"Lousy Republicans"

Over on the Democratic Messaging, part 2 discussion, David Wright posted a comment that deserves its own discussion.

I'm a registered Republican, but that certainly doesn't stop me from voting for Democrats. In fact, I voted for Kerry and Wu last year. I voted for Kulongoski in '02. Why did I do that?

Not because of the Democratic message, to the extent that there was any such comprehensible thing. Because I was "turned off" by the Republicans in each race, rather than "turned on" by the Democrats. ...

To a large extent, I think the Democratic party is lucky in Oregon that the Republican leadership here supports such lousy candidates, or races would be a lot closer statewide. I believe that there are a lot of suburban "weak" Republicans like myself who would love to have a decent Republican to get behind, but are willing to vote Democratic otherwise, which tends to inflate the "blue quotient" for the metro area. And that is a demographic issue that you might want to consider.


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    It's true that a lot of Dems are blessed by our opponents, but- and I realize this is pretty self-serving- I think we also have a track record of beating some tough ones as well.

    Cycle before last, I worked for Charlie Ringo against Bill Witt, and although some in Portland considered him something of a wingnut, I thought he was a pretty skilled and savvy campaigner. In a way, to work against someone like that is a blessing- it forces you to run your best campaign.

    Your larger point about not getting too complacent or self-congratulatory is on the mark. And thanks for keeping an open mind on these races!

  • LT (unverified)

    I remember Ringo vs. Witt. Witt had actually said some rather intelligent, independent-minded things at the end of session or whenever, and it looked like he'd be a tough opponent. He might have been had he continued in that attitude, but when he went negative, that opened up the floodgates. And of course in response to an attack every statement he'd made previously which was recorded on film was fair game. As I recall, the Oregon Bus Project was involved in that campaign, and did a good job.

    On the larger point, were the Republicans to ever nominate someone of the quality of Max Williams (or like the Vinick character now the GOP nominee on West Wing)there are a number of Oregonians (myself included) who would not automatically vote for the Democrat unless it was someone of equal quality and stature.

    And I am afraid there are those at DPO and FuturePac who have not come to grips with that possibility.

  • David Wright (unverified)

    First off, gosh, this humble troll said something worthy of its own thread?

    THAT'S gotta irk a certain fan of mine on this site... <nobr>;-)</nobr>

    Second, since LT mentioned The West Wing (one of my all-time favorite shows), isn't it interesting that in Hollywoodland both major parties could field moderate, reasonable candidates who take strong principled stands on the issues like the characters of Vinick and Santos (who is clearly set up to take that fictional nomination)?

    Sadly, in the real world I don't think either would have a chance of getting to that level. Can you imagine a GOP candidate actually building enough support with a message of "my religion is none of your business"? And can you imagine a Democratic candidate with serious fundraising issues making it past Super Tuesday?

    Now here's a case where I wish life would imitate art...

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    Actually, we threw the first punch, but you're right- the bus was involved in the race. We were actually their first canvass ever, and although there were a few technical kinks, it surpassed everyone's (including the organizers) expectations.

    Seeing 100 young activists on a Saturday eager to hit the Washington country streets is truly a beautiful site.

    More on the Bus Project to come...

  • phriedom (unverified)

    Vinick reminds me of a certain AZ Senator. And yes even though I'm solidly left, I would have voted for McCain over Kerry if I had that choice. 6 years later I'm still mad that the Republicans picked Bush instead of McCain. So yes, it IS about people and not just message.

  • Rupert (unverified)

    The notion that Oregon Dems are only in power thanks to weak Republican candidates is absurd. President Bush was not a weak candidate. Darlene Hooley and David Wu, both of whom represent marginal districts (Hooley more than Wu), beat very credible, attractive, and moderate Republicans last November. Hardy Myers beat Kevin Mannix twice in races for AG, both times Kevin outspent Hardy two-to-one. Kevin also mounted a more-than-credible (not to mention well-funded) challenge to Ted in 2002.

    The list goes on. I'm not saying we should get complacent -- WE SHOULDN'T. But I fail to understand why we Democrats are always in-fighting and being so hard on our elected officials. They're doing a damn good job getting elected, staying in office, and serving us well.

    In a previous post (in response to the "Democratic Messaging Part 2" discussion), William Neuhauser claimed that Democrats have locked-up statewide races thanks to demographic factors. He is dead wrong. Democrats only have a very slight registration edge over Republicans in Oregon, and let's not forget that John Kerry won here by only about three percent of the vote.

    What is so frustrating about this discussion is the impossible amount of Monday Morning Quarterbacking. Why does this guy Jenson think that from his 14 years of volunteering on state rep races in Washington State, he has a better understanding of messaging than Darlene Hooley and Earl Blumenauer? Why must we insist that our Democratic candidates only win because either their Republican opponents are too weak or demographic trends have "locked up" the state for Democrats?

