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Alabama's 2nd: A Longshot For Democrats

We've often said that not all open seats are created equal.

Retirements in places like Ohio's 15th District, Minnesota's 3rd and Arizona's 1st create big problems for Republicans.

Not so -- at least at first glance -- in Alabama's 2nd, where Rep. Terry Everett (R) recently announced that he will not seek reelection in 2008.

Alabama is tough sledding generally for Democrats -- they control just two of the state's seven House seats and neither of the Senate seats. Democrats held the governorship from 1998 until 2002 but watched as Gov. Don Siegelman (D) was narrowly ousted by Rep. Bob Riley (R). Riley was reelected with 58 percent of the vote last November -- a safe margin in a year when the GOP was suffering massive losses nationally.

Here's our sketch of the (now open) 2nd District:

Geography: The district takes in most of southeastern Alabama, stretching northward to take in portions of the city of Montgomery. Prior to redistricting in 2001, the entire city of Montgomery was included within its boundaries.

Electoral Results: Republicans have held the 2nd since 1964. For roughly three decades (1964-1992) Bill Dickinson held the seat, but he retired after a near-miss in 1990. Everett stepped in and beat George Wallace Jr. (D), the son of the state's former governor, by a 49 percent to 48 percent margin. Two years later he was reelected with 74 percent of the vote. The district was carried easily by President Bush in 2000 (61 percent) and even more easily four years later (67 percent).

Candidates: For Democrats, the big name is Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright. Bright is currently in his third term and has crafted the sort of independent/moderate image that could make him viable in a Republican district like this one. Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.) has already spoken to Bright about a potential candidacy. Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, who considered a challenge to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) earlier this cycle, is also mentioned. The Republican field is far more crowded; state Reps. Steve Clouse, David Grimes, Jay Love and Greg Wren are all taking a look at the race, as is state Sen. Harri Anne Smith. Wallace Jr., now a Republican, is in the mix, as is state Attorney General Troy King.

Outlook: This should be a safe hold for Republicans. Much of Democrats' chances here are tied up in a candidacy by Bright -- he is a known commodity in the district's population center and has the right sort of profile to make this race competitive despite the district's underlying Republican nature. Even if Bright runs, however, the race is hardly a sure thing for Democrats. This is a seat where the top of the ticket for Democrats could make a real difference.

By Chris Cillizza  |  October 2, 2007; 7:43 AM ET
Categories:  House  
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Comments

Look a little deeper. While Bright would be an attractive candidate, there is no way this district would elect a Montgomery mayor, D or R. A sleeper: someone from the Troy University system--main campus in the center of the district and branch campuses in both Montgomery and Dothan--and a tradition of empire building.

I would watch Sen. Smith in the Repub. field.

Posted by: John H. | October 3, 2007 10:44 AM | Report abuse

"somehow believes that voting for a DEM will mean taking away his hunting guns."

Pavlovian conditioning by the GOP/NRA at its extreme.

Posted by: Judge C. Crater | October 2, 2007 11:14 PM | Report abuse

Hallelujah! So there were some thoughtful posts made today after all! (I just read the Obama in Iowa comments -- what a waste of time!)

Mark, "politics are local" everywhere - not just in Austin. I'd add, however, that absent any major local issues, politics become PERSONAL.

I have four friends who happen to live in Alabama. For my disabled vet friend, it's gun control. He doesn't have a problem with background checks but somehow believes that voting for a DEM will mean taking away his hunting guns. Two others will not vote for any candidate that is pro-choice. The other is a law clerk who now leans DEM because he thinks that the Rs have gone too far to the right.

On the subject of Obama at the top of the ticket doubling the Black vote...perhaps. But I think it's important to keep in mind that it will also turn out the white vote for whom a Black president would be too radical. (Racism is alive and well -- people just don't admit it!)

I've long asserted that the best Dem ticket would be Hillary at the top (less radical), and Obama as the VP. Eight years of Obama being veep will go a long way towards acclimating to the idea of a Black president.

