BIG LOSER IN IL-14 TONIGHT-- JOHN W. McCAIN
There are no more safe seats for Republicans
If you've spent any time around DWT you know we don't support Blue Dogs. When John Laesch was narrowly beaten by Blue Dog Bill Foster in the race for the Democratic nomination to fill out the rest of Denny Hastert's unexpired term, the race in IL-14 was over for us. But I sort of peeked at what was going on from time to time, especially when I saw that Obama was campaigning for Foster and McCain had staked his political capital on Jim Oberweis, the very extreme right wing loon the GOP had nominated. Looks like McCoattails had no magic to work for him though. The results will shake the Republican Party Establishment to its core. If IL-14 isn't safe for a Republican, what seat is?
Earlier today I referenced the Weekly Standard's prescription for Republican rubber stamps on how to inoculate themselves from the disdain Americans feel towards Bush and the GOP. Maybe he gave McCain and Oberweis an advance copy because they both tried to use it in Illinois. But the voters there were too smart for them.
McCain and Oberweis appeared on stage together, and Oberweis took the opportunity to point out the issues on which they agree. Both candidates want to see the borders secured, Oberweis said, and both want to cut taxes and reduce spending.
And both men believe Gen. David Petraeus' strategy in Iraq is working and want a gradual withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
"On each of these issues and more, John McCain and I stand united," Oberweis said. "And on each of these issues, and others, our opponents-- mine and his--- have taken the wrong side."
With 96% of precincts reporting, Foster had 49,488 (52%) votes to Oberweis' 44,888 (48%). [UPDATE: Foster's percentage went up slightly as more votes were counted.] The sad news that another Blue Dog will be selling out Democratic values and principles in Congress is tempered by the fact that he will be far better than Oberweis on many issues. Matt Stoller reminded me that even if he is a Blue Dog he has campaigned against the war and when it comes to Bush's attempts to get his regime cronies and campaign contributors at the telecoms retroactive immunity, Foster had come to understand the right way of looking at it:
"The President and his allies in Congress are playing politics with national security, and that's wrong. Nobody is above the law and telecom companies who engaged in illegal surveillance should be held accountable, not given retroactive immunity. I flatly oppose giving these companies an out for cooperating with Alberto Gonzalez on short-circuiting the FISA courts and the rule of law."
DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen explains the symbolic significance of tonight's victory:
Bill Foster’s victory in the seat that was held by Speaker Hastert sends a political shock wave across America this election year. It is a stunning rejection of the Bush Administration, its Republican allies, and presidential nominee John McCain. Republican candidates learned tonight that Senator McCain, who campaigned with the Republican nominee, cannot save them from defeat this November against strong Democratic challengers, even in districts that voted overwhelmingly for President Bush.
“Despite spending 20 percent of the their cash on hand, the NRCC was unable to hold a seat easily won by President Bush and held by Speaker Hastert for 20 years. Americans of all political stripes are rejecting Republicans’ divisive, status quo politics and turning to Democratic candidates for change. I am grateful to Senator Dick Durbin, Senator Barack Obama, and the Illinois Democratic delegation and candidates for encouraging the people of this district to vote for change by supporting Bill Foster.
“Voters of all political stripes responded to Bill Foster’s commitment to change. With his unique background as a respected scientist and a successful businessman, Bill Foster will be a tremendous asset to our Democratic Caucus, as we continue fighting to strengthen our economy and ease the squeeze on America’s struggling middle class families.”
The most recent PVI (Partisan Voting Index) from the Cook Political Report shows that IL-14 had a Republican advantage of +4.8. In light of what the Chicago Tribune just termed "a stunning upset," let's take a look at other top priority Republican seats Democrats are aiming for in November. (Please keep in mind that in 2006, Democrats won in districts with even more lopsided GOP PVIs. Brad Ellsworth beat an incumbent Republican in Indiana in a district with an 8.5 GOP advantage and Nick Lampson beat the Republican incumbent in a Texas district with a 14.5 GOP edge!)
