So what happened? It was a combination of things. Massachusetts Democrats spent too much time infighting and not enough time organizing. Martha Coakley ran a lousy campaign. President Obama's "triangulating" and capitulating to the corporate right have demoralized the base. And if Nevada Democrats can learn these lessons, organize early & well, and work in Washington & Carson City to give us good reasons to get out and vote, we won't have to be afraid of November.
And in the coming days and weeks, something changed. Democrats organized... Even if it meant doing some rabble rousing in the primaries in some states. Health care reform passed. Financial reform will hopefully be on its way to passage soon. Climate and energy may FINALLY get a Senate vote soon. After all that dithering last year, we're seeing more action this year.
And the result? This:
Mark Critz (D-PA) appeared to narrowly win a special election today to fill the late Rep. John Murtha's seat, a victory the Democrats believe means the fall midterm elections might not be so bad after all. He'll be quickly seated by House leadership once results are finalized.
Critz was leading Republican Tim Burns with 53 percent of the vote to Burns' 45 percent and 70 percent of precincts reporting, and Burns conceded the race around 10:30 p.m. In an unusual twist, both candidates are aiming to be on the November ballot. Critz was on track to prevail in a party primary to be the nominee in the general election, and if Burns' lead for his primary holds steady, these two candidates will be matched up again in November.
The Dem turnout was boosted by a competitive Senate primary between Sen. Arlen Specter and Rep. Joe Sestak, one reason the majority party had been sounding quite confident about the race for several days. Critz was fueled as well by labor activists and Democratic volunteers who made calls and knocked on doors for weeks to help keep the seat. Former President Bill Clinton stumped for Critz over the weekend.
Although, RNC Chairman Michael Steele was once talking a pretty big game on the race as well, telling the Washington Post last week "We're going to win."
Democrats believe this is a bellwether district since it voted narrowly for John Kerry in 2004 (51%-49%) but for Sen. John McCain over Barack Obama in 2008 by by less than one percentage point. Al Gore handily won the district in 2000.
And speaking of those primaries... I know the establishment Dems around these parts were freaking out over it, but look what we got out of it. The Sestak v. Specter race won us both a House seat AND a more viable candidate for November! And look at the turnout in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Oregon. In all cases, Democratic turnout far exceeded Republican turnout! So much for that "depressed Democratic base"...
OK, so what does this mean for Nevada? Here you go:
- If Democrats can hold onto the only district in the country that went from Kerry in '04 to McCain in '08, we can most certainly hold a state (Nevada 55-43) and district (NV-03 55-42) that went strongly for Obama.
- Harry Reid has been the one leading the charge on health care, Wall Street, climate and energy. It was initially thought of as a liability, but he can now make these into strengths.
- Local issues still matter, and Harry Reid & Dina Titus have proven to be up to the challenge in dealing with the foreclosure crisis, Yucca Mountain, promoting gaming & tourism, and stopping the Sloan Hills gravel pit that would destroy the ecosystem of Sloan Hills conservation area and disastrously pollute most of Henderson (where I live).
- Dina Titus is an expert at constituent outreach, and this election is showing so far that "staying in touch" will matter a whole lot when we start voting.
- And finally, it was the ground game that led to strong Democratic turnout in all these races, especially in the PA-12 special. And as we learned here in 2008, Nevada Democrats have a good ground game while the GOoPers... Well, don't. Those "angry voters" that the media like to talk about aren't actually the ones who just go on their own to "throw the bums out". It takes good campaigning and a good field program to make it happen. Trust me, I've been there. And I'll tell you now that Dems here are running way ahead of the GOoPers when it comes to field operations and getting out the vote.
See now? Things don't look so scary these days. It isn't the end of the world. And what's happened in Pennsylvania may turn out to our benefit here in Nevada. I have a feeling 2010 won't be what Nevada Republicans were hoping for... Especially with fabulous(ly wackadoodle) candidates like these...