Posted by: FemaleNick | October 2, 2007 6:41 PM | Report abuse

This is a race where Obama being at the top of the ticket could make a real difference. Blacks would come out in droves for him, and since the district has a 30% black population, it could help the right Democrat win the district.

Posted by: Rick | October 2, 2007 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Bob Riley is an extremely popular governor in Alabama. He's not up for re-election, so that leaves him free to campaign hard for the Republican establishment in the state. This seat should be easily won by Republicans.

I think senate races are more easily "nationalized" than can House races. People will vote that they are very disappointed with congress in general, but they tend to say they like "their" congressman.

Posted by: reason | October 2, 2007 12:25 PM | Report abuse

"Still, it is interesting that Rehberg made such a public display of moving to the middle. Perhaps he's taking this race more seriously than observers on the national scene seem to be."

If by 'interesting' you mean "surprising that an R congressman isn't being a political moron" then, yes, it's interesting. It's too bad that many of his colleagues on the R of the aisle have all the political sensitivity of a brick.

Posted by: Judge C. Crater | October 2, 2007 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of congressional races, the at-large seat of Republican Represenative Denny Rehberg is not at this point considered to be at risk. Even so, Rehberg seems to be making a run to the denter. Usually a reliable conservative vote, Rehberg has broke with Bush on the Child Health Care bill.

Originally an opponent of the bill, he now not only supports it but promoted it in a newspaper column that was run in most of the Montana dailies. He urged Bush not to veto the bill as threatened.

Rehberg claims now he liked the idea of the bill but opposed certain aspects. He said with those amended he can now support it, giving the whole thing the spin that he had an influence in seeing those changes made.

At this point, Rehberg's only credible announced opponent is Democrat Bill Kennedy, currently one of the commissioners of Montana's most populous county, Yellowstone (Billings). It would seem to give him a bit of a start in being well known at least in the most populous county. But Yellowstone is also Rehberg's home county, where he owns a ranch and other business interests.

Kennedy has not yet created a profile recognized state-wide. A tougher primary fight, such as the Jon Tester-John Morrison battle in 2006, would help him get that recognition, but so far no other prominent Democrat seems interested.

Still, it is interesting that Rehberg made such a public display of moving to the middle. Perhaps he's taking this race more seriously than observers on the national scene seem to be.

Posted by: Alan in Missoula | October 2, 2007 11:32 AM | Report abuse

JOSEPH SCHMITZ, 49, became chief operating officer and general counsel of the Prince Group in September 2005 after a stint as inspector general at the Defense Department.

Schmitz was the senior Pentagon official responsible for investigating waste, fraud and abuse. Now he faces a congressional inquiry into accusations that he quashed two criminal investigations of senior Bush administration officials. The inquiry is continuing, according to a spokeswoman for Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Schmitz was a special assistant to Attorney General Edwin Meese III in the Reagan administration.

Schmitz's father, John G. Schmitz, was a two-term Republican congressman from California and a prominent member of the John Birch Society, an ultra-conservative group that flowered during the Cold War. He ran for president in 1972 as the candidate of the American Independent Party after its founder, George Wallace, was paralyzed by a would-be assassin.

John Schmitz's political career ended with the revelation that he had a mistress who bore two of his children. He then moved to Washington, where he bought a house once owned by Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

Joseph Schmitz's sister, Mary Kay LeTourneau, also became embroiled in a scandal. As a married teacher in Washington state, she went to prison after being convicted of having a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old student with whom she ultimately had two children. The two have since married.

Posted by: Prince Group=Blackwater | October 2, 2007 11:06 AM | Report abuse

fyi:

'The Hillary Clinton campaign just sent out an e-mail announcing a phenomenal third quarter. They raised $27 million, easily beating Barack Obama's $20 million.'

$22 for the primary, beating Obama. Whether it all comes from corporations, I do not know.

Posted by: drindl | October 2, 2007 10:38 AM | Report abuse

"the situation in the south was created by a really strong grassroots orginization by the GOP"

100% agreement, Andy R. Ad buys would be cheap, and the DNC's coffers are much more bottomless than the RNC's this year.