    Let's not get complacent. Let's continue to work hard to SUPPORT or elected Democrats. But let's just admit that they win because they're good at what they do. They're a savvy bunch. They run good campaigns and they do good work while in office.

  • Ralph Makenna (unverified)

    Rupert --

    "Let's continue to work hard to SUPPORT or elected Democrats. But let's just admit that they win because they're good at what they do. They're a savvy bunch. They run good campaigns and they do good work while in office."

    Hear hear.

    I think multiple factors go into whether a candidate wins or loses. In no particular order:

    • the overall demographics and political leanings of the polity they're running in

    • that candidate's ability to connect with people on a retail level.

    • that candidate's knowledge and capabilities with marshalling resources (money, time, message) to convince people to either vote for them or not vote for their opponent.

    • a mix of local/national, economic/social, trends/issues which have captured the public's attention, for whatever reason, close to the time of the election

    It's always these 4, in some combination. Anyone who does well (as the final vote count is pretty much the only verifiable hard currency of politics) can be judged to have mastered the art of all four of these factors.

    If you'll notice, two of these factors are pretty well within the candidate's control, and two are not.

    Can't speak to Jensen's experience or motivations towards messaging, but the balance of his thought seems to be he could do a better job at it than someone who's ran and won multiple times. That strikes me as a bit presumptuous, and I have said so, repeatedly.

    Not to say we should bow down before Lord Earl and Lady Darlene, but for crying out loud, they've shown they can master the four factors. I don't defer to them always -- when I disagree they hear it -- but I give them the respect I feel they have earned. If I didn't feel that way, I wouldn't give them money and I would support other Dems in the primary against them.

    Talking a good game in the salons is one thing -- actually making it happen is another.

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    Good posts Ralph and Rupert:

    I would add another skill for any field staffer:

    Getting volunteers who want to show up at campaign HQ and discuss "strategy" all day- instead of doing meaningful work- to actually put thier theories to work either on the phones or at the doorstep.

  • Chris (unverified)

    I think David Wright's post was less about campaigning and more about ideas; and as a Democrat, I agree with him.

    Reasonable and articulate moderate Republicans could do well in this state, especially in state Senate seats, Congressional seats, or a governor's race, which by their nature, favor candidates with broader geographic appeal.

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    You guys are funny to listen to. I go after an issue I believe in with the same antagonism. But after reading my posts and your comments, I am quit sure that you are completely off point. So I'm giving you this and if you don't believe what these guys say, please harp away at them:

    The party's situation was posed most provocatively by two veteran Democratic strategists, Stan Greenberg and James Carville. In a memo issued last week, the two wrote: "We ask progressives to consider, why have the Republicans not crashed and burned?"

    "Why has the public not taken out their anger on the congressional Republicans and the president?" they added. "We think the answer lies with voters' deeper feelings about the Democrats who appear to lack direction, conviction, values, advocacy or a larger public purpose."

    What worries some Democrats about the debate over Social Security is that Bush stands for something and they do not, other than opposition to the creation of private accounts. So far, party leaders believe that posture has served them well. But some Democrats fear that Bush, by having pushed for changes and by appealing to younger voters with his proposal for the accounts, will score a political victory even if he does not get the main element of his plan.

  • Rupert (unverified)

    The Carville-Greenberg memo was addressing the Democratic Party as a national entity and national leaders of the Party. The memo was NOT addressing the particulars of Oregon and its elected officials.

    It's a good memo. If I was advising Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, or Howard Dean, I'd recommend that they utilize its advice. However, the memo has limited relevance to Darlene, Earl, and David, and even less relevance to Ted and other Democrats at the state level.

  • Ralph Makenna (unverified)

    "Some Democrats fear that Bush, by having pushed for changes and by appealing to younger voters with his proposal for the accounts, will score a political victory even if he does not get the main element of his plan."

    Must respectfully disagree with Mssrs. Greenberg and Carville. This is Washington echo chamber talk. First -- D's DO have a position on SS -- preserve the system largely as is, no private accounts, and find a way to extend solvency without harming benefits. That could mean any number of things -- including raising the cap on payroll taxes, which Sen. Graham (R!!!!!!!!!-S.C.) has already talked about.

    Show me where in the approval numbers or the news Bush is winning on SS, or even harming Dems. He is in Iowa today trying to sell his bill. By all accounts the sale is falling flat. Check out Josh Marshall's site for reports of crowd reax in Bellevue, Wash. to Treasury Dept. baloney. They are not winning -- they are losing. This is not overconfidence on my part, these are facts. And the longer the GOP keeps this up the closer they get to '06, the more quotes our candidates will have with which to bash them over the head.