This year Blue America races include:
WA-08, with a +2.3 Democratic edge and pitting progressive superstar Darcy Burner against pitiful rubber stamp Dave Reichert
NM-01, an open seat with a Democratic advantage of +2.4 and an incredible candidate in Martin Heinrich
NY-25, also an open seat, also with a Democratic advantage (+3.4) and also an excellent candidate (Dan Maffei)
CT-04, Chris Shays' seat, where he'll be contending with Jim Himes (in a district sick of the war, sick of Lieberman and with a healthy +5.4 Democratic lean)
NY-29, with a 5.2 Republican lean, re-matching Eric Massa against pathetic and frazzled Randy Kuhl
NC-08, with a mere 3.0 Republican advantage, the closest call of 2006, re-matches Larry Kissell against Robin Hayes
AZ-01, an open seat after Rick Renzi's indictment with a 2.2 Republican PVI and a great Democrat in Howard Shanker
NY-26, with a 3.5 Republican lean, it will be Tom Reynolds against Jon Powers, the strongest opponent he's ever had to face
NJ-05, with a small Republican advantage (4), pitting Dennis Shulman against crazed right winger Scott Garrett
OH-02, with a prohibitive-looking 13.1 Republican advantage, but pitting a widely disliked incumbent, Mean Jean Schmidt, against a surging and admired Victoria Wulsin
CA-04, another big GOP advantage (10.9) in an open seat, but pitting a popular local Democrat, Charlie Brown, against a pack of carpet-bagger extremists
PA-15, with a Democratic lean of +2, pitting rubber stamp incumbent Charlie Dent against Sam Bennett
CA-42, big GOP advantage (10) but extremist loon with ethical problems (Gary Miller) facing an excellent grassroots Dem in Ron Shepston
VA-11, an open seat with a fractional Democratic advantage pitting a spectacular ex-congresswoman, Leslie Byrne against a far right vanity candidate obsessed with religious mania
FL-08, with a small and rapidly shrinking Republican advantage (3), pitting Alan Grayson against rubber stamp Ric Keller
MI-07, with a small Republican lean (2) and pitting a respected and much-liked state Senator, Mark Schauer against a disliked extremist freshman, Tim Walberg
CA-26, with a diminsihing Republican lean (4), pitting out-of-touch GOP closet queen David Dreier against a solid Russ Warner
UPDATE: HOW HIS RACIST & DIVISIVE POSITION ON IMMIGRATION COOKED OBERWEIS' GOOSE
Our old friend Hosh Hoyt, Executive Director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, analyzed Oberweis' defeat yesterday and concluded that Democrats, evenincluding the DCCC, got it right-- and won. The Democratic approach was a good slap in the face to Rahm Emanuel and Heath Shuler's "move to the right" tactics. Josh:
Faced with an aggressive, divisive attack by harshly anti-immigrant Republican candidate Jim Oberweis, Foster presented a positive, nuanced, and humanitarian approach to solutions on the issue. At the same time the DCCC launched an aggressive counter-attack on Oberweis for his hypocrisy on immigration. The combination of a positive, solution oriented approach by candidate Foster and a hard-hitting offense on the immigration hypocrisy of Oberweis neutralized the Republican attack with mainstream voters without alienating Latino voters. This is a road map for future Democratic victories in swing districts where immigration will be an issue.
Jim Oberweis is a hard-line demagogue on immigration matters. During his race for the U.S. Senate seat that Barack Obama eventually won in 2004, Oberweis made a name for himself with an incredibly harsh anti-immigrant ad. He flew in a helicopter over Soldier’s Field, claiming falsely that 70,000 illegal immigrants (a football stadium’s worth) come into the U.S. each week.
...Neither Oberweis’s stands on immigration nor his harsh rhetoric have changed since 2004. The top issue listed on Oberweis’s current campaign website is “Securing Our Borders” and his campaign position compares illegal immigrants to burglars.
“Think about it: When a burglar breaks into your home at night, your proper response is not to
invite him to sit down to dinner; it is to call the authorities, if need be, to remove him. Why should we treat illegal immigrants any differently?”
It was inevitable that he would attack his opponent Foster as being pro-amnesty, and indeed his numerous TV ads opposed “amnesty." In the final week ads run on behalf of Oberweis accused Foster of wanting to use taxpayer money to give citizenship to illegal immigrants.