Blarg, Riley is an interesting fellow. This link talks about what he was trying to do and why. The result was similar to the Kansas phenomenon but more clearly defined.
http://www.trincoll.edu/depts/csrpl/RINVol6No3/Social%20gospel%20lays%20egg.htm

Drindl, you're right about RG and suppression of the church vote, a very strong factor in AL. Obama, on the other hand, would do wonders to generate Obama Republicans because he naturally speaks to that segment.

Like everyone else, I gotta run. It's been interesting.

Posted by: Judge C. Crater | October 2, 2007 10:15 AM | Report abuse

My last post til at least lunch [one minute til first appointment]. Drindl, your point is well taken. But not all R precincts are heavily fundamentalist even in the south. Still, in many House races RG is the only R who will hurt the Rs.

Posted by: Mark in Austin | October 2, 2007 10:00 AM | Report abuse

The Alabama 2d is the Old South. I've spent some time there, and no Dem will win. It is Bible-belt, know-your-place South. Blacks down there are as susceptible as whites to scare tactics about married gays moving in.

Posted by: Garak | October 2, 2007 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Andy R and Judge, as far as the south and grassroots, one thing the R's had going for them really strong was churches. Last corporate job I had [bunch of young folks] was in 'viral' marketing -- word of mouth, strongest kind there is. Works better than ads, because of credibility, someone you trust tells you something, you beleive it more. Medium is message.

Now, if you are a true beleiving church goer, you tend to think of your clergy as the representative of God on earth. if that person tells you to vote repubican [and you know that they do] their views resonate with you. You are not motivated so much by earthly concerns; your main priority is eternity -- to wit, salvation: spending eternity in heaven with your loved ones --no sickness, no pain, no poverty, no death, no taxes. As oppposted to eternal damnation and torture. So you are a motivated voter.

Now say, Rudy is at the top of the ticket, and the churches go south on the R party,, as I keep hearing rumblings about. What effect does that have? I say possibly very big.

Posted by: drindl | October 2, 2007 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Andy and Judge, in stable districts, building from the bottom as Andy suggests, is the traditional approach, so we have more evidence of it working than any other method, even in the age of tv.

The County or District Attorney runs for State Senate. The State Senator runs for the House seat. All the while, over 12-20 years,
s/he makes speeches at Rotary, Kiwanis, Optimists, churches, and synagogues, while being active in volunteer work.

I still do not think there is any way around that. The money is best spent in new districts - new because of regional growth, or because of gerrymandering.

If Obama is on the ticket and this AL
House District could double black turnout and the Mayor who has done all of that tedious ground work is on the ticket a national D investment would look good.

Posted by: Mark in Austin | October 2, 2007 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Guys its been a great discussion but I have got to get to work.
I'll try and check in later

Posted by: Andy R | October 2, 2007 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Judge, I don't know anything about Riley. I was responding generally to your complaint about people voting against their interest. I assumed that you were making the same complaint as the book "What's the Matter With Kansas", not commenting specifically on Riley.

Posted by: Blarg | October 2, 2007 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Mark, I meant when Politicians quote polls to rationalize their views. They are elected to make decisions, period. Now sometimes that means going against public support. And if that means that you get voted out of office then that is the peoples perogative.
But I am not naive, I know that politicians (especially house members) have to get reelected. But I guess I expect more from Senators to vote what they think is right not just what the public wants at that instant in time. It is partly the reason why I am leaning more and more towards voting for Obama.

Posted by: Andy R | October 2, 2007 9:35 AM | Report abuse

As the Judge says, Pavlovian conditioning works very well, and the R's have been MUCH bettr at understanding and using it than D's. I worked in advertising for many years, and I can tell you that it's easy to change a roomful of people's minds [focus group] on any number of subjects, just be changing around a few words in a sentence. It's quite amazing how easily we can be led.

First you condition, then you reinforce. The reinforcement [repetition] is why the R's always have the same short messages, in the same words.

