November 03, 2004


Well, the news is in.

The party keeps telling us that it knows what it's doing. The party faithful pulled together in a massive showing of small donations, time spent, and voters registered. This is the first time the Democratic Party has achieved anything close to financial parity with the Republicans, and the first time in a long time anyone has suggested that there was a fully functional left. And still.

The Republicans finally realized the importance of a ground game, and between that and their media advantage, Kos' point last night that they've had longer to build up is a valid one. But whether they beat us or we beat ourselves, that's a question we should ask anyway.

Close to home here in Washington State, the 8th Congressional District remained in Republican hands. The Republican incumbent had retired from a district that went for Gore in 2000. Kerry won the state by a large margin. But the well-known Republican candidate, Dave Reichert, beat talk show host Dave Ross handily.

In the Democratic primary, the favorite of local party members and elected Democrats was Alex Alben. He was a retired Real Networks executive, very pro-business, and seemed suited to a district that includes a good amount of Microsoft real estate. But the state party chair decided to run a celebrity with high enough name recognition to trounce in the primary, and little enough substance to get trounced in the general. He didn't even win a majority in the King County portion of the district, though to be fair, I can't find out at the moment which presidential candidate the 8th went for. The Secretary of State's site isn't splitting it like that right now.

Alben could have perhaps turned out the business and tech vote with big ideas about turning the district into a research triangle, a complement to the plans of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Christine Gregoire. Alben didn't have years worth of radio shows out that could be culled for the kind of positional baggage on national issues that most fresh candidates can avoid.

I'll be talking more to people on the ground in the 8th to ask what happened, but I think it reflects a tendency on the part of the entrenched Democratic establishment to copy the style and miss the substance. Yes, Reichert won his primary on name recognition. Yes, California's Republican party used that strategy to win the governorship. But celebrity wasn't the only factor in those races. Polls indicated that in California, either of the state's well-liked Democratic Senators would have trounced any opposition. People had just had it, fairly or unfairly, with Gray Davis. The California Democrats' refusal to reckon with that is what cost them the statehouse.

On message, Ross' commercials were terrible, Reichert's were great. Even considering my limited primetime network viewing habits, I was reminded daily that Reichert was running, but didn't see much out of Ross. While Reichert ran ads that portrayed him softly as someone who understood the harm caused by domestic violence, and others that portrayed Ross as a soft-on-defense candidate over imagery of nuclear winter, Ross reminded people that he was independent. Which is to say, dull. At least the way they put it, because Ross' radio show was rarely dull.

In a year when passion was the election watchword, the state party ran a candidate in the 8th District who blandly promised to be a moderate and bipartisan voice for common sense. Is it just me, or is the country a little thin right now on the 'common sense' vote?

It's hard to know if anyone could have beaten Dave Reichert, a candidate who never missed an opportunity to mention that he was the Sheriff who caught the Green River Killer. I just don't know, because when it comes down to it, Republicans turned out their base all over the country. But I have a feeling that when the votes are tallied, Ross will have lost a district carried by other Democrats, and I don't blame him for it.

The local party boss picked Ross, by rumor, as a partial 'screw you' to the senators and congressmen who didn't pick his candidate in the primary and had the gall to endorse Alben, another Kerry supporter. The consultants and the DCCC planned Ross' ads. Someone decided to ignore the substance of the attacks against him. Ross is a journalist who's been in radio for a decade and has publicly said that he was approached about running, so it isn't like he's been planning this for a long time. He was a novice candidate given terrible advice, and I'm more inclined to blame the people who gave him the bad advice. First on running, second on how to run.

In Boston, several of us bloggers were at the right place at the right time to get a panel interview with Senator Harkin. Someone asked if the Senators thought it was a good idea to pick a caucus leader from such a precarious state for Democrats. Senator Harkin, whom I like very much, said that it was "just not a calculation." He said they looked more at how he could run things and get along with people.

The cheers of the Thune victory rally lured me back for another peek at the results coming in at about 1:30 am. Democrats in the Senate will have to take a look at what they do include as a calculation when picking a caucus leader, whether they'd like to or not. I hope Democratic Party leaders across the country will do the same.

They no longer live in a world of genteel bipartisanship, and more is at stake than their petty division of fiefdoms.

Posted by natasha at November 3, 2004 01:51 AM | Elections | Technorati links |

The thing is, Reichert had no substance either. He wouldn't even debate Ross.

That doesn't matter though; it's just another instance showing the complete incomptence of Paul Berendt.

Our state should be an easy Democratic pickup, but we're following the same path as the rest of the country in picking lame candidates, ignoring the rural vote and relying on the big cities to bring us home.

It's not working. These guys need to go.

Posted by: paul at November 3, 2004 10:45 PM

Dems need to pick a Senate minority leader who can actually get reelected. Daschle had never won convincing victories at any time in the right wing bastion of SD. Reed has the same problem in Nevada. Go for someone like Durbin, Biden, or Dodd from a safe state.

As far as Reichert and Ross, both lame candidates. See Reichert's record on gun control and Ross' on charter schools. Reichert will be a one termer if the Dems can find anyone decent to run against him. All he can do is ape whatever 'W' does and says. His positions are sickening.

I also agree with Paul's comments about Berendt. Very weak leadership!

Posted by: Dave at November 4, 2004 10:55 AM

It should be easier to beat Reichart after he's been in there for a term and people have seen his "puppet of Tom Delay" act. I would like to see Alex Alben run again.

Posted by: PhilK at November 5, 2004 07:14 PM

For a Better Tomorrow...Today.

Posted by: Durffwurzle For President at November 8, 2004 03:05 PM