We should learn from Dems...no, not those Dems.

The political discourse in this country is dominated by two contrasting groups; we have the Democrats, represented by Obama, Clinton, Pelosi, and Reid, and the Republicans, represented by Bush, Palin, Huckabee, and Jindal. The reason I picked these individuals is because they, for the most part, agree with all the planks of their parties.

Another trait that they have in common is that most of these political figures, with the exceptions of Obama and Huckabee, are generally disliked. Not hated, not despised, disliked. Few of them have positive approval ratings, even though virtually every person polled had never met these people. While professions can be disliked, asking people what they thought of Bob, a used car salesman, would give you wildly different results than asking people what they thought of Bob, their local car salesman who goes to church with them and has a son who is on the school football team. The reason that these answers are different is that one is asking people what they think of a idea and the other is asking people what they think of a person. One of the main reasons that I believe that the politicians in the first paragraph are so disliked is that people know them as ideas and concepts, not as people. Nancy Pelosi may be a great person to talk to, but I know her as the representative of San Francisco liberalism in the same sense that I know Sarah Palin as the representative of uneducated social conservatism.

The second part of my point is that a district or state will generally elect people closer to the middle of their political balance. In other words, Vermont will elect a flaming liberal, while Mississippi will elect a rabid conservative, because they are near the middle of that state's political balance. Personality plays a big part as well, and many politicians get elected while being much more liberal or conservative than their average constituent, based on their charisma. Examples of this are Sebelius in Kansas or (I hate to use this ubiquitous example) Reagan in California. However, generally speaking, a right-of-center district will elect a right-of-center candidate, and vice-versa. Nate Silver shows a typical way that a region votes, based on how primaries end up, and how liberal/conservative the region is, here


What this article says, for those who are loath of reading, is that each person is a number on the liberal-conservative scale, and they vote for the candidate that is closest to them; "If there's a liberal Democrat at space 10 and a conservative one at space 50, we assume that the voter at space 20 will pick the candidate at 10, who is slightly closer to her ideological preferences". This happens once in the primaries, and once in the general election, and in a 60-40 district, the dominant party wins 75% of the time, which seems logical.

The main development of the past 3 years, as my title implies, is that Democrats have been playing this system more deliberately. Ideally, according to the model, a district that is evenly divided should elect a Democrat at 25 on the scale, and a Republican at 75, and the two would split the vote evenly. However, if the Democrats push to nominate a more conservative member, say at 40 on the scale, that Democrat would win 55-45. I know that there are dozens of intangibles in this situation, such as liberal Democrats staying home or voting Green. However, I think that a lot of progress that the Democrats have made electorally is because they are biting the bullet and choosing more conservative Democrats, while Republicans are talking about doing the opposite.

The other major development, besides picking "conservadems", is the Democrats' adoption of, for lack of a better word, Rovian tactics in terms of branding. Our guy is your neighbor, the guy you buy nails and lumber from (is a small business owner), the guy who keeps you safe at night (is an attorney general), or the guy who is an elder at your church (loves family values). Their guy is the idea, the concept. Kerry is the concept of Vietnam protests and Massachusetts liberalism, while Bush is the local police chief who has had to make the tough decisions necessary to keep your family safe.

To see how both these trends played out today, one needs to look no further than the NY-20 special election. Despite being the worse candidate and starting at a large disadvantage, Murphy won because he was a conservative democrat (as opposed to a typical republican), and because he was successful in branding himself as a small-business entrepreneur, as opposed to Tedisco, who he tied with the Republican establishment.

The applications of this are twofold. One is to ease the pressure on Republicans in liberal and moderate states. The Democrats have let their Blue Dogs vote against the party on some important proposals, and that is a key reason why many of them are still in office. Secondly, allow Republican candidates to distance themselves from prominent members of their party.

Personal disclaimer: I am a moderate conservative who voted for both Bush and Obama, obviously for different reasons. I know the latter would get me banned from other sites (*cough* RedState *cough*), but I appreciate reading debate from liberals and conservatives...as long as it's good ^_^.

NY20 campaign

As Jim Tedisco’s Finance Chairman I was in close proximity to some of the decisions that were made in the NY20 campaign. I’ve known Jim for well over a decade and was very pleased when he asked me to help him raise money for his campaign. I assumed, and was correct, that it would be relatively easy to get donors to give to his campaign since everyone who knew him assumed he would win. I certainly did. We raised over $1.5 million in eight weeks (more details on that in a later post). The Republican candidate in the 2008 race had only brought in $1.1 million in 16 months.

