3 Weeks Out

by: Mike Lux

Mon Oct 13, 2008 at 17:27

An earlier version of this had been posted but deleted due to technical difficulties... apologies for any comments that were lost.

With everybody starting to celebrate the victory, the old curmudgeon in me is demanding to be let out for a run. So here is my obligatory "it ain't over 'til it's over" speech:

Mike Lux :: 3 Weeks Out
Maybe I've just been in politics so long I feel like I've seen it all, but three weeks out, with certain demographic blocs of voters still bouncing around like pinballs, with a debate still to go, tens of millions of advertising, mail pieces and phone calls yet to be seen and heard, is still a ton of time. In 1968, after the Chicago Convention horrors, Humphrey came roaring back from 31 points down to almost winning, making up most of that ground in the final month of the campaign- and Nixon had made no major mistake. In 1976, Ford- after the Poland debacle in the debate- came roaring back from the final weeks to make it a two-point race, and likewise that happened without a major mistake by Carter. Even in the Clinton years when we won big, we had far bigger leads that dropped into the mid-single digits by the end.

Granted, it looks very good for us right now. Another week has gone by, and we are solidifying our lead. With early voting already happening, and a great Obama field organization putting votes in the bank, I think we are going to win. But winning teams don't relax when they are up 10 points with halfway to go in the fourth quarter. Instead, the goal should be to run up the score. While assuming nothing in terms of victory, we should be fighting to add to Obama's lead, because the bigger his lead, the more uptick for down-ballot candidates. Here's one example near and dear to my heart: if Obama ends up winning Washington state by only 6, I doubt if Darcy will make it. If he wins by 15, she is very likely to win. Another huge example: if Obama wins nationally by 10 percent or more, we have a very good shot at 60 Senate seats.

Even if you assume the Presidential race is done, as many of the folks I am talking to do, now is no time to coast. If we win a historically big Presidential landslide, we will win very big numbers in the House and Senate as well, and in state legislative chambers and gubernatorial races for redistricting. That kind of victory will make producing real results for the American people and progressive causes impossible to ignore.

Building a Governing Majority

For all my cautionary notes regarding not counting pre-hatched chickens, I do think we should be moving very aggressively with the numbers in our favor to build an actual governing majority in the Congress, as opposed to the easily filibustered, easily Blue-Dogged-to-death modest Democratic majorities we currently hold.

As long as this Obama lead holds, we (progressive donors, bloggers and blog readers, organizations, and the party committees) should assume that any Democratic incumbents and the easier races we thought would be close are likely to be swept in with the tide. I'm thinking here of races like the Shaheen race in New Hampshire, the Udall cousins out west, and open-seat House races with solid Democratic numbers. As long as we are well ahead in the Presidential numbers- with record turnout expected among youth, blacks, and Hispanics- these kinds of races should be ours for the taking.

To build a governing majority, we should really start focusing on the harder-to-win races that, to continue torturing the tidal wave metaphor, are still hanging out a few feet from shore. Senate races like North Carolina, Kentucky, Oregon and Maine are now clearly within range. Longer-shot races like Idaho, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Nebraska which have been really uphill, and still are very tough, are a lot more possible. Long-shot House races like that wild ID race, NE-2, CA-3, VA-10, and a bunch of others, are coming into range.

We have a legitimate shot at a serious governing majority in both Houses. Playing it safe, and being happy with five new Senate seats and 15 new House seats, is not what we should be doing.


The other thing we ought to be paying close attention to in this election since we have a chance to run up the score is redistricting. We have one election left to go before redistricting happens, and we should be focused on winning some gubernatorial races and a bunch of legislative races. As it turns out, two of the most important gubernatorial races in the country are in the expand-the-electoral-map states for Obama: Indiana and Missouri. And the third is in Washington State, the home of my favorite House candidate, Darcy Burner.

The top legislative chamber targets (where there are the closest margins of control in important redistricting states) are the following:

1. PA House
2. OH House
3. MI House
4. WI House and Senate
5. IN House
6. TN Senate and House
7. OR House

Again, the goal should be not just to win, but run up the score in these legislative chambers in case 2010 isn't so good a Democratic year.

Maximizing Early Voting

Right now, with a big lead, enthusiasm and momentum, is the exact time that volunteers, activists, and groups should be doing everything in their power to maximize the early vote. We can bring our vote in with huge numbers now, while we are up in the polls and people are excited about volunteering, it could make the difference if the numbers start to tighten up again at the end. This is a great place to spend your volunteer time and your money in right now.


Very quick note here, because I went into a lot of detail on the states last week and other than getting a little roster, not much has changed. A few quick points:

  • Assuming the national numbers stay about where they are now, or even if they narrow a little, the following swing states can be put in the bank: Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Maine (all of it). If the national numbers narrow a lot, they are all still in the likely win category, but I'd be nervous about Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, or Wisconsin slipping away.