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    I read this memo a few weeks ago (and think it was interesting and valuable) but no matter what side of it you come down on, reading it alone hardly makes you an expert.

  • phriedom (unverified)

    Since this is nominally about David's post, I'd like to respond to this:"The notion that Oregon Dems are only in power thanks to weak Republican candidates is absurd."
    Nobody said it was the ONLY reason. But here we have an open-minded, moderate libertarian saying that it IS an important factor. You can say that it is absurd but you aren't going to learn anything from that. I think there is some truth to this "weak Republican" thing. Yes Mannix raises money, but he can't beat anyone. I know I didn't have to even think about my vote for Kulengoski because I could remember Mannix running on "I'm going to be tougher on crime and try more teens as adults" against Myers, so I knew I wouldn't vote for him for anything. Sometimes it is about voting against the worse one. Obviously it's not enough to just have a weak opponent, but it is a factor.

  • Ralph Makenna (unverified)

    For anyone who still thinks Democrats are losing and Republicans are winning on Social Security, please read these quotes from the Washington Post:

    "Today, the public has not found his personal account approach compelling," Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa) said in an interview late Tuesday, less than 24 hours before appearing with Bush at Kirkwood Community College here.

    Leach went on to say that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley, a fellow Iowa Republican, "is convinced the momentum is not there, and I am convinced the partisan goodwill is not there."

    Grassley, chairman of the Senate panel responsible for Social Security, said in a separate interview Tuesday afternoon: "I don't think [Bush] has made much progress on solving the solvency issue or what to do about personal accounts. It concerns me because as time goes on, I was hoping the president would be able to make my job easier. We are not hearing from the grass roots that, by golly, you guys in Congress have to work on this."

  • LT (unverified)

    It was well over a decade ago that Carville and Begala helped get Clinton elected. As I recall, they were against Dean as DNC chair. Given my feelings on grass roots politics vs. consultants, all things being equal I would support Dean over Carville.

    But this is a topic with Republican in the title, so I will say this about Jim Leach and Charles Grassley. They have not built careers in Iowa politics by saying "Yes, GOP leadership, whatever you say I will do". They both have "maverick" reputations incl. Grassley opposing Reagan on Pentagon waste.

    Bush's Social Security proposal will never go very far without the help of Grassley, who is the chair of the relevant Senate Committee. Whether all minority Democrats in DC were silent for the next month, or didn't say a word that wasn't from an approved Social Security text (written by Carville or Jenson?) for the next month, if Grassley doesn't actively get his committee working on Bush's Soc. Sec. plan, it will not pass. That is the way the Congressional system works.

    There was a time when Hatfield and Packwood were chairs of powerful committees. This year it is Midwesterners like Grassley and Lugar. And for a president so cocky he was going to browbeat Democrats in "red" states, to have to go to Iowa to shore up Republican support doesn't seem to me (or to some commentators) as evidence that Democrats are being steamrollered on this issue, no matter how worried some individuals may be.

  • andrew kaza (unverified)

    Getting back to the thread/post about the relative strength/weakness of Rs in OR (versus the Ds)...does anybody really think the likes of Kevin Mannix, Minnis or whatever R you want to name are on a par with people like Vic Atiyeh, Dave Frohnmayer, Norma Paulus, Tom McCall? The R party in Oregon has seen MUCH better days and I think the point being made is valid...people like Ben Westlund and Max Williams are few and far between (and apparently not running for state-wide office any longer). The Ds in OR have been catching a break for awhile now. But there's also no sign of this changing anytime soon...

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    Well, as far as being statesman, they're not in the same universe, but as far as being political opponents, I think we'd be wise to never underestimate them. It's not like Mannix vs. Ted was some sort of blow-out.

  • Christopher Nicholson (unverified)

    Maybe it only bothers me... In the 2004 general election, (unless i'm reading the campaign finance documents wrong), Karen Minnis spent an enormous amount of money (something like (150,000-200,000+), and the democrats spent less than 50,000. In that election Karen Minnis won by 1,500 votes. Maybe it's just me, but when the democrats have the opportunity to take out the most powerful Republican in the state, and we spend less than 1/4 of what they spend, we've wasted a great opportunity. The only way to beat Republicans is to be smart, with our messaging, our funding, and our ideas.

    Maybe this is a stupid idea, but there should be a committee that's started right now, to raise the kind of money neccessary to remove one of the more powerful republicans from power. I think the 49th district should be a democratic district, and I wouldn't mind trying to make the 51st district democratic either. I know we have to always worry about holding onto districts like the 48th, where we only won by 700 votes, but I think people like the idea of giving money to take out someone powerful, and so maybe we'd be able to raise more cash if we had a focused statewide campaign effort against someone like minnis. Just my thoughts. -Chris

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