Posted by: drindl | October 2, 2007 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Drindl, I didn't see that quote from Graham. As an officer in the National Guard I would think Graham could bring enough Senators over to really make a change in policy.

Judge, I guess my difference in thinking is that I don't think the Media made this happen per se, and that the situation in the south was created by a really strong grassroots orginization by the GOP, and an almost non-existent grassroots orginization by the Dems. Also I don't think it takes alot of money put into ads, although that is part of it, I think it really focuses on getting people in lower offices as democrats so that when a congressional seat opens you have experienced people who can run a smart and clear campaign. But I have never actually run one of these campaigns so I could be completely wrong.

Posted by: Andy R | October 2, 2007 9:29 AM | Report abuse

AndyR said: "That means that the public's opinion doesn't matter except on one day every year."

AndyR, I know that we applaud statesmen who do what they believe is right. But those who want to be reelected will take the pulse of their constituency. That is part of being "reprsentative".

But you know that, so I think that there was some particular set of circumstances that was causing your unease. An example for me is when I read polls that Americans would do away with the Bill of Rights in an instant if they could. That causes me to blurt "This is a Republic, not a Democracy."

Which, btw, is the motto of the John Birch Society.

Posted by: Mark in Austin | October 2, 2007 9:28 AM | Report abuse

'If everyone voted in accordance with their strict economic interest, wouldn't all rich people be Republicans?'

Depends on whether you're talking short or long term. A lot of R's I know have switched parties recently because they fear the long term effects of deficits and reckless and irresponsible contracting.

Posted by: drindl | October 2, 2007 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Blarg: let me take your comments one at a time.

"First, you're assuming that the only interests which matter are economic. Money isn't everyone's top priority."

But pavlovian opposition to tax increases regardless of their merit means that, by default, money IS everyone's top priority. I don't see an alternative to this logic.

"There are plenty of people who think the war in Iraq is worth it, despite the cost."

Their numbers are decreasing everyday as the war devours money and, more importantly, people.

"Are they voting against their interests to support the war?"

As long as it remains divorced from their reality, a distant conflagration that only serves to increase the abstraction of our national debt in a highly efficient manner, no. This is a consequence of conditioning.

"And then there are religious voters, who think it's morally important to oppose abortion and gay marriage. So they support candidates who will promote their moral interests, and set economic interests aside."

I'm sure that Riley was never in favor of abortion and gay marriage. Can you be more specific?

Posted by: Judge C. Crater | October 2, 2007 9:26 AM | Report abuse

JD, I see your point that is why I would love for both parties to nominate people who aren't lightening rods or attack machines. I honestly think that a Huckabee v Obama race would be riveting political theater as well as an excellent opportunity for the two sides to discuss their policy differences.

Mark, I think that if Obama is on the national ticket in either slot and the GOP runs two white men then the Black vote will go through the roof. It could put alot fo southern states in play, especially places like Georgia who have large black populations and a large city with enough white democrats to make up the for the racist vote that will surely happen.

Posted by: Andy R | October 2, 2007 9:22 AM | Report abuse

' but probably more liberal than drindl (well, maybe not that much... :-)'

You say that like it's a bad thing...

Anyway, Andy R, as far as what the deal is... R's who are up for reelection are bolting, it looks like the deal is 90 days [sorry for long post]

'In February, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) warned against setting any kind of deadline for Iraq. Appearing on Fox News Sunday, he said, "I cannot guarantee you success, but I can promise you this: The day you set timelines and deadlines, it's lost in Iraq."

Nine months later, Graham is setting a timetable for Iraq:

Graham told Time Wednesday that the Iraqi leaders have 90 days to start resolving their political differences with real legislative agreements or face a change in strategy by the U.S. "If they can't do it in 90 days," he said, "it means the major players don't want to." [...]

Posted by: drindl | October 2, 2007 9:22 AM | Report abuse

I said "southern districts like these." I meant to distinguish the deep south from Virginia or Tennessee or east Texas. So if anyone in AL or MS is here, speak up, pls.

