Two weeks ago, Congressman Earl Blumenauer was blogging over at DailyKos - and he was asked why Carol Voisin didn't receive much support from national funders for her campaign against Congressman Greg Walden.
Earl's answer is one of the best explanations of how this stuff works. It's worth repeating here:
In regards to your question about supporting Carol Voisin, my answer is very simple. We had extraordinary success in encouraging people to run for the US House. There were very few uncontested races, but virtually everybody running under the Democratic banner was well intentioned, had good values, and if they made it to Congress, almost without exception would have been far superior the Republican they would be replacing.
However, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to recognize that not everyone will be elected and with limited resources, you can't help everyone. During her campaign, Carol asked for my advice about how to get established in the inner circle of people from competitive races who receive the majority of support at the national level. My answer was simple: the way to be regarded as competitive is to demonstrate that in fact that you are competitive. What sets people apart is their organization, fundraising, establishing campaign benchmarks and achieving them.
Amongst the at over 200 quality candidates, the ones who received support demonstrated that they had name familiarity in their districts (and could prove it with survey research), raised significant funds from their own efforts, and organized a strong network around their districts. Last, but not least, candidates needed to organize successful campaign events generating enthusiasm, excitement and attracting media attention. These are all things that demonstrate ability and organization. Over the course of the campaign, we found people who earned their way into competitive race status and added them to the "list". Although I devoted a great deal of time, energy, and money to the national effort, I too had limited resources and I picked from amongst the ever-expanding (but still finite) lists of Democratic campaigns where I felt I could add value.
By no stretch of the imagination did my support go where a Democratic success was assured, instead concentrating on areas where there was a chance, not a certainty.
For example, with two weeks left in the campaign I campaigned in Boise, Idaho—a district that George Bush had won in 2004 with about two thirds of the vote and the state with the highest percentage of Republican elected officials in the country. Our candidate, Larry Grant, had demonstrated that he had a shot. He dedicated year of his life to the campaign, raised several hundred thousand dollars, and had demonstrated editorial support and grassroots organization. I was happy to invest money and my time campaigning on his behalf because of what Larry had already accomplished. It was one of the most difficult districts in the country for a Democrat. In the end, he came within a couple percentage points, but only after the National Republican Party spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and brought Dick Cheney to the district twice.
Running for office is a tremendous experience win or lose. I would recommend it to anybody. You are able to share your thoughts and you learn so much about your community and the people in it. But as long as time and money are scarce political resources, I will continue to concentrate on candidates who reach a threshold that distinguishes them in the upper tier. It was a formula that we followed successfully to victory in 2006 and it is going to help us maintain and expand our majorities in 2008.