Although Oberweis had been demagoging the issue of illegal immigration, he had a vulnerability on the issue. In November of 2005 the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and the Chicago Workers Collaborative had filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Labor on behalf of two undocumented workers, Jorge Ibarra and Rosa Ramirez. They had been working cleaning Oberweis Ice Cream stores in Chicago’s suburbs, and had been paid $3.23 an hour. The CWC had videotaped [see link above] Jorge and Rosa cleaning the stores, working for Oberweis managers and using Oberweis cleaning materials, to be able to prove their claims.
The 14th Congressional District was drawn to be a reliably Republican district, and to protect incumbent Dennis Hastert, formerly the Speaker of the House, who occupied the seat for 20 years. It is a district won by President Bush in each of his races.
Unfortunately for Mr. Oberweis, the 14th Congressional District is the home to a rapidly growing and large numbers of immigrants. In 2000 there were 131,000 Latinos and Asians living in the 14th Congressional District. By 2005 that number had shot up to 189,912. By 2005 immigrants and their children accounted for 222,868 people, a stunning 29.6% of the population. In the same five years the numbers of naturalized citizens had increased from 25,224 to 40,159. During the last four years vigorous non-partisan voter registration and citizenship efforts by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights have significantly changed the electorate in the 14th Congressional District.
In August of 2006 Chicago Sun Times reporter Scott Fornek quoted Illinois Republican Chairman Andy McKenna Jr., saying “he is not worried that the changing demographics will hurt the GOP, noting that Bush won 45 percent of the Hispanic vote nationwide. ‘I think families of every ethnic makeup in suburban communities care about schools, about jobs and pocketbook issues,’ McKenna said. ‘And we have a good story to tell on all of those.’” On immigration, however, Republican candidate Oberweis clearly did not have an attractive message for the new immigrant voters in the 14th Congressional District.
Candidate Foster faced an important decision on the issue of immigration. Should he protect himself from the inevitable attacks on the issue of immigration by Oberweis by taking a hardline, enforcement first position, and defensively begin his position with the statement “I am not for amnesty?” This is the position that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had been recommending over the past several years [exacerbated by Rahm Emanuel's shrill demands that Democratic candidates "move to the right on immigration"].
The danger of moving right on immigration would be that it would turn off the potential base of Latino voters in the district, worsen the general tone of the debate, and not call the district voters to an honest approach to finding solutions.
Instead Foster chose to advance a positive, nuanced, and solutions oriented approach to addressing immigration issues. The language of his position on immigration stresses “workable compromise," “humanitarian," and “comprehensive,” along with “nation of laws” and “border security." He reached out to immigrant advocates and Latino community leaders.
At the same time the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ran a series of mailers, robo-calls, radio ads, and TV ads ridiculing Oberweis for being a hypocrite on the issue of illegal immigration.
This tactic so infuriated Oberweis that his son, who runs the dairy, filed a lawsuit against the DCCC. The lawsuit was filed on Thursday night, just 36 hours before the polls would open, claiming that the ads were false. ICIRR responded with a press release pointing out that truth of the claims and the DCCC filed a countersuit calling the Oberweis claim frivolous. The net result was that on the eve of the election numerous stations again played their archive footage of undocumented immigrants Jorge and Rosa cleaning the Oberweis stores!
Foster won the race last night with a convincing 5,000 vote margin, 53% to 47%. It is well worth noting that Foster carried the heavily Hispanic City of Aurora with a 3,200 vote margin. Dozens of Latino and immigrant activists were working to Get Out The Vote for Foster on election day.
This victory shows that a reasonable solution oriented approach to immigration combined with a hard offence on Republican hypocrisy can successfully neutralize a harsh attack on Democrats for being soft on illegal immigration – even in a Republican leaning district. It is possible to do this without alienating Latino voters or pandering to the climate of hate that has engulfed the debate on immigration.
Bill Foster deserves to be complemented on running a campaign to be proud of; the Democratic Party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee deserve to be complemented for finally getting it right on immigration.