Posted by: Mark in Austin | October 2, 2007 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Judge, I don't like the idea that poor people who vote Republican are voting against their own interests. I know it's popular among some Democrats (like the "What's the Matter with Kansas?" guy), but I think it's flawed.

First, you're assuming that the only interests which matter are economic. Money isn't everyone's top priority. There are plenty of people who think the war in Iraq is worth it, despite the cost. Are they voting against their interests to support the war? And then there are religious voters, who think it's morally important to oppose abortion and gay marriage. So they support candidates who will promote their moral interests, and set economic interests aside.

Also, there are a lot of wealthy Democrats. They don't care if they'd be slightly better-off under Republican policies, because they put other priorities ahead of their own economic interest. If everyone voted in accordance with their strict economic interest, wouldn't all rich people be Republicans?

Posted by: Blarg | October 2, 2007 9:16 AM | Report abuse

AndyR: Not sure that we are in disagreement. Voters in Alabama have been conditioned to vote against any tax increases even though the state is running a deficit. Such fiscal irresponsibility is largely the handiwork of the GOP as any honest person will recognize. This is a direct product of knee-jerk, pavlovian conditioning carried by the media.

To implement Dean's strategy in AL will require lots of $$$ in the form of ad buy.

Posted by: Judge C. Crater | October 2, 2007 9:15 AM | Report abuse

You know Blarg I keep seeing the same type of polling that you are talking about but the only poll that really matters is the one that is taken when the 100 folks in the US Senate decide to bring up funding again.
Also it looks like the Democrats will only partially fund the war until January when Petrius will have to come back and make another report. I think Warner and a few other Republicans made a deal with Reid to give them until January then they would back a change if Iraq is still a complete disaster.
On that same note it really bothers me when politicians quote public polling as why we should do something. News flash we do not live in a democracy. Our government is a representative republic. That means that the public's opinion doesn't matter except on one day every year. The whole reason that the founders made the congress the way it is was so that it wouldn't do things according to the whims of the public as a whole. Sorry to get off topic it just riles me when I hear Harry Reid or Mitch McConnel talk about what the American people want. What we want is for you to do your job.

Posted by: Andy R | October 2, 2007 9:15 AM | Report abuse

I am reminded of one of my local elections from 2002, where Connie Morella got bounced after redistricting. She was a Republican technically, but probably more liberal than drindl (well, maybe not that much... :-)

Anyway, at the end of the day, because the election was more about Tom Delay than Chris Van Hollen or her stellar record for her district.

The point of this is, if this election becomes about the next Newt Gingrich or Tom Delay (or HRC or Gore or another Dem lightning rod), all these discussions about indiv districts are largely mooted.

Posted by: JD | October 2, 2007 9:14 AM | Report abuse

drindl, you give Rufi too much credit -
he appears to be narcissistic, obsessive-compulsive, and self-centered to the exclusion of common decency. His belief that he is the flag-bearer for a crusade against Hannity and O'Reilly would have been very slightly amusing if it were not offered ad nauseum for months on end, daily, as an excuse to hijack this blog.

On topic: Blarg reports a large black vote in that district. Anybody know if an Obama candidacy helps in southern districts like these?

Posted by: Mark in Austin | October 2, 2007 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Agree with you, andy R, btw, about the 50 state strategy. That the Dems didn't have one before is a disgrace. We have to talk to the whole country and present a coherent national vision, which the R's did well for a long time. Peoople understood, or thought they did, what the R party stood for. I think that's crumbling now though, and that gives D's a reall opportunity to step in with a clear message and platform.

Posted by: drindl | October 2, 2007 9:11 AM | Report abuse

Rufus is a tough case... I think he really means well, wants to save the world. But doesn't know what to do, he's howling at the moon. Exactly the opposite of zouk, whose only intent, as far as I can tell, is to spew hatred from the depths of his own twisted pysche, or maybe someone pays him to do so.

