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Amortizing the Election


I know Howie linked to this letter last weekend, but as we approach election day and try to assess the effect that the netroots have had on this cycle, I think it brings up several very important points to keep in mind.  The letter comes from Tom Mathieson, the campaign manager for Carol Voison, the Democrat running in OR-02.   And if it doesn't bring a tear to your eye, well you're made of tougher stuff than us:

Hi Howie –
I'm Carol Voisin's campaign manager, and as we get to the end of the campaign I wanted to thank you again for all that you and the Hadenough/BlueAmerica team have done for us and the other candidates. As you and Rick Brown wrote in the Voisin DownWithTyranny writeup, this is one of those campaigns that has such structural disadvantages (Dems lose by 45%+), that it typically never gets off the ground, with a downward spiral of no belief and no money. This year has been different because Carol is a great candidate and she came together with some highly motivated volunteers, several of us from the netroots. Our weakness was also a strength, as the lack of professionals and insiders has allowed us all to keep the campaign in line with our ideals — we've made things up as we went along while running an honest and positive campaign that has shined a big spotlight on Greg Walden's record.
Without Hadenough we wouldn't be running any commercials. As soon as we saw it on fdl we put it on Carol’s website (with Walden's numbers next to an explanation about how Coleen Rowley was running against rubberstamper John Kline). Just asking you all if it could get adapted for us seemed like a big deal, yet the answer was always yes, all the interactions were always easy and fast, and soon we were running our own 60 second spot in our only two "metro" areas of Medford and Bend.  Since we didn't have much money the ads, played sparsely, were sort of symbolic, but most everything about this campaign has been sort of symbolic, and it felt good. 
And then a couple of days ago the Democratic Party of Oregon sprung $10,000 for us to run the ad the last week of the campaign. This is enough so that it will really get seen, and really will bring in some votes. The fact that the DPO wanted to spend money on these ads when the Oregon House is in play signifies that they know that it is helping both Carol and all the down ballot races. People see it and they immediately understand and remember the song and the images, and it pushes them across the action-inaction line. I know I'll never get it out of my head. Our grateful thanks to everyone who gave their time and talent to make this happen, and all the FDL and C&L and other people who make Blue America possible…
Spurred on by having Hadenough, we made our own 30-second tv ad based on Hadenough, and also just put out a radio spot directly targeting the Second District's large yet often neglected Hispanic community. We’re heading for the finish line, and we’ll be out there phoning and talking to people until the polls close on the 7th. We expect to do better than anyone ever has against Walden, and may be in the running for most improved district…
As you watch the results next Tuesday and you see OR-02 go up, note that no Dem has gotten 26% against Walden. Also note that while Carol raised just over $50,000 from people, Walden's bagmen have collected over $1,250,000. He has spent almost a million of it holding off Carol, and hasn't given more than a couple thousand of it back to the Republican party or his pal Pombo, so we're keeping that money out of play. And also note that without a blowout in the Second District, the Republican's will have a hard time reelecting  Senator Smith in 2008. And everyone who still has Hadenough in their heads in 2008 will be a hard sell for them to ever get back. We've all done some good work, together.     
I'm enclosing part of Carol's last newsletter with the story of her leading a group singalong of Hadenough in Bend.
Thanks again for all. Happy trails!
Tom Mathieson

In addition to making everyone who has supported Blue America feel really good about their efforts, it highlights the fact that there is tremendous value in supporting candidates like Voisin running in a district that statistically will always go to the GOP.  With $50,000 in cash, she managed to tie up $1,250,000 in Republican money that might have gone to Pombo.  That's a race that McNerney stands a very good chance of winning.  The "Had Enough" video gave a shot in the arm to people who are running on hope, who have had precious little support from institutional Democrats.  And there is down ticket value in running the ad, as recognized by the Democratic Party's $10,000 contribution expressly for that purpose.

The left owns popular culture.  The Powertools can wax lyrical over Hattie Carol all they want, but Bob Dylan is never going to show up and sing it on behalf of Tom Coburn.  It's something we should be looking to more in order to cut through the media glue that prevents candidates in smaller and more unlikely races from being able to gain a foothold in their districts.

As a sidenote — although it's not possible to point to exact figures, the GOP had to be hurt this election by the inability to funnel all that dirty DeLay/Abramoff money into House races.  And if you think about the fact that the $2.3 million that we shook down 2008 candidates for was a big deal to the DCCC, think about how much the $20 million in GOP money we tied up in the Lieberman race was worth.  There is a $40,000 personal cap on giving to federal candidates by any individual, and the Republicans were forced to spend boatloads on Lieberman, money they could not contribute to their troubled House races.  (I had to laugh when the Red State guys said that as long as the Republican party itself was not giving money directly to Lieberman they did not care — wingnuts consistently just do not seem to understand how the system works.)

Thanks to Tom for writing the letter and reminding us all of the global, long term and strategic value of what we're trying to do.  It may not be instantly apparent or quantifiable, but it is tactically important to promoting progressive values in this country nonetheless. 

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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