  • Even if the national numbers stay where they are: Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Nevada and Colorado are not done yet. They are just too closely contested states, too tough in too many ways, to be absolutely, positively done. We will probably win them all, but it will be closer than current polls show. And if the national numbers tighten up considerably, we will lose at least some of them.

  • Indiana, Missouri, and yes even West Virginia, Montana, North Dakota and NE-2 are all quite possible if we stay close to the current national numbers. If the numbers tighten up nationally, they will probably all slip away.

Final note: We will know the Presidential election is finally over if we see the RNC start to shift most of its money to Senate races. If McCain is dying, and they know we are getting close to 60 seats, they will throw McCain under the bus and shift all the money into saving the ability to filibuster in the Senate. When that happens, I will stop being a cautious curmudgeon, although I will still want to run up the score.

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3 Weeks Out | 17 comments
Humphrey turned against LBJ (0.00 / 0)
Late in October 1968, on Vietnam.  It almost worked.  This thing is over, Mike.  Even a Bin Laden tape on Nov. 1 or so isn't gonna save McCain.

Tape, hell... (0.00 / 0)
Even Bin Laden's head on a silver platter wouldn't do the job unless McCain's Marine son collected it (unlikely, as he's serving in Iraq, not Afghanistan).

"A fantasy is not even a wish, much less an act.  There is no such thing as a culpable or shameful fantasy."  -----Lady Sally McGee

[ Parent ]
BUT... (0.00 / 0)
If McCain's son (maybe assisted by Palin's son?) do collect ObL's head on a silver platter in Iraq, all bets are off...  ;-)

[ Parent ]
Humphrey (0.00 / 0)
Humphrey's turn to the left on the war was only a very loose one, his break with LBJ wasn't that clear.
I hope you are right re it being over. But even if you are, it's time to run up the score.

[ Parent ]
Humphrey (0.00 / 0)
"In 1968, after the Chicago Convention horrors, Humphrey came roaring back from 31 points down to almost winning, making up most of that ground in the final month of the campaign- and Nixon had made no major mistake."

I may have this wrong, but didn't Humphrey achieve that gain by finally giving the base what they wanted (an anti-war stance)?  Until then, he was a candidate without a constituency, hovering in the middle.  McCain, on the other hand, has already sold out to his base and it's not working.

As for Ford, he was the incumbent and incumbents are just plain hard to defeat.

How Humphrey came back (0.00 / 0)
HHH came back very easily, simply by saying that there was a possibility that he might consider the option of maybe reconsidering whether he could someday be thinking for himself on the Vietnam War.  The war was so unpopular with his Democratic base that the mere faintest suggestion that he might think for himself was enough to turn his campaign around.  If he had made that suggestion a week or so earlier, he would have won.

[ Parent ]
well said (0.00 / 0)
Haha, well put )

[ Parent ]
Puerto Rico and District of Colombia statehood. (4.00 / 3)
I know the folks in PR have resisted statehood there, but it seems that using 60 Senators to push through statehood for PR and DC to get to 64/104 control of the Senate and nudge the Electoral College calculus to Dems benefit four years from now would be a worthwhile pursuit.

John McCain won't insure children

When does the bus throwing happen exactly? (0.00 / 0)
My guess is by early next week, IF McCain can't get at least 2 or 3 points more post-debate.  

2 weeks out (0.00 / 0)
is a good guess, that's when the GOP congressional folks did it to Dole in '9 .

[ Parent ]
Regarding state redistricting... (0.00 / 0)
...don't overlook the Texas House.  The Dems need only five pickups to take back control of the House, and be able to reverse some of the damage caused by Tom Delay.

Good point. And NY Senate as well, missed 2 very big states. (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
VA-11 isn't on the fence (0.00 / 0)
VA-11 is lean Dem. Do you mean VA-05?

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog

Not enough to scare us (0.00 / 0)
Humphrey in '68, Ford in '76, Clinton in '96 - if I'm not mistaken, didn't those who were behind in the polls in those elections all wind up losing?

VA-11? (0.00 / 0)
That's one of the safest pickups in the country. You mean VA-05, right?

John McCain: Beacuse lobbyists should have more power

VA 10 (0.00 / 0)
I meant the Judy Feder race.

[ Parent ]
I wouldn't get too giddy about IN (0.00 / 0)
and swapping Gov's.  Jill Long Thompson has been non-existent in my part of the state.  Mitch Daniels has steered well clear of McCain as far as I can tell and has had a fair amount of advertising.  I have to admit, I haven't seen any polling on this, but due to lack of visibility, I just don't see Thompson getting it done.  On a side note, I find it interesting that Dick Lugar hasn't done much, if anything, for McCain either.  I am dreaming of him endorsing Obama.

3 Weeks Out | 17 comments

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