Posted by: drindl | October 2, 2007 9:07 AM | Report abuse

This has been a thoughtful thread, y'all.

Off - topic: If you did not tune in yesterday, Blarg worked manfully to try to bring some focus to Rufus.

I did not consider the failure to be Blarg's.

Posted by: Mark in Austin | October 2, 2007 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Judge,
I disagree that folks in Alabama are "media-conditioned enough to vote against their own interests". IMO, the democratic party for the past 20 years or more completely ignored the south and the deep south inparticular. When you only have one party saying anything then you are obviously going to identify with that party. The same is true with the GOP in New England. Don't forget that the Democrats OWNED the south for almost 100 year before we gave up due to the southern strategy.
Southerners are just like everyone else and if you present them, as a whole, with a sound argument and a good honest candidates with a good state party behind them they will vote them into office. This is Exactly why Dean's fifty state strategy is SO important.

Posted by: Andy R | October 2, 2007 8:58 AM | Report abuse

JD - thinking about what you said, around here, House seats are usually won on the rule that all politics are local. The top of the ticket will help or hurt a little. In my District, which is an R district that stretches 200 mi. from northwest Austin east-southeast to northwest Houston like a snake, an R will win even if RG tops the R ticket.

Chet Edwards, the bluest dog of all, a D from two districts to our north that includes Ft. Hood, would be susceptible to a pro-military R with a good local rep, but he would only be hurt, I think, by the national Ds, if HRC led the ticket. I do not think any national D would help Chet, but HRC would probably hurt. The district to our south is Lloyd Doggett's solid Austin D district and Lloyd will be unaffected by the national race. The district immediately north is my law school roommate's solid R
Round Rock district and I do not think RG would hurt him at all in Williamson County - its not full of GodSquad Rs, they are main streeters.

So I think your idea of nationalized House races might only work where two newbies were running in a close district.

Posted by: Mark in Austin | October 2, 2007 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Have you guys seen the new Post/ABC poll, linked from the front page? It's bad news for the Republicans.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/graphic/2007/10/01/GR2007100101192.html

Democrats are more trusted on all 3 major issues, by 20-30%. Democrats in Congress have a higher approval rating than Republicans, though it's still pretty low. And most people in the poll believe that Congress hasn't accomplished much because of the Republicans.

I find the results of the last question to be the most interesting. 35% of those polled believe that Democrats gone too far in opposing the war. 55% think they haven't gone far enough. Only 5% think that the Democrats have opposed the war the right amount. That's probably a large part of the low Congressional approval ratings. Everyone either wants the war to continue or to end; nobody likes the bickering and posturing that has no result.

Posted by: Blarg | October 2, 2007 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Alabama is a unfortunate example of a state where people have been media-conditioned enough to vote against their own interests. Riley's rocky tenure has amply demonstrated that.

In such an environment the D's can only win if the national party invests (i.e., funds ad buys) in a local candidate.

Posted by: Judge C. Crater | October 2, 2007 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Fair enough, Andy R. Maybe it will be 'regionalized' then, as you suggest. To use your topic, Immigration 'reform' (OMG I hate that word; how about enforcing the law?) will be a big player in the SW border states plus anywhere unemployment is really high.

Although you call it a D issue, frankly I think it plays in favor of any R who didn't back Bush's failed amnesty scheme. The Rs are usually thought of as tougher on border enforcement and punishing the illegals. Those who did back Bush (ie, those who the Chamber of Commerce bought off) are screwed when it comes to this issue, IMHO.

Posted by: JD | October 2, 2007 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Alabama is a unfortunate example of a state where people have been media-conditioned enough to vote against their own interests. Riley's rocky tenure has amply demonstrated that.

In such an environment the D's can only win if the national party invests (i.e., funds ad buys) in a local candidate.

Posted by: Judge C. Crater | October 2, 2007 8:52 AM | Report abuse

JD-- I don't know what you mean by 'nationalized'... it seems to me that we already have all the conditions for that -- if you are working class or lower middle class there's a good chance your kids don't have health care -- or even if you have health insurance, it doesn't cover much, and then there's the continuing nightmare of Iraq, a lot less easy to ignore if you're poor and the concept of a possible draft [especially in the dire case of an Iran invasion] is hanging over your head.

