Sunday, June 15, 2008



The Republicans-- and the members of the media who has settled into taking stenography for them-- are pushing a theme: Obama's presence at the top of the ticket in November will hurt Democrats running for Congress, state legislatures, etc. In today's NY Times Carl Hulse provides a few stats about why that assertion is patently absurd... just more GOP spin and wishful thinking.
With all the talk and worry about the potential “Obama effect” on races down the ticket, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee believes it has identified a very positive one-- Senator Barack Obama runs strongly with independent voters.

A committee memo sent this weekend to Democratic House members, some of whom have recently expressed wariness about Mr. Obama, fleshes out some research on Mr. Obama’s standing with independent voters, a bloc that was crucial to the Democratic takeover of the House in 2006.

“Senator Obama’s appeal among independent voters was clearly illustrated throughout the 2008 primary contest,” said the memo from Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, chairman of the DCCC. “Out of a total of 38 states that exit polling was available for, Senator Obama won the independent vote in 29 of those contests. In presidential battlegrounds like New Mexico, Ohio, Missouri, and Virginia-- states where multiple House seats are in play-- Senator Obama won independents by strong margins.”

Mr. Van Hollen said Republicans should be doubly worried by evidence that showed Mr. Obama outperformed Senator John McCain among independents in primary states when the Republican party’s nomination battle was still in doubt. Independents are considered Mr. McCain’s political strong suit.

Yet the memo said that, based on exit polls, Mr. Obama won 16,000 more independent votes than Mr. McCain in New Hampshire, a state where Mr. McCain is very popular. “This trend continued in the traditionally Republican state of South Carolina, another open primary, where Senator Obama won the independent vote with approximately 51,405 compared to Senator McCain’s 33,498,” it said.

What Hulse doesn't get around to are the instances so far this cycle that have demonstrated the relative strength of the two candidates' coattails. The first test was in northern Illinois, in the very red congressional district abandoned by Denny Hastert, IL-14. Obama campaigned for Democratic primary winner, Blue Dog Bill Foster. McCain decided to show Republicans what he could do for them. He raised money and campaigned in the district. And what could he do for them? Even though the strongly conservative Oberweis outspent Foster by a huge margin in a district with a huge Republican registration advantage, McCain's coattails proven absolutely toxic and Oberweis crashed and burned. Illinois Republicans started referring to their party's nominee as McCoattails.

The next two special elections were in far more friendly Republican turf, northern Louisiana and a very white (71%) district in Mississippi. The Republicans spent millions of dollars tying the two very conservative Democrats to Obama. If you watched TV in Louisiana or Mississippi for the month before those elections you would have thought that either Obama was running for Congress or that Don Cazayoux and Travis Childers spent the last several years going to Obama's church with him and Jeremiah Wright. McCain campaigned for both Republicans. Every single GOP and independent household in northern Mississippi got at least one robocall from McCain reminding them that Greg Davis was his candidate.

In Louisiana, the Republican started election day strong. He was winning precinct after precinct in the Baton Rouge suburbs. But then East Baton Rouge working class neighborhoods started reporting-- people who had heard how tied Obama was to Cazayoux-- and the tide turned... hugely. The East Baton Rouge precincts hadn't given Cazayoux very many votes in the primary. Cazayoux is very, very right-wing. (As a member of Congress, he has been the Democrat most willing to vote with the GOP on substantive issues, often voting more solidly with Bush than half a dozen Republicans!) Democratic primary voters in East Baton Rouge turned out massively for Michael Jackson, a local African-American state senator. In the general election they voted for Cazayoux because they are loyal Democrats and because the Republicans had tied him so strongly to Obama in their millions of dollars in paid media!

The GOP doubled down in Mississippi, spending even more millions of dollars telling everyone in the district that Childers was indistinguishable from Obama. They sent Cheney down to the district, where he joined Senators Cochran, Lott and Wicker and Governor Barbour in campaigning for Davis. They ran one of the most blatantly racist campaigns in modern times. Independent voters got the message-- Childers=Obama-- and they helped the districts few Democrats elect Childers, again showing GOP congressmen and candidates exactly what McCain's coattails would do for them in November.

Obama's coattails are likely to help provide the margins of victories for Democrats in Senate races in New Mexico, Virginia, Minnesota, Colorado, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, and possibly put Democrats over the top in unlikely states like Texas, Alaska, Kansas, Idaho and Nebraska. In the House, among the Democrats likely to beat Republican incumbents because of help from Obama are Judy Feder (VA), Dennis Shulman (NJ), Martin Heinrich (NM), Tom Perriello (VA), Eric Massa (NY), Sam Bennett (PA), Debbie Cook (CA), Jim Himes (CT), Darcy Burner (WA), Alan Grayson (FL), Larry Joe Doherty (TX), Russ Warner (CA), Joe Garcia (FL), Larry Kissell (NC), and Vic Wulsin (OH).

Republican incumbents are distancing themselves from Bush and Cheney-- and the policies they have supported-- and are wary of McCain. But as Hulse pointed out today, the media spin is about "all the talk and worry about the potential 'Obama effect' on races down the ticket." Don't get too dizzy.

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