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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A smile, two nail-biters, and a lot of hard slogging through a minefield ahead
Posted by Jill | 7:33 AM
What a night. And it's not over yet.

I woke up this morning to find that, miracle of miracles, Missouri was NOT one of the states still waiting for a Senator, that Claire McCaskill had prevailed over Republican incumbent Jim Talent. Thank you, citizens of Missouri, who broke just enough in all categories -- men, women, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents -- to give McCaskill the edge. And it looks like minor candidates pulled enough from Talent to push McCaskill into victory. And thank you, Michael J. Fox, who may very well yet be solely responsible for wresting control of the Senate from the Republicans.

As for Virginia, the squeaker we now see, which is likely to result in weeks of legal wrangling, can probably be largely attributed to not just the robocall harassment from the Macaca campaign, but also from the threatening (and false) calls made from the campaign in minority districts, designed to suppress the Democratic vote:

If Jon Tester prevails in Montana, and Webb prevails in Virginia, then the Democrats control the Senate -- and the netroots deserves credit from all those (*cough* Joe Klein *cough* David Broder *cough* Tweety -- DAMN this cold is hanging on...) who persist in believing that bloggers are just a bunch of kids and unemployed people writing rants.

If either Tester or Web falters, it creates the unfortunate situation of turning Joe Lieberman into THE powerbroker in the Senate, capable of breaking to one side or the other depending on what benefits Holy Joe. And speaking of Lieberman, the collapse of Ned Lamont is the best argument yet for keeping the Washington consultants out of your campaign. As long as Lamont was running on his gut and his heart, he was doing just fine. As soon as he started listening to the Washington consultants sent by Hillary Clinton (and frankly, I wonder about the real motivation behind THAT) and toning down his message, he became just another wussy-ass Democrat. Let this be a cautionary tale to those Democrats still tempted to triangulate.

In the House, Americans nationwide said a giant "Fuck you!" to the Decider, proving me wrong by telling him that no, we don't want a dictator, thank you very much. The big winner here, and also in the Senate if Jon Tester prevails, is DNC Chairman Howard Dean, whose 50-state strategy of building organizations in every state, not just plowing money into just a few "sure thing" races, paid off big-time last night. Rahm Emmanuel, the Clintonista hack who heads the DCCC, owes Dean a big apology, though I don't think Dean should hold his breath.

Here in the 5th District of New Jersey, the best chance in years for a Democrat to take the Congressional seat was squandered by the party organizations' endorsement of Paul Aronsohn, the dweeby Pfizer PR flack who parlayed experience in the Clinton White House into an extraordinarily lackluster and amateurish campaign, handing this moderate Republican district right back to Christofascist Zombie wingnut Scott Garrett.

It was never clear to me just why Aronsohn decided to run this race. Determined to be as inconspicuous and innocuous as possible, Aronsohn thought he could whine and kvetch and name-drop his way into office. He started out by raising $100,000 before even declaring, prompting presumed repeat candidate Anne Wolfe to first file an FEC complaint and then drop out of the race after it became clear that national organizations were not going to fund a race in this district. An early indication of the haplessness of Aronsohn's effort and his utter inability to connect with people came at Blue Jersey, where one diarist opined:

I haven't met the man, but when he paid a visit to a field event for Damian Fracasso, the candidate for Warren County Freeholder, he did not even introduce himself to anyone. Never mind speaking, Damian had to drag him around to each person at the event and when he met the people I talked to, he didn't say much.

A candidate who's so painfully shy he can't talk to people. Why on earth would he run for office, and why would the Democratic organizations support him? Aronsohn early on stacked his "exploratory committee" with Clintonista heavy hitters, thus giving him some stardust and apparently dazzling local Democratic leaders, hungry for a winner, into thinking that with those connections, he could raise enough money to mount a formidable challenge to Ernie Scott Garrett.

It's just a shame that the misperception that money talks blinded them to the obvious shortcomings of the man as a candidate. 2004 nominee Anne Wolfe, who garnered 41% of the vote with no help from the county committees, was right on the money when she said, "I have real concerns about his resume...because I know what Garrett's people will do with him. Just simply because he was so close to McGreevey and close to Clinton. Those kinds of things will turn voters off before he's even got a chance to get out of the box."

Well, they didn't turn voters off completely, largely because he kept his McGreevey connections mostly under wraps until Scott Garrett, predictably, went negative very late in the race. But in a year in which voters nationwide, even in Republican districts, threw the Bush apologists out on their ear, here in NJ-05, Paul Aronsohn, with all his connections (few of whom came through with the dollars Aronsohn believed he could raise), only mustered enough votes to beat Anne Wolfe's performance by a meager three percentage points. When a kid like Matt Fretz, running a campaign nights and weekends, seemingly using only the change found in his pockets among the dryer lint and a few high school kids, could manage to be at every event in which people were in attendance and garner almost 3000 votes scattered all over the district, that a well-connected candidate like Aronsohn could only pull out 43% of the vote in a year of strong anger at the right, is nothing short of criminal. Let this be a lesson to all Democratic organizations tempted to buy into grandiose promises of campaign fundraising: It's the candidate, stupid!

And so today we celebrate. We celebrate that we have been able to thwart even Karl Rove's gutter campaign tactics. But we can only afford to celebrate for one day, for tomorrow the real work of first putting the brakes on this Administration's rush to Armageddon, and then trying to, as best we can, fix what George W. Bush and his corrupt Republican compadres in Congress, have managed to wreck in six and a half short years.

And lest these Democrats think we're going to be like Republicans and march in lockstep, defending every craven and destructive move they may make, putting loyalty to party above loyalty to country, guess again. We are different. We are progressives. We are the American patriots. And we will be watching you.
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