Also, Bobby Bright has tremendous credentials. Good solid Democrat, married to a judge, deacon of the Baptist church he attends, Sunday school teacher. Best of breed blue dog.

Posted by: drindl | October 2, 2007 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Mark, Wikipedia says that the district is 29.4% black.

This looks like an extremely tough race for the Democrats. But considering the huge financial gulf between Democrats and Republicans right now, the Democrats should probably put some resources into the race. If nothing else, it's a good opportunity to improve the Democratic organization in Alabama.

Posted by: Blarg | October 2, 2007 8:49 AM | Report abuse

JD,
I disagree somewhat. I think that barring another 9/11, the election is going to focus on Domestic issues that are important for that area. Healthcare and immigration will be front and center for sure, but also energy independence, education and NCLB renewal, infrastructure upkeep, etc.. Those issues and how you address them really depends on where you live. The national candidates are going to have policies that are very close to each other but have distinctly "different" soundbites. It will be up to the Local candidates to voice the more specific policy for their area. For expample, immigration reform will be a democratic position, but the guy who is running in Alabama's 2nd will support a stance that is more Republican, and he might stress healthcare for children (SCHIP) which would sell better in his/her district.

I do agree with you though that if there is some Major change in Foreign affairs then all bets are off, and the outcome will live and die by the national ticket.

Posted by: Andy R | October 2, 2007 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Andy R., watch as this thread goes to blazes with the anonymous cut-and-paster for an hour and then Rufus and KOZ.

I agree with you that in districts like these, for the Ds, a blue dog with a big community rep who is not perceived as a carpetbagger is critical. I would also like to know the potential African-American vote in this district. Anybody know?

Posted by: Mark in Austin | October 2, 2007 8:39 AM | Report abuse

The real question for this blog is, will the 08 election be nationalized? Or will the local candidates mostly rise and fall on their own merits.

I'm leaning towards assuming a slightly nationalized election, with the proviso that if something major happens between now and then - another terror attack on US soil, but could also be another Katrina, an earthquake in Calif, gas at $5/gallon (due to war in iran, most likely), or even something crazy like a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan; if any of those happen, I'm guessing we've got ourselves a very nationalized election for sure.

If that's the case, the only thing that matters on all these downballot races would be either the -D or -R.

Posted by: JD | October 2, 2007 8:37 AM | Report abuse

The report is also critical of the State Department. In cases where Iraqis have been killed, "the State Department's primary response was to ask Blackwater to make monetary payments to 'put the matter behind us,' rather than to insist upon accountability or to investigate Blackwater personnel for potential criminal liability."

"The most serious consequence faced by Blackwater personnel for misconduct appears to be termination of their employment," the report states.

In one case cited in Monday's report, a Blackwater guard who was visibly drunk shot and killed a bodyguard of Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdel Mahdi during a confrontation in the Green Zone on Christmas Eve in 2006.

Blackwater hustled the guard out of the country within 36 hours, with State Department approval, and the company later paid the Iraqi's family $15,000, the report states.

Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte told a Senate committee last week that the incident is under investigation by the Justice Department, but no charges have been filed against the man.

The report also questions whether the government is saving money by hiring out its security work. It found the government pays the company about $1,200 a day for each contractor on the job in Iraq -- between six and nine times the pay and allowances of an Army sergeant.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 2, 2007 8:03 AM | Report abuse

This sounds like the kind of district that both candidates will want the leader's of their respective parties to stay away. In most cases I would agree that the GOP doesn't have anything to worry about but this is the type of area where bluedog type Democrats can clean house in bad year for the GOP (like 08 will be). Taken with the Huge fundraising edge that the DCCC will have I would put this on the list of possible pick-ups (although it leans republican at this point)

Posted by: Andy R | October 2, 2007 8:01 AM | Report abuse

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