of you who don't know NM-02, it encompasses the southern part of the state, it's almost entirely composed of Republican-favored counties, the only source of Democratic strength in the district is Doña Ana County (where Las Cruces is). One big reason why Teague did so well in 2008 was because of his relative strength in Lea County (Hobbs) and Chaves County (Roswell) (it was 50/50 in Lea and 47/53 for Tinsley, to put this in perspective, John McCain beat Barack Obama 72-27 in Lea County and 62-37 in Chaves County). This advantage is probably not going to exist for Teague this time around though, as both he and Pearce are from Hobbs and you'll probably see the numbers move closer to normal (although I'd still expect Teague to easily break 30% in Lea county). What Teague is going to need to win is high Hispanic turnout (harder to do in NM-02 than the rest of the state as this area has the highest number of recent immigrants) and good college turnout in Las Cruces. Like I said, I think Pearce probably wins, but no one should write off Harry Teague just yet.

On NM-01 (Albuquerque, and my home district): There was a recent SUSA poll taken of the district giving the Republican, Jon Barela, a 6 point lead over incumbent Democrat Martin Heinrich, Heinrich's campaign then released a poll giving him a 12 point lead. My own sense of things is that the internal poll is closer to the truth than the SUSA poll (and I grant that I'm believing publicly-released campaign polling over a trusted pollster like SUSA and am very aware how that looks). Heinrich has been basically plastered his face on any public-service everywhere (including those ads telling everyone to get their Swine Flu shots last year). He's been pretty uncontroversial as an incumbent, and the Republicans' nominee is a second-tier candidate, certainly not a horrible candidate but not a spectacular one either. I'm pretty confident that Heinrich wins, but it'll probably be closer than one would think (maybe 53-47).

The big x-factor for both of these races is the competitive gubernatorial race, the Republicans did a really good job in candidate recruitment, I'm pretty amazed at how much Diane Denish (the current Lt. Governor) has fallen in her bid. Nate Silver pegs her chances at winning at 34%, and I hate to admit it, but that seems pretty close to reality. There has been a lot of corruption issues with New Mexico Democrats recently, including  a number of things that have lead back to Governor Richardson (the only politician that Richardson can look down on right now is David Paterson!) Denish is, like Steve Pearce and Harry Teague, from Hobbs but that is cancelled out by the fact that Susana Martinez is the Doña Ana County District Attorney. If Denish doesn't improve her numbers, there's a very good chance that she'll drag Teague down with her. I don't think she'll do poorly enough in Albuquerque to hurt Heinrich, but if she were to lose by more than 5 points against Martinez, Heinrich could have to deal with negative coattails.

Politics and more

8 straight months of private sector job growth

The month Obama took office (or perhaps the month before) the economy shed about 750,000 jobs in one month. That's just an amazing number. The stimulus bill passed at the end of February and started being implemented the next month if I'm not mistaken. If someone were to have told you then that within 8 months the economy will stop shedding jobs (discounting temporary census jobs) and start averaging adding around 80,000 jobs per month I think we all would have been elated.

Of course this is what has happened. 8 months after the stimulus bill was passed, we have now had 8 straight months of private sector job growth. Yes, the number is low, and isn't enough to cover those just entering the work force (need about 150,00/month for that), but the collective freak out over going form loosing 750,000 jobs in a month to adding jobs for 8 straight months is just insane.

Moreover, I think the Repubs faced a much more toxic environment in 2006 than the Dems do now, and yet the Dems only had a net gain of about thirty seats I believe. The Repubs will probably need around 40 to flip the house. In addition almost every poll I've seen has Dems + Repubs just about tied on a generic ballot. Pollster.com and other sites if I'm not mistaken average in Tracking Polls which really shouldn't be. If you look at just regular polls, almost all have about a dead heat, which of course does not equal a 40 seat gain for one side.