Here was a well-liked state legislator, who became the Minority Leader of the New York State Assembly. He earned some national attention in successfully challenging Governor Spitzer when he tried to float giving drivers licenses to illegal aliens, which had garnered him support as a strong leader. We all thought: how could he possibly lose to someone who hadn’t done a thing in the district and who had zero name recognition?

Because I consider him a friend, and have been friends with some members of his campaign staff, I don’t want to delve into who did what and point fingers. What I do want to write about, briefly, is my opinion of the two main reasons why he was defeated.

1) He should have come out against the Stimulus bill on day one. I had a few discussions with the campaign “leaders” to find out why he didn’t do this. The answer seemed to revolve around the polling that showed a 48-48 split. As the 20th CD has been trending more and more Democrat every year since Bush won in 2004, I understood their thinking. But personally, as a conservative, I wanted him to come out against it, and plainly say that the $787 billion wasn’t really a Stimulus bill, it was a big spending bill. WHICH IS WHAT IT IS.

2) He should have had his TV ads peppered with at least 50% positive ads. Jim had a great story to tell, as was shown by the overwhelming victory he had in Saratoga County (almost 1/3 of the district) where everyone knew him.   

Had he come out strongly against the Stimulus he would have been carrying the torch for most republicans and every conservative thinker in the country. It would have been the same message that propelled thousands of people to the Tea Parties. It would have defined him as the fighter that I have known him to be.

Once he took that middle road, taking no position, his opponent was able to define him as a “typical politician.”  Lesson learned: Sometimes you have to ignore the campaign professionals and act on principle.

It’s sad for many of us in the 20th district and sad for Jim who put his life into the race 100%.

I still believe that conservative ideas will win out in America, over time, because they are the best ideas to elevate the whole country.

(This item has been cross posted on RedState)

The NY-20-as-Republican-Stronghold Myth

Democrats have regrettably been winning the narrative battle about the broader meaning of the current NY-20 tie, arguing that a district that with a significant Republican registration advantage and where Republican Jim Tedisco led by double digits only a few weeks ago should have meant the GOP was a lock for a pickup.

They should be reading Nate Silver on this count. He reminds us that NY-20 is a district Obama won by a slim 3 point margin, roughly four points less than his national victory. And it's a place where Republican Sandy Treadwell was not competitive at all against Kristen Gillibrand last November, despite spending $5 million of his own money -- another reason why we called out blind recruitment of self-funders by the Hill committees in the Rebuild plan.

At the end of the day, NY-20 is a Cook PVI R+3 seat -- Silver suggests it's R+2 in the current Congress. With the current Democratic lean in the House, this is essentially a swing seat, and quite possibly the definition of a pure tossup district in the 111th Congress. He posts this chart of how seats between PVI R+1 and R+4 voted in November:


Paradoxically, R+3 seats like NY-20 elected 8 Democrats and 5 Republicans last November. So much for being a Republican lock, especially with the blue undercurrents in the region.

What about the registration advantage? There are a number of regions throughout the country that are ancestrally Republican or Democratic that sport huge one-party registration leads and where the leading party has a lock on all the local offices. Many -- if not most -- areas in the Deep South still have many more Democrats on the rolls than Republicans. The most lopsided Bush/McCain margins in Florida came in the rural north Florida counties with the greatest Democratic registration advantage. On the flip side, Republicans appear much stronger places like upstate New York and rural New England than they actually are because these are traditionally Republican areas that have only recently started voting Democratic for federal offices with a shift driven largely by independents and moderate Republicans.

What these areas of Republican-in-Name-Only and Democrat-in-Name-Only strength all have in common is that they are generally rural areas with little turnover in population. If you're an older voter who has used been used to voting one way for 30 or 40 years, it's easier to rationalize your change in parties as "I didn't leave the party, it left me" rather than change your party registration outright. So there are a lot of Republicans on the rolls who may no longer vote that way. This may not be the case in fast growing metropolitan/exurban areas where political shifts are fueled by demographics and migration (e.g. Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William in Virginia).

As for the polls, Jim Tedisco began the race with vastly more name ID than Scott Murphy, who had the money to be competitive. And when a race gets nationalized with tons of earned media, with two relatively strong candidates running, it's hard to avoid a regression toward the mean, in this case, a close race to match NY-20's tossup status nationally.

