Saturday, October 04, 2008

People For the American Way Voters Alliance Launching Congressional Competition


Our good friends and allies at People For the American Way-- or, more precisely, at the People For American Way Voters Alliance (their PAC)-- have been talking with us about how to best support a group of strong progressive leaders and help them get elected to Congress this November. You won't find anyone from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party on their list of endorsed candidates, all solid progressives. Many are familiar to DWT readers, like Darcy Burner, Alan Grayson, Dennis Shulman, Vic Wulsin, Larry Kissell, Annette Taddeo.

They just announced a competition, similar to the one we did at Blue America a few weeks ago. PFAW members, bloggers, activists, concerned citizens... anyone who cares about the direction our country is headed, get to vote on an ActBlue page specially created for this event. The candidate who raises the most will get a check from the People For American Way Voters Alliance. This has been an effective way to help candidates finance their campaigns against corporate-backed Republican incumbents. They haven't officially launched the contest yet but when I woke up this morning I saw that over $7,000 had been collected overnight. Gary Peters, a solid progressive who has just pulled ahead of the odious rubber stamp Joe Knollenberg in Michigan's 9th CD, is off to a strong lead and Judy Feder (D-VA) is in second place. I can already see Russ Warner's and Debbie Cook's California supporters stirring. Jump in and see if there's someone you want to help-- and in this contest you can vote for as many candidates as you want and as many times as you want to!

It isn't enough to elect Obama in November. It isn't enough to elect Democratic majorities either. It's crucial that we elect committed progressives who will fight-- fight smart and fight hard-- for working families and who will stand up to the special interests. That is not, alas, synonymous with today's Democratic Party. There are more than a few horribly reactionary Democrats in Congress, like Blue Dog Chris Carney (PA) who is all too often virtually indistinguishable from a fear-mongering, bigoted Republican. This contest isn't about MORE Democrats. It's about BETTER Democrats. Today's Washington Post reports that GOP strategists foresee an even worse catastrophe for Republicans at the polls this November than has been indicated in the mainstream media.
With the party already struggling to generate enthusiasm for its brand, Republican strategists fear that an outpouring of public anger generated by Congress's struggle to pass a rescue package for the financial industry may contribute to a disaster at the polls for the GOP in November.

"The crisis has affected the entire ticket," said Jan van Lohuizen, a Republican consultant who handled the polling for President Bush's reelection campaign. "The worse the state's economy, the greater the impact."

Republicans are trying to defend at least 18 House seats in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, economic trouble spots that double as election battlegrounds. Rising unemployment, the meltdown in the housing market, and a credit crunch besieging consumers and manufacturers alike were factors in Sen. John McCain's decision Thursday to pull campaign resources out of Michigan. The McCain campaign's exit from the state leaves a pair of vulnerable Republicans, Reps. Tim Walberg and Joe Knollenberg, with a weakened party infrastructure heading into Nov. 4.

And the Democratic opponents to those two reactionary rubber stamps, are Mark Schauer and Gary Peters, both well-tested progressives, the kinds of Democrats who have already shown how hard and how effectively they will battle against the special interests and for ordinary, everyday Americans. Mark and Gary are two of the progressives the PFAW Voters Alliance endorsed and included in the contest.

The Post is pointing out how the GOP is fretting over vulnerable seats held by rubber stamp Republican incumbents in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. And the Republicans should fret. Aside from the progressives challenging Knollenberg and Walberg, the PFAW Voters Alliance is hoping to assist several others on this list (like opponents of Florida wingnuts, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Ric Keller and Adam Putnam, respectively Annette Taddeo, Alan Grayson and Doug Tudor).
The pessimism in the GOP ranks reflects a striking shift in momentum in the four weeks since the Republican National Convention, when Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin made her national debut and rallied conservatives, helping to fuel the perception that longer-shot Democratic targets were drifting out of reach.

"If you turn the clock back two or two and half weeks, you could make a plausible argument that if a couple of things go our way we will lose three to four Senate races," said one Republican strategist. "Now we will lose six to eight." Polling in most Senate races over the past 14 days has shown a five-point decline for the Republican candidate, the strategist said.

The picture in the House is similar. The generic ballot test-- a traditional measure of broad voter attitudes-- has also moved decisively in Democrats' direction in recent days. The latest NBC-Wall Street Journal and Associated Press polls showed voters favoring a generic Democratic candidate for Congress over a generic Republican by 13 points, while a recent Time magazine poll gave Democrats a 46 percent to 36 percent edge.

GOP operatives said the party's declining fortunes are rooted in a series of events over the past two weeks, including McCain's decision to suspend his campaign in order to help broker a deal on the rescue plan and Republican opposition that doomed the bill in a House vote on Monday. Those incidents helped reinforce voter impressions that Washington is broken and that Republicans bear the brunt of the blame, the party insiders said.

In the most recent Washington Post-ABC News national poll, more than half of all voters said they were "very concerned" that the failure of the first bailout vote would cause a "severe economic decline." By a ratio of 2 to 1, they blamed the legislations' defeat on Republicans.

Neil Newhouse, a partner in the Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, echoed van Lohuizen's sentiment. "The bailout crisis has had a corrosive effect on the national political environment, and that impacts not just John McCain, but GOP candidates up and down the ticket," he said.

Even with sentiment as powerfully arrayed against Republicans as it is, progressive challengers still have to overcome gigantic funding disparities. In almost every single race, the Republican is massively better financed-- by the special interests they serve-- than the progressives (who seek to serve ordinary American families). Let me point out some examples in the races the PFAW Voters Alliance is involved with:

FL-12: Republican Adam Putnam raised $1,431,300, mostly from PACs, and Doug Tudor, the progressive has raised $64,985.

CA-26: Republican David Dreier, like Putnam a big PAC-man, has $1,903,654 on hand (having already spent $1,348,731 to lie about his voting record), while Russ Warner has $124,761 on hand.

CA-46: Dana Rohrabacher, the Taliban's best friend in Congress, has $387,950 on hand while his progressive opponent, Huntington Beach Mayor Debbie Cook, has $97,392.

NC-08: Robin Hayes owns more gas and oil stock than any other member of Congress and he's one of the wealthiest members of the House-- and that is reflected in his anti-family votes-- and his campaign, having already spent $1,221,161, is sitting on another $1,174,366 to deploy against Larry Kissell, an ex-mill worker who teaches history in high school, who has $231,583 on hand.

There's only one way we can get representatives in Washington who represent our interests and not the special interests that finance the Republican Party (and the Blue Dogs) and that is by chipping in what we can afford. Even $5 and $10 contributions, when given by enough regular people, mount up fast-- and powerfully. One last time, please consider giving what you can today to the congressional candidate of your choice in the PFAW Voters Alliance competition.



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