The poutrage and freakouts from our own side is really tiresome

No one should regard lightly a Republican takeover of Congress

There've been a couple of casual references above to not caring if the Republicans take the House in November.  That's a mistake of the first order, for these reasons:  (1) Yes, right-wing members would start an impeachment proceeding in order to disrupt the rest of Obama's term and attempt to discredit his reputation and place in history (the latter however is impossible, since unlike Republicans, historians follow the facts), (2) Yes, subpoenas would fly in all directions at the Obama Administration, to grind the federal government to a halt, (3) Meanwhile, the trough would deepen immediately for business lobbyists, to maximize the river of cash going to the Republican Party, (4) The mainstream media would be ecstatic, having a circus almost as big as Monica Lewinsky to report every day, the country would be further distracted from virtually every serious economic and environmental problem it faces, and the administration might be hampered in engaging in the vital diplomacy that will be critical in the Middle East and elsewhere in the next two years, since other nations would doubt Obama's sustainability, and (5) Within the Democratic Party, there would be new voices suggesting that this calamity could have been prevented had the White House had an aggressive political strategy to counter the absurdities underlying virtually every Republican claim about Obama and his administration's record, in order to retain control of Congress -- and those voices could encourage a challenge from within the party to Obama's renomination...if in fact he chose to run again.  In short, Obama would be seen as having led his party to a catastrophic reversal of political fortunes and might very well not be taken seriously as a political leader during the remainder of his term.

It would also be whistling past the graveyard to suggest that since Clinton suffered the loss of Congress in '94, he nevertheless rebounded to win in '96.  Excuse me, but the country faces infinitely greater problems now than it did in the halcyon '90s, and the Republican Party is substantially more irresponsible on policy and crazed in its ideology, than it was in '94. Moreover, there is no guarantee they will nominate a presidential candidate as personally unappealing and unmagnetic as Dole was in '96. 

So no one should imagine that Republicans retaking the House, much less the Senate, would not be a political disaster that could have historic effects.  This isn't a political game we're sitting in the stands to watch, this is a reality we are living -- the reality of how a severely challenged nation led by a unique and intelligent president is attempting to pull itself out of a drunken eight-year haze of governmental incompetence and not be mesmerized by a two-year dalliance of the mainstream media with fascist mouth-foaming and race-baiting that would have been dismissed as that only a few years ago.  For reasons known only to him, Barack Obama has been gliding through the irrationality of an increasingly belligerent political atmosphere as if it were nothing to be worried about.  I applaud his calmness of temperament, but you cannot lead if you're unwilling to define the historic stakes of an election the outcome of which is critical to whether the United States government can furnish responsible direction to a nation that is fearful about its economic future, and whether it can help avert a new war in the Middle East in the next few years.  We will shortly see if he can summon a sense of political energy proportionate to what's at stake.

"We will shortly see...

...if he can summon a sense of political energy proportionate to what's at stake."  

Thanks to Tribunus Plebis for the comment. 

Finally, cooler weather, even for a couple of days, allows me to get out and knock on some doors.  Behind these doors are people who voted for Barack Obama.  Now, they need to get out and vote in 2010, supporting candidates that can work with President Obama. 

I am completely grossed out thinking of the shit Republicans will throw at President Obama and ultimately, the citizens of US.   Trib pleb is correct:  This isn't a political game we're sitting in the stands to watch, this is a reality we are living -- the reality of how a severely challenged nation led by a unique and intelligent president is attempting to pull itself out of a drunken eight-year haze of governmental incompetence and not be mesmerized by a two-year dalliance of the mainstream media with fascist mouth-foaming and race-baiting that would have been dismissed as that only a few years ago.

Where's my clip-board?

How true is this story at NYT ?

                      Fewer Young Voters See Themselves as Democrats


If only some of the other blogs would get into organizing

I mean, early voting starts very soon. At least get people who read the blog to actually register if they haven't already registered, and get people ready to actually vote. I believe Obama won this because Dems were motivated to get out and early vote and then canvass for later voters. We can win this again especially facing a tide of crazy. But we need to get down to brass tacks, as some folks say and stop whining. And if the October 2 rally people are listening, could you also use this time to get out the vote as well? Obama had people at the rally text people and encourage them to vote as well. There is no reason why the same thing couldn't happen again at the October 2 rally. They campaign also was able to collect those e-mail and cell phone numbers and use them to help get out the box. In addition, get some politicos who need help and spotlight them at the rally as well. Some folks need face time very badly and every bit would help considerably.

