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Cracker Squire


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Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

You can do what might otherwise be the right thing to do, but you do it in the wrong way or at the wrong time, and it becomes the wrong thing to do.

In a 3-14-2005 post entitled "At the heart of Friday's walkout. - Sen. Minority Leader Brown: 'This is a defining moment for the relationship between Republicans & African-Americans,' I wrote the following about the voter ID legislation:

GOP lawmakers have done it for the past several weeks to women. On Friday they changed the target of their in-your-face legislation from sex to race.

You can do what might otherwise be the right thing to do, but you do it in the wrong way or at the wrong time, and it becomes the wrong thing to do.

On Friday GOP lawmakers knew the bills would stir trouble — but not how much. They found out.

My prediction is that this law will pass muster with the U.S. Department of Justice. But it won't matter. GOP lawmakers will have won the battle but will lose the war come 2006 and later, at least in the Empire State of the South.

My first prediction about preclearance by the Department of Justice was correct. Here's to hoping my second one in the preceding paragraph also will come to pass.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Access to Abortion Pared at State Level.

The Washington Post reports:

This year's state legislative season draws to a close having produced a near-record number of laws imposing new restrictions on a woman's access to abortion or contraception.

Since January, governors have signed several dozen antiabortion measures ranging from parental consent requirements to an outright ban looming in South Dakota. Not since 1999, when a wave of laws banning late-term abortions swept the legislatures, have states imposed so many and so varied a menu of regulations on reproductive health care.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Taylor stands by son but staying in politics.

From an interview with Dick Pettys of the Associated Press:

Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor said he will stand by his 21-year-old son as he faces the consequences of being behind the wheel in a fatal wreck and a resulting drunken driving charge but said he won't give up either his current post or his campaign for the governor's office.

"My first obligation is to my family but I absolutely do plan to continue my political career," he told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday.

"My faith tells me this can make me even stronger as a public servant, even stronger as a supporter of law enforcement ... (and) make me stronger as an advocate for tough teen driver laws and tough DUI laws, as I've done throughout my career."

"I've turned to my faith to try to get through this," the elder Taylor said, adding that the past few days "have been absolutely awful."

But he also said, "I know we will get through this with the Lord's help. We will get Fletcher through this. He's in for a long, difficult time, but we will stand with him."

He said he hopes to make something positive come out of the tragedy by encouraging families "to look towards their young people and have another conversation. It's never too late to have another conversation about how dangerous cars are, how dangerous and wrong it is to drink and drive."

He continued, "I believe this tragedy can benefit the state of Georgia, make the state of Georgia a safer place as I go out and tell Joe's story and Fletcher's story and the story of our family, and urge families to make sure to do everything that can to make sure it doesn't happen to another family."

The younger Taylor remains in custody in Charleston. A judge has granted him a $75,000 bond, but it is conditioned upon his treatment in an alcohol program.

Taylor visited his son over the weekend.

"I thought it was important I go tell him I loved him very much and I stand with him."

He described his son as "very, very despondent. He is very sorry this happened. Very worried about Joe's family, and wishes he could go back to Thursday and this never would have happened."

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Shipp: Son's car wreck could change Mark Taylor's political future.

This week Bill Shipp writes:

Mark Taylor's 21-year-old son, Fletcher, narrowly escaped death in a wreck in South Carolina last week that killed his companion, Victor Gennert, 22, of Charleston, S.C.

Even as they are saddened and shocked by young Gennert's death, Lt. Gov. Taylor and his family must feel a sense of relief or even thankfulness that Fletcher survived. However, at this writing, Fletcher, the driver of the death vehicle, is in jail, charged with DUI and other serious crimes that could result in long-term imprisonment and immense fines. Lawyers' fees are certain to be massive. Lt. Gov. Taylor departed immediately for South Carolina.

Just hours before the accident made the news, Rick Dent, Taylor's political consultant, phoned my office to declare emphatically that the lieutenant governor would never abandon his campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor.

Several leading Democrats, including allies of rival candidate Cathy Cox, suggested several weeks ago that Taylor drop out of the governor's contest and seek re-election as lieutenant governor.

Whether the highway crash will alter Taylor's announced plans remains uncertain, yet it is bound to cast a shadow across his campaign, regardless of the office he seeks.

Wherever Mark Taylor goes and whenever he speaks, the death of Fletcher's companion and the resultant criminal accusations will become part of the candidate's permanent profile.

His opponents are not likely to publicly use the calamity to advance their own ambitions. Even so, the incident will quickly morph into the gorilla in the living room of the 2006 election season.

Taylor is a first-rate politician with sharp instincts. In 2002, he wisely distanced himself from fellow Democrats Sen. Max Cleland and Gov. Roy Barnes, two activists destined for defeat. Mounting a soft-spoken, cheerful campaign as "the big guy," Taylor easily won re-election against seemingly formidable GOP opposition.

Though he was stripped of much of his official power in 2003 by the new Republican Senate majority, Taylor has remained tireless as a populist advocate for health care, education and transportation.

Four years earlier, he first won the lieutenant governor's office against a well-financed personal smear campaign launched by whacked-out reactionaries. (One was later imprisoned on government corruption charges.) Before that historically abusive attack, then-Sen. Taylor served Gov. Zell Miller as Senate floor leader and managed the legislation that gave Georgia the HOPE scholarship program.

Now, to Taylor and his family, those challenges and achievements must seem almost trivial compared to what may lie ahead.

The highway fatality and his son's tribulations inevitably will change Taylor's future and conceivably even conclude his productive political career. No matter what path he chooses, political or otherwise, the tragedy will influence him for the rest of his life.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

InsiderAdvantage/Majority Opinion Poll Shows Perdue Leading Potential Democratic Opponents; Cox Ahead Of Taylor For