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Netroots Nation Day 1 Impressions

WiFi has seemed to come around here in Las Vegas, allowing me to deliver LIVE EXCLUSIVES about the Netroots Nation convention. Actually, I don’t have a whole lot to say. Here are some tidbits:

• Ran into Lt. Dan Choi yesterday, when he learned he was officially discharged. He still hasn’t seen the documents yet, but they are with his family. Choi was in jail a couple days ago for shutting down Las Vegas Boulevard protesting Harry Reid for not bringing ENDA to a vote in the Senate. He said it was odd to not be in his military uniform in jail.

• Bill Halter appeared on the morning panel, and I got to steal a few minutes with him. I asked him about the difficulty running against candidates who “progressive-wash” themselves. Blanche Lincoln came out with this derivatives title that she “wrote” right before the primary, blunting Halter’s message of Lincoln as a Wall Street fighter. Halter said that the complexity of the specific issue made it even harder to counteract the message – it was hard to wrap Arkansans heads around the fact that Lincoln left a big loophole in her Section 716 of the bill, for example, or that she didn’t filibuster the bill when Maria Cantwell was doing so precisely because her derivatives title became unenforceable. This is something that progressives need to figure out, because incumbents have done this over and over again to inoculate themselves from criticism from the left.

• Elaine Marshall’s campaign manager announced that internal polls show her leading by 2 points over Republican Richard Burr. The numbers are 37-35. Marshall, the more progressive candidate in the primary, is winning her general election campaign, or is at least very competitive; Blanche Lincoln, the more corporate candidate, is getting blitzed, even in her own internal polls, in the general election. These are both southern states, so it’s close to an apples-to-apples comparison. Says something about what type of candidates can be more effective. (This is actually a good rundown of the Halter panel, and the progressive determination to force primaries and get better Democrats.)

• A lot of buzz about Bill White’s campaign here in Vegas. White, the mayor of Houston, is running for Texas Governor, and has doubled up secessionist Rick Perry in cash on hand. A lot of that money is apparently coming from Kay Bailey Hutchison supporters. There’s a strain of Republicans who are backing White because they’re frankly offended by Perry’s extreme ideology.

• You can read the deets on the training session today I participated in, about covering Congress. Marcy Wheeler and Mike Stark, among others, were on hand. I thought it was a pretty good distillation of how to do what I do on a daily basis. As I said, it felt a little like the factory worker training his replacements, but we need replacements! We need a lot of citizens engaging and paying attention to the machinations at the federal level just so the powerful cannot get away with spin.

Anyway, it’s good to be here and talk to people and swap stories. If I can come up for air, I’ll post again.

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David Dayen

David Dayen