OH First Congressional

Al: I, too, add a hearty "welcome back"! I agree that the outcomes will depend on how well local campaigns are conducted. I live in Ohio-1st, currently represented by Democrat Steve Driehaus (who beat the Republican incumbent Steve Chabot in '08). CNN considers this a "belleweather" race and sent a crew up here a few months ago to cover it. While I find myself getting sucked into the Dem Fear Frenzy, I totally agree with your assessment that the key is how effectively each campaign is handled locally. Driehaus is very intelligent, hard working, and does an excellent job of constituent outreach. An acquaintance told me one of his clients, a 70-ish small business owner who leans pretty conservative, relayed a story about a Driehaus appearance in front of a group of small business owners. This gentleman stated how impressed he was with Driehaus' grasp of facts and his depth of knowledge and understanding about the issues they discussed. He went on to say that his peers in the room shared his views on Driehaus. This will be a very interesting race here.

amk, that article is pure bs

check out the take down by  Benen


great to have Al back talking some sense.

Welcome Back Al

Whew! Just in time.

Thanks valvidia. So, as I suspected nyt is

              s   p i nn i ng    a g  ai n  .             

Jeez, msm will be the death of america.

@amk and valdivia

The worst part about that NYT article is that they don't even give an actual number for how Republicans are doing among the college age except for some generalizations and anecdotal evidence (seriously, they could give an exact number for the Democrats but not for the Republicans, that's just sloppy reporting).

Yes, midterms do tend to feature an electorate that is somewhat whiter and older than a presidential year (compare 2006 exit polls to 2008 exit polls) but what gives me some hope is that this year, the DNC is doing a lot of the targeted outreach to minorities and younger voters that has been sorely lacking from the party for a very long time (thank you Bill Clinton and Terry McAuliffe).

Politics and more


Elliot. great points and escatly why I have stopped reading the NYT.

Saw this today...

at Daily Kos and thought it was a great example of what is talked about here at The Field:



I think this sort of thing is happening all over America by the thousands, and I think people will be surprised come November and the carefully planned MegaMedia narratives will be wrong once again.

The emphasis on "Organizing" as an art, and the structural pieces for Organizing that have been maintained since 2008 (OFA for instance), are things that were not done at all after Clinton was elected in 1992.  Nada.  Zero. Zilch.  In fact, the DLCers literally dismantled state offices all over the country save a few "swing states," and showed no interest in working with local organizers, at least from my own personal experience.  This difference will pay massive dividends this Fall.

It'll be interesting to see how this 10.2.10 "One Nation Working Together" Labor rally in DeeCee gets the real troops (as opposed to the Internet-based online petition brigade) fired up and ready to go for November.  It's showtime, people!

North Carolina


Larry Kissell, NC 8, was up 17 at the very end of August according to Roll Call. Looks good.

Elaine Marshall needs help and money but it's do-able.

Congressional Race in California's CD2

Your last statement re: those sole campaign volunteers/strategists who are capable of pulling off a race that's not in the top tier fits the California Congressional District 2 race.  Ran by two seasoned campaign hotshots, one a Dem and the other a Rep, makes good bed fellows in this instance as the district is 13% more Reps. The candidate, Jim Reed, from Red Shasta Co. is out there daily door-door, fundraising, chatting with every existing organization and flying around the 10 counties in his Cessna 4 -seater, talking about jobs, the economy, bringing home the federal funds that have gone to other districts over the last 24 years by the 'do-nothing-incumbent',  this is what real grass roots politics is all about, the only reason we'll lose is lack of funds in getting our media message out...Want to see what this old-fashioned race is all about ? Go to : www.reednow.com  

I love Wonkette

but if you think sites like Wonkette and shows like the Daily Show are somehow influencing the general public with a more appealing political narrative than the mainstream media is, you're crazy.

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About Al Giordano


Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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