What Happened Last Night?
The biggest success last night went to a man who won't be going to the U.S. Senate. Ned Lamont is the one who spoke, before anyone, for everyone who had had enough. There weren't many Democrats willing to just say no about Iraq before Ned came along and said it, loudly, clearly, unapologetically. Because of the issues Ned raised, the floodgates of support opened as Americans rushed to embrace people who would stand up to Bush and stand up to his rubber stamp Congress.
Let me point to Kentucky, the first state to report electoral results last night. There were 3 Democratic challengers polling reasonably well against Republican incumbents but, in the end, only outspoken progressive John Yarmuth won a seat. The Democratic Inside-the-Beltway establishment was most enthusiastic about retired congressman Ken Lucas, a conservative who gave every indication of going to Washington and being a Liebermanesque type rubber stamp for the awful corporate policies of the Bush Regime. Even worse was Mike Weaver, a virulent homophobe and right wing loon who seems to have wandered into the wrong party when he was drunk.
Reading directly from the DCCC playbook, Chris Matthews was celebrating the grandeur and brilliance of Rahm Emanuel on MSNBC last night. I doubt Howard Fineman got him to actually pull his head out of his ass but Fineman did point out that Emanuel didn't support Yarmuth at all. "He was Rahm's 4th choice among Democrats who wanted that seat." That's right; Emanuel only wanted corporate, or "business friendly" Democrats who wouldn't make waves about the war or anything else, losers like Lucas and his pet (losing) candidate in FL-13, Christine Jennings.
Before we get into why Rahm Emanuel is a disgrace to the DCCC and why this great victory last night happened despite his bumbling and venality, let's just look at who won what in the House. So far (Wednesday, 6 AM, PT) there are 27 Democratic gains:
AZ-05 Harry Mitchell v. Hayworth AZ-08 Gabrielle Giffords (Kolbe open) CA-04 Jerry McNerney v. Pombo CO-07 Ed Perlmutter (Beauprez open) CT-05 Chris Murphy v. Johnson FL-16 Tim Mahoney (Foley open) FL-22 Ron Klein v. Shaw IN-02 Joe Donnelly v. Chocola IN-08 Brad Ellsworth v. Hostetler IN-09 Baron Hill v. Sodrel IA-01 Bruce Braley (Nussle open) IA-02 Dave Loesback v. Leach KS-02 Nancy Boyda v. Ryun KY-03 John Yarmuth v. Northup MN-01 Tim Walz v. Gutnecht NH-01 Carol Shea-Porter v. Bradley NH-02 Paul Hodes v. Bass NY-19 John Hall v. Kelly NY-20 Kirsten Gillibrand v. Sweeney NY-24 Michael Arcuri (Boehlert open) NC-11 Heath Shuler v. Taylor OH-18 Zack Space (Ney open) PA-04 Jason Altmire v. Hart PA-07 Joe Sestak v. Weldon PA-10 Chris Carney v. Sherwood TX-22 Nick Lampson (DeLay open) WI-08 Steve Kagen (Green open)
And there are 8 seats still too close to call:
CT-02 Courtney v. Simmons PA-08 Murphy v. Fitzpatrick NC-08 Kissell v Hayes NM-01 Madrid v Wilson OH-02 Wulsin v Mean Jean OH-15 Kilroy v Pryce PA-06 Murphy v Gerlach WA-08 Burner v Reichert WY-AL Trauner v Cubin
If you've been following the specifics of the campaign to break the Republican dominance you can't help but notice several things: many of Rahm Emanuel's most cherished candidates are not on this list. And many of the names that are, are men and women who he either actively fought or just ignored.
Where is Tammy Duckworth, on whose campaign he lavished– and wasted– over $3 million in a colossal ego battle? That was $3 million dollars that could have been spread around to assure victories in 5 or 6 races that could have easily been won, like Angie Paccione's in CO-04 or, tragically, in NC-08 where a mere 468 votes separate grassroots hero Larry Kissell and rubber stamp wingnut Robin Hayes.
One of the most important victories of the night was Jerry McNerney's 53-47% (85,551- 76, 196) triumph over Dirty Dick Pombo, one of the most extremist, corrupt and dangerous members of he 109th Congress. Not only was this not a targeted race it is a perfect example of how Emanuel fought against grassroots Democrats to try to impose his will. The McNerney story has been told many times, I just want to remind you that Emanuel and his sleazy corporate-whore ally, Ellen Tauscher, tried to impose a pro-business hack on CA-11. They made Jerry waste thousands of grassroots dollars fighting off a well-financed Inside-the-Beltway juggernaut. Unlike in many other cases around the country, McNerney survived Emanuel's attempts to remove some people in the district actually wanted who has values and ideas people in the district were eager to get behind. To Emanuel, McNerney was too anti-war, too anti-corporate and, worst of all, too independent minded.
Jan Schneider wasn't as fortunate. She would have beaten extremist loon Vern Buchanan in FL-13 last night. Instead Emanuel and his posse were able to shoehorn in a Republican-lite banker who inspires exactly no one. And, of course, she was defeated last night in a very costly race. If voters want a Republican, especially in a Republican district like FL-13, they vote for the real thing, not for one masquerading as a Democrat. I don't want to even talk about FL-16, where Emanuel did manage to force a real Democrat Dave Lutrin out of the race so he could insert a wealthy Republican– Tim Mahoney, who won last night. Why don't I want to talk about it? I think there will be some investigations around that race and how Foley got outed and I don't want to get subpoenaed in that one.
But the point is this: Emanuel gave no help– or too little too late help– to many victors and, worse still, near victors, while squandering a fortune on his shill candidates, many of whom lost. These shills, like Rahm himself, don't represent the people of a district; they represent national and business interests often antithetical to working people and consumers and to the very values and principles the Democratic Party is built around.
Don't be fooled when brain-dead CNN reporters get finished talking knowledgeably about the K-Fed/Britney split and segue into Rahm's great triumph. They weren't paying attention when he ran to the front of the parade to make believe he was leading it. Enjoy the national sweep that brought Democrats majorities in the House, the Senate, Governorships and state legislatures and that has helped to set a tone for future victories in districts throughout the country by offering encouragement to the Democrats most important and powerful strength: it's grassroots. And when someone tells you how great Rahm did and how right-wing Democrats will control… something, just say this: "Carol Shea-Porter, Bruce Braley, John Hall, Kirsten Gillibrand, Chris Murphy, Dave Loebsack, Mike Arcuri, Chris Carney, Joe Sestak, Patrick Murphy, Ed Perlmutter, Tim Walz, John Yarmuth, Gabby Giffords."
Yes, Rahm won the coin toss and Heath Shuler decided to run as a "Democrat" in North Carolina instead of as a Republican in Tennessee and he beat Republicrook Charlie Taylor–a good thing– but the anti-choice right-wing Shuler is an exception and not a rule, although, of course, that is the face the DCCC will work to get all over the media.