Note: I've been doing some work for Tedisco.

NY-20: Don't forget the military. The state board of election did

It looks like Jim Tedisco may have pulled off the victory in NY-20 after all. And there is good reason to think that the remaining absentee ballots should favor Tedisco. That said, there was a serious problem.

The state Board of Elections seesm to have deliberately disinfranchised military voters. Heritage's Hans von Spakovsky describes how the Democrats on the Board of Election actually voted to reject a Department of Justice recommendation to send out ballots.

The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, which is responsible for enforcing the federal statute that guarantees the right of overseas citizens and military personnel to vote by absentee ballot, contacted the New York State Board of Elections and requested that they issue their ballots sooner for this race. The two Republican members of the board voted to support this request. Yet the two Democratic members of the board, shamefully enough, voted against doing so. Were they trying to disenfranchise military voters?

So the DoJ actually had to file suit against the NY State board of Election. Hans explains why that suit was still inadequate because, ultimately, the Civil Rights Division at DoJ doesn't take the issue of voting rights seriously for the military.

In the end though, there are about 1,000 military absentee votes outstanding. In spite of Democratic attempts to disenfranchise our soldiers, some of our troops will get to vote. And it looks like we will win the race.

But we need to stop this coniving next time.


Inside Scoop on NY 20

I am beat.

I walked precincts all day for Jim Tedisco and when the polls closed I thought I could head to the party…but then things went awry. In the next 13 days political communications will play as important a role as the legal fight and I want you to know the facts.

  • The election is NOT over. There are still over 4,000 absentee ballots that have not been returned which totaled with the 6,000 already received would be almost 10,000 absentee ballots that have NOT been counted. These ballots will continue to be accepted until April. 13th. ANY premature counting of votes will, basically, be counting BEFORE the voting is over…and that is just wrong.
  • Jim Tedisco is currently trailing Scott Murphy by 59 votes according to machine tallies. NOTICE I did not say ballots. NY 20 uses old school level machines to vote so there is NO "ballot" to count. Votes are tabulated on the machine as people pull levers. Most of these machines are probably older than me.
  • The results you saw tonight were nothing more than the UNofficial notes of whichever random poll worker transcribed results from the machine to the form that they report to the Board of Elections. It is fair to say that these numbers are often riddled with mistakes as people mix up numbers and read the wrong tallies.

With memories of Washington State 2004 and Minnesota 2008 looming in my mind here are some things to consider.

  • Jim Tedisco will win the absentee vote.
  • The only way Scott Murphy can win is too challenge and disqualify absentee and military ballots that will, most likely, be votes for Jim Tedisco.
  • Scott Murphy is so anti-military he tried to stop Harvard from having a ROTC program on campus while he was a student there and prevent military personnel from teaching classes. Knowing that, it is hard to imagine military members voting for him.

It's 3:23 AM so forgive the horrible grammar and even worse sentence structure.

Chris Faulkner

P.S. Somehow I knew wearing my "Coleman Recount Team" polar fleece today was a bad idea…

What Will the Future of Mobile Messaging Mean for the Future of Get-Out-the-Vote Operations?

BOTTOM LINE UP FRONT: Let's take time to think about how we can get ahead of the strategic curve in the long term while coming up with tactics to win in the short term.

Hat tip to Katie Harbath for tweeting this news item: "Three-Quarters of the World's Messages Sent By Mobile"

"According to TNS Global, 74% of the world’s digital messages were sent through a mobile device in January 2009, a 15% increase over the previous year.

"As for developed countries, the PC e-mail remains the most popular message method, but its use is waning.

"In Japan, 40 out of 100 e-mails sent are from a mobile device. In North America, 69% of those using e-mail on their mobile phone use it daily, high compared with 43% worldwide."

I've written previously about the Pew Internet & American Life Project's "Future of the Internet Report," which has two interesting observations: (1) the mobile device will be the primary connection tool to the internet for most people in the world in 2020, and (2) the divisions between personal time and work time and between physical and virtual reality will be further erased for everyone who is connected, and the results will be mixed in their impact on basic social relations. The National Taxpayers Union put things to practice recently, launching a text messaging advocacy service, a creative tool to enhance that organization's grassroots operations.

