The Outsider is IN
(guest blog by Taylor Marsh)
Chris Bowers has the run down on the races. Busby lost by 4.5%, but it took the Republicans a lot of money to get it done. The good omen in the race seems to suggest that Busby had a shift of 18% her way from the last time she ran. As Bowers states, if that happens across the country in November, we’ll have a rout. Independents are falling heavily for Democrats, but as others who follow these things for a living have said, turn out was abysmal. Read Bowers. Markos went to bed with a brewing cold, but I’m sure he’ll have more to offer this morning. Paul Rosenberg has more analysis, which came out before the vote. It holds true doubly now.
Last month, it was still possible to read the data as showing that that the Dem’s generic congressional lead had finally joined the trend of the other indicators, "but only anemically so," as I said at the time. That no longer seems to be the case. While Bush’s approval ratings are close to Nixonian, and the other figures show that his approval ratings mirror a very broad sense that things are seriously wrong in the country, congressional Democrats have not made the case for themselves.
Over the past month, there’s been an increasing sense that the Democrats will make major gains this year–as I certainly hope we do. This could happen simply by a lot of demoralized GOP voters staying home. But even if we do make such gains, these figures indicate that we are significantly under-performing. If we end up gaining 20 seats in the House, these figures–should they hold–tell us we should have gained 30-40. If we end up gaining 30-40 seats, they tell us we should have gained 60 or more. And, of course, if we do not gain a majority in the House, they tell us that we damn well should have. We are looking at a realignment possibility of historic proportions–greater than that seen in 1994. But so far, the delivery side seems to be seriously lagging the possibility side.
I’m no expert in election strategy, believe me, but it seems to me Democrats need to walk away from the assumption that voter disgust with Republican incompetence and corruption is going to carry them to Congress. Jon Tester’s big win shows Democrats the way through, which means it’s time for politicians to find his or her own inner Schweitzer.
Finally, to those who derided Brian Schweitzer’s way of running campaigns in 2004 and labeled him as a fluke, Tester’s victory puts that to rest. Schweitzer, as we see, was the sharp tip of the spear, ripping through the thin veneer that Democratic Party insiders have clung to through election loss after election loss after election loss. Schweitzer – and now Tester (the guy who carried Schweitzer’s agenda through the legislature) – are showing those in their state and throughout the nation that the way to really be a political leader is to reject the D.C. insiders who preach caution; ignore the naysayers who seek to turn politics into bland ad campaigns for soap; and embrace an in-your-face politics that tells people you are dead serious about cleaning up our government.
Tonight is a terrible night for Conrad Burns, not only because one of his primary challengers got almost a quarter of GOP votes, but because Democrats now have Jon Tester carrying the flag against him. Burns barely eeked out a victory last time against Schweitzer – then an unknown first-time candidate. Now, severely damaged by his connections to high-profile corruption scandals, Burns is facing a Schweitzer-style populist – but one who is better-known than Schweitzer was during his dark horse Senate bid in 2000. It’s Tester Time – and that means Burns’ days in the Senate are numbered.
The lessons for last night through my eyes were that if Republicans spend big money they can win, turn out is still likely to be low, but if the politician stands up, the outsider can get in. But that will only happen if the person shows some authenticity and has the spine to let the voters know they actually do have a choice and it’s not between a Joe Lieberman Democrat and some brand name Republican. Get it?