Monday, November 16, 2009

Glenn Nye-- Few Disappointments, Since There Were Never Any Expectations


This weekend we looked, sadly, at Tom Perriello's failed balancing act between his attempts to do the right thing-- he was one of the only red-district freshmen who voted for cap and trade, and he did vote for the healthcare bill-- and his attempts to curry enough favor with GOP extremists to stay in office. Congressmen who live in fear everyday, though, rarely make inspiring leaders, something many of us thought we saw in Perriello the candidate. That's why so many grassroots and netroots activists supported him, and that's why so many are disappointed and disillusioned by his decision to go back on his word to protect reproductive choice for women and vote for Stupak's disastrous anti-choice amendment, a Trojan Horse the GOP managed to inflict on the House Democratic caucus.

Today's CQPolitics compares Perriello's approach with that of a far more straightforward Virginia conservative, Glenn Nye. Upon election, Nye joined the Blue Dog caucus and never made any pretense about being a progressive. Another red-district Virginia freshman, his voting record is considerably worse than Perriello's. Perriello's dismal 39.22 ProgressivePunch score almost looks reasonable next to Nye's 25.49, barely above Republican Ron Paul's 25.31. Nye is a charter member of the Boehner Boys. The only Democrats in the House who have voted with the Republicans more frequently than Nye are hard-core reactionaries Travis Childers (Blue Dog-MS), Scott Murphy (NY), Bobby Bright (Blue Dog-AL) and Parker Griffith (Blue Dog-AL). Unless teabaggers split the Republican Party in their districts, Childers, Bright and Griffith have virtually no chance to be re-elected next year. Like Nye, they have assiduously followed a Creigh Deeds loser strategy: alienating the Democratic base while courting unimpressed Republicans.

Where Gore and Kerry had badly lost Virginia's 2nd Congressional District, Obama beat McCain 51-49% and helped Nye score a stunning 52-48% upset over reactionary backbencher Thelma Drake. He now represents Virginia's largest city, Virginia Beach. The enthusiastic Democrats who turned out for Obama and Mark Warner are unlikely to bother coming to the polls in 2010, and Nye is on the short list of Democrats most likely to lose his seat.
Perriello and Nye are taking different tacks in their voting behavior and campaign styles as they prepare to seek re-election against vigorous Republican opposition.

Perriello has been more of a populist and risk-taker in his votes and public statements. On closely divided votes, he has sided with his party more frequently than Nye even though Perriello’s district, located in the mostly rural Southside area of the state, backed Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in the 2008 presidential election and Nye’s district, a more geographically compact area in and around Virginia Beach, backed Barack Obama.

Perriello last year won the 5th District seat by 727 votes over Republican Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr. in what was one of the closest House elections of the 2008 cycle, while Nye won in the 2nd District by the more comfortable margin of 5 points over Republican Rep. Thelma Drake.

Nye has been running a more traditionally independent campaign that puts some distance between himself and the national party. He’s bucked Democratic leaders on some high-profile votes. Their House votes diverged most recently-- and most notably-- on the health care bill the House narrowly passed Nov. 7. Perriello voted for the bill, a rare Democratic freshman from a McCain-voting district who backed it, while Nye was among the 39 Democrats-- most of them from politically competitive districts-- who opposed it.

...“Nye is really trying to ensure that his voting record is more consistent with what he considers to be the views of the district than of the national party, and I think he’s setting the framework for an election where he’s going to run as kind of an independent person, not someone beholden to party,” said Robert Holsworth, a Virginia political analyst who runs the Web site Virginia Tomorrow.

Holsworth said Perriello, by contrast, is “really setting up an election strategy based on his constant communication with his constituents.”

“He comes home regularly. He holds town halls, public forums by the dozens. He is really trying to be extraordinarily visible in the district,” Holsworth said.

In an interview over the summer after he voted for the cap-and-trade bill, Perriello said that “when I’ve cast a vote that I think is going to be unpopular, I don’t hide behind it-- I go out and I talk about it and make my case and let the chips fall where they may.”

After he voted for the health care bill, the National Republican Congressional Committee pounced on Perriello, issuing a statement shortly after the vote that his “political career was pronounced dead” because of “political malpractice.” The NRCC has described a vote for the health care bill as a “career-ending vote” for Perriello and other politically vulnerable Democrats.

By being among the Democratic no voters, Nye shielded himself from the tough criticism that GOP leaders leveled at Perriello. Still, Republican businessman Ben Loyola, one of Nye’s two major challengers, criticized the lawmaker’s vote against an anti-abortion amendment to the health care bill that passed with the backing of Perriello and 63 other Democrats.

There's nothing Nye or Perriello could do-- short of joining the GOP-- that will make Republicans happy... and even if they became Republicans, they'd then have to face the ire of teabaggers. This morning CQPolitics also looked at the Nye-like voting record of Blue Dog Frank Kratovil, a Maryland Boehner Boy with little chance at re-election for the same reasons. Alan Grayson should offer classes to Democratic freshmen: Political Backbone 101.

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