Rebuilding our party doesn't only mean taking an inventory of every tool that's available and seeing how those tools fit campaigns and party organizations today; it also means seeing what the trends might be 5, 10 or 20 years from now and creating tools that can put us ahead of the curve. I do not have the proper fusing of sufficient technical skills with amazing creativity that many programmers and coders do ... which is why Code Red has been launched.

So despite my relative technical ignorance, I think a few observations need to be made about how campaigns might be affected, and where can campaigns might go, with increased use of mobile messaging. Yes, all parts of the campaign will be affected from communications on down. But increased use of mobile devices by voters to get most of their information will have a special impact on GOTV operations:

  • Voter identification, persuasion and GOTV efforts will have to be more integrated. With personal and work time being merged as well as physical and virtual reality, campaigns and party organizations will have to embark on a long term, on-going voter identification efforts to see when and how often they receive messages and Internet content.
  • With social networking sites and programs going mobile, GOTV messages will have to balance simplicity with engaging material. GOTV messages won't only come in the form of SMS and MMS. These alerts will come via Facebook and Twitter as well, where more and more this social networking activity takes place on iPhones and BlackBerries. Sending simple information on polling locations as well as early and mail-in ballot voting will have to become more easily searchable on any mobile device. Voters will also want a quick and easy way to engage with the campaign or party organization if they want to: a mobile version of an "action center" will have to be developed.
  • As more and more messages are sent via mobile devices, the tools developed by campaigns and party organizations might need to expand horizontally to include different versions for different devices. The Obama app for the iPhone has somewhat started this thought. As the web will play a greater role in helping campaigns organically enhance their grassroots activism, those with different devices will need different versions of tools to suit their personal needs when receiving GOTV messages and spreading those messages to their neighbors, co-workers and family members.

Those are just some of my thoughts. I may be right. I may be way off base. How do you think campaigns will change with increased use of mobile devices?

In the meantime, RebuildTheParty.com reminds us all about the basics of GOTV ... Go Tedisco! 

Fred Thompson Unleashes PAC 2.0 to Send 20K to Tedisco

On Friday morning, Fred Thompson sent out an e-mail to his 2008 presidential list through his PAC telling people to go directly to donate to Jim Tedisco.

Our fundraising total for the now 80K for NY-20 campaign stood at around $28,000 when the e-mail went out. Since then, over $23,000 has come in, bringing the public total to over $51,000 at this writing. It's prudent to assume that about $20,000 of this came in through Fred's e-mail list.

This is a very smart use of a PAC's list that too few Republicans leadership PAC take up. Effectively, Thompson has maxed out x4 to Tedisco's campaign, not by circumventing the legal $5,000 limit on PAC contributions, but by directing his donors to give directly to Tedisco.

Every cycle, the Congressional committees lean on their members to write checks to the committees and targeted races. And PACs are pressed to write $5,000 checks. That's the Old Way. The New Way is to aggregate contributions over and above the $5,000 from your supporters, $25 or $50 at a time, thus amplifying your influence. To anyone whose responsible for generating more money from PAC and campaign committees, have you considered allowing these PACs to count indirect contributions from grassroots donors toward their goals -- a far more leveragable source of resources for battleground Republican campaigns?

If you ran in 2008, don't just send Tedisco a $5,000 check. Help him find 500 -- or 5,000 -- new donors from your campaign e-mail list. Fred has shown the way here. Who will follow?

Disclosure: My company designed the Tedisco fundraising widget and is helping the campaign with online fundraising.

Join the 20K for NY-20 Drive

On March 31st, there will be a special election in New York's 20th Congressional District replacing Sen. Kristen Gillibrand. Recent polling has shown Republican Jim Tedisco with a great shot to take back the seat, building on our surprise win in LA-2 and recent momentum in Virginia.

There is no more important test of this new momentum than victory in NY-20 in less than 20 days. This is why I'm proud to have helped set up 20K for NY-20 -- a fundraising campaign to raise $20,000 to fuel GOTV efforts in the final days.

Hundreds of people have already banded together online, giving $20 or more towards the fight in NY-20. Now we need to kick it up a notch.

If you give $20, $40, $200 or whatever you can afford -- you'll see the bottle fill up in real time. If you give $10 or more, you'll also see your name recognized on the scroll -- if you choose to share it.

This is the best chance we've had to take back a seat in a blue state in a long, long time. Jim's opponent is millionaire investor Scott Murphy, who can self-fund and doesn't need the support of the online community like Jim does.

Help Jim Tedisco today. Let's win NY-20 and kickstart the comeback.

Disclaimer: My company built the fundraising widget you see above. Embed code for your sites and blogs below the fold. Please contact me if you have a good online following and would like a personalized URL to track your fundraising efforts.

Democrats Tax Problems Extend Beyond the Beltway

Given all the talk about Obama's nominees and their problems paying taxes, you might believe these issues are confined to inside-the-beltway Democrats.  Apparently not.

This piece in today's Politico suggests Democratic congressional candidate Scott Murphy (NY-20) has some tax problems of his own.  Murphy will face New York Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco in a special election to fill the seat vacated by Kirsten Gillibrand who was recently appointed to the Senate. Politico writes this:

"Murphy has been the Democratic nominee for less than a week, but already he finds himself on the defensive for not paying thousands of dollars in taxes on a start-up computer software company he owned more than a decade ago."

Democrat Murphy seems out of step with the standard set recently by White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said this about two Obama nominees that withdrew due to non-payment of taxes.  Here's Gibbs:

“I think they both recognized that you can't set an example of responsibility but accept a different standard in who serves. They both decided and recognized that their nominations would distract from the important goals and the critical agenda that the president put forward.”

The Democrats' tax problems are part of a growing narrative taking root among Republicans.  For example, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) said this recently at the GOP retreat last weekend according to Politico:

It’s easier for the other side to advocate for higher taxes because you know what?” Cantor asked the crowd.“They don’t pay ‘em,” the crowd hollered back in unison.

Not a great start for the Democrats in NY-20, a seat many believe is a toss-up.

What Can Republicans Do? Win.

I have to disagree with the tenor of Jon's latest post. As Republicans, we are not doomed to losing every policy battle these next four years. Who could have imagined, for instance, that we'd come so far on the stimulus? The stimulus is now officially unpopular, with 37% supporting passage in its current form, reminiscent of the plummeting support Clinton's early economic initiatives. In two weeks the GOP has been transformed from the party of Bush to the party of sensible, bipartisan opposition to fiscal insanity. It's amazing what a change in the underlying political dynamic in the form of a new President will do in so short a time.

And it's not just the stimulus. We won the first procedural battle against universal health care this week by successfully ousting Tom Daschle from HHS and more crucially, from the position of health czar. Daschle was a skilled legislative operator who could stymie Republicans as well as anyone. Though the dream Jon and I share of Howard Dean at HHS probably won't come to be, the Obama Administration will not have as skilled an advocate on health care as Daschle.

On another policy front, the new Administration is not exactly banging fanning the flames on card check, though I suspect this is a red herring for something really bad to come out of Congress. Notice how Obama initially wanted a $775 billion stimulus, Congressional Dems larded it up to over $900 billion, and the compromise position is now $700 billion -- very close to Obama's original number? I suspect that's probably the point, and something we'll see more of in the months to come.

Where we don't have a chance to win the policy battles, we must seize the chance to win electoral battles. Nothing will do more to build passion and confidence and activism at the grassroots level than winning elections again. Steele at the RNC was a big step in regaining that lost confidence. And now we have a chance to prove we can win again by taking back NY-20, and the statehouses in Virginia and New Jersey. Our 1993 wins were a precursor to our 1994 success, not just in these two Governors' races, but in obscure municipal races in places like Jersey City, New Jersey that hadn't elected a Republican in decades.

In a thumbnail way, things have already started to move in our direction. The Fairfax County, Virginia supervisor election Soren and I have written about ended in a 1-point victory for the Democrat in a county Obama won by 21 points and Mark Warner won by 37 points. There was no particular reason for it to be so close -- Gerry Connolly was just elected to Congress after all. I think mostly this is a sign that Republicans are becoming fired up about voting again, and along with GA-SEN Obama's coalition is not recreatable downticket, a problem for any Democrat on the ballot in 2010.

Not to mention the fact that we currently lead in New Jersey (!) and the Democrats will probably nominate crazy Jim Moran's brother for VA-GOV (more on that later).

Jon is right that the deck is stacked heavily against us in D.C. right now -- which is all the more reason to focus on elections and on battles in the states. But this need not mean our atttiude should be glum or defeatist. There are plenty of opportunities for morale-boosting wins if we know where to look.

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