Freshmen 42: Taking Iraq Heat on Both Flanks
[The following post is a combined effort of washingtonpost.com's Ed O'Keefe, who spoke with the MoveOn.org's Eli Pariser yesterday, and Paul Kane.]
As the House prepares to vote on the Iraq war funding compromise, freshmen Democrats find themselves catching flak from both their left and right flanks politically.
The liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org is preparing to keep close watch on Democrats vote on the bill, particularly those freshmen that received so much support last year from MoveOn and other members of the stridently anti-war netroots crowd.
The House is expected to vote late afternoon Thursday on the measure. The Senate may push its vote to Friday. After passing three different versions of supplemental spending bills including withdrawal language, the latest version lacks any of the firm timeline language that anti-war activists had been pushing. That's being widely viewed as a capitulation to the fact that President Bush wouldn't sign any such bill, leaving Democrats with only one other politically dangerous option: refusing to provide any funds for the troops in the battlefields.
They chose instead to negotiate a compromise that left their base angry -- and now motivated to work against the bill negotiated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
MoveOn.org's political action executive director Eli Pariser says the group is particularly interested in House Democrats that campaigned last year on ending the war, but may now vote for the compromise.
"After the vote we're going to sit down and look very carefully at who voted for this bill and for the war, and who voted against it," Pariser said. "We're going to look at targeting Democrats who ran on ending the war, and who are now voting for more chaos and more troops and more time there."
(Check out the breakdown of how those Democrats voted on last week's "McGovern Amendment" that called for redeploying troops from Iraq within 90 days and mandated complete withdrawal within 180 days. Fifteen of the Democrats opposed the amendment, 11 voted for it.)
The organization e-mailed its 3 million members urging them to pressure every congressional office to try to defeat the bill.
At the same time, the National Republican Congressional Committee is launching a small ad buy targeting 18 freshmen with radio ads and so-called "robo calls" (automated phone calls to voters to inform them of damaging political information) in an effort to tie them to Pelosi, according to Politico.com's Patrick O'Connor.
It's not a heavy ad buy, but it's the opening ante of what will be a long, 17-month-long campaign in the GOP effort to try to turn Pelosi into an unpopular political villain in rural districts once considered to be safely "red". The committee also launched a new Web feature targeting many freshmen, again trying to connect them to Pelosi.
[For the record, recent polls by Washington Post-ABC and the AP-Ipsos have shown Pelosi to be much more popular than President Bush, with approval ratings ranging from 45 percent to 51 percent.]
Demonstrating the long-term political predicament for freshmen Democrats, a video on the NRCC's "Real Democrat Story" Web site attacks the freshmen for supporting a "MoveOn.org endorsed bill that allows Nancy Pelosi to play commander in chief."
So, some of these freshmen are getting hit by the NRCC for originally supporting a "MoveOn.org" withdrawal plan, but about to get smacked by MoveOn itself for voting for the compromise plan.
"This is the real vote where people are going to send a signal about whether they support the Bush policy or they don't," Pariser said.
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