Will Obama Be Able To Turn Out Democratic Voters In The 2010 Midterms?
Last year Georgia state Senator Regina Thomas had every reason to be optimistic about being elected to Congress. She was a popular, accomplished and well-liked legislator from Savannah in a district where African-Americans and progressives make up the majority of the Democratic Party. She is both. Her opponent, incumbent Rep. John Barrow, is neither. He's not quite an hysterical Zell Miller fanatic but his voting record is solidly reactionary and if Thomas' career in politics has been all about representing ordinary working families, Barrow's is all about special interests, lobbyists, shady anti-union PACs and... well, even by Blue Dog standards his voting record is very right-wing, far too right-wing for a Democratic congressional district. Of the 20 members of Congress who vote most frequently with the Republicans on important core issues that impact the lives of ordinary working families only Barrow and Henry Cuellar, "Bush's favorite Democrat," are in strongly Democratic districts. He looked like a reasonable target for Thomas' homespun populism.
And then along came Barack. For a variety of extraneous reasons, he endorsed Barrow. And that was the end of any chance Regina Thomas had in GA-12. He took 76% of the primary vote.
This morning's CQPolitics speculated about Obama's ability to turn out his base in the congressional midterms next year. We've been worried that he could held quasi-Democrat Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania primary against a real Democrat-- did you vote in the straw poll yet?-- but there are at least a dozen Democratic incumbents who are counting on the president's coattails as well-- even though he won't be on the ticket. Some of them, like Barrow and fellow Blue Dogs Glenn Nye (VA), Bobby Bright (AL), Parker Griffith (AL) and Frank Kratovil (MD), have been opposing his agenda.
Steve Driehaus defeated GOP right-wing rubber stamp incumbent Steve Chabot last year and Chabot blames African-Americans. How dare those people vote! He's running against Driehaus again and hoping Blacks and other minorities stay away from the polls next year.
“It was a key factor in our loss, probably the most substantial factor,” said Chabot, who answered the phone at his 2010 campaign headquarters. “With the turnout model you saw this past election cycle in a district like mine, it was just impossible to overcome.”
Banking on a different electorate in Obama’s first midterm-- one with less energy among African Americans and first-time voters-- Chabot is confident that he can oust freshman Democratic Rep. Steve Driehaus in a district in which 27 percent of residents are black.
Not so fast, says Driehaus, one of a handful of Democratic victors in competitive districts influenced by African American voters-- call them the Oboomers-- whose first re-election bids will be watched closely by political strategists in both parties.
“We actually thought there would be a greater turnout in 2008,” Driehaus said. “While the African-American vote made a difference, it was all of it together.”
Many observers think that African-American voters and young voters will be turning out in large numbers again, just the way they did in 2008. A lot may depend on how hard Obama campaigns for them but a lot will also depend on how hard the representatives have worked for their constituents. The two Alabama freshmen have been tools for special interests and haven't done anything at all for ordinary working families-- white or black. Other than some kind of misplaced partisan fervor, there's no reason for progressive-minded voters to come out and vote for either. On the other hand, freshmen like Donna Edwards (D-MD), Gary Peters (D-MI), Larry Kissell (D-NC), Eric Massa (D-NY), Mark Schauer (D-MI), Jared Polis (D-CO), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Ben Luján (D-NM), and, most of all, Alan Grayson (D-FL) have been intrepid and indefatigable fighters for working families and fully expect to win on their own merits.
This morning, Roll Call asserts that Grayson's dogged and effective assault on the special interests and the banksters has made him the Republicans' #1 target. They fear him the way they fear few other Democrats on Capitol Hill. They know he can't be bought off by the special interests and they have watched him use his expertise as a prosecutor of war profiteers to go after corrupt banksters and those who look at the taxpayers are turkeys to be plucked. Veteran Democratic leader, DCCC Chair Chris Van Hollen points to what has made Grayson well known for a freshman congressman: "As a member of the Financial Services Committee, he’s been a real watchdog for public dollars, and that’s been a big part of his focus since he’s been a Member of Congress... he has gotten off to a very good start in sort of cementing this image that he’s the guy who’s out there as a watchdog for taxpayer dollars."
The GOP is trying to recruit some divisive right-wing cut out to run against him. They're worried because an extremist lunatic, Todd Long, is in the race and has a lot of appeal to teabaggers and dittoheads but no chance to win over moderate voters. They're encouraging what they think could be a less polarizing-- if more hackish-- candidate, either pay-to-play poster boy Richard Crotty, state Speaker Larry Cretul, ex-state Sen. Daniel Webster or state Sen. Andy Gardiner.
Florida's 8th CD is a very changed district from when Ric Keller first won in 2000. Then the Republicans had a solid voter registration advantage. That's flip-flopped and now the registration advantage is with the Democrats. Bush's 55% win in 2004 turned into a 53% win for Obama last year. But most important, Grayson's agenda-- like that of the other progressive incumbents mentioned above-- is the agenda that hardpressed American working families want to see their representatives addressing. The voters want action of health care, unemployment, runaway foreclosures, banksters out of control, basic infrastructure... all the issues where Republicans are not only not part of the solution but are actually the problem. You can contribute to Grayson's re-election efforts at the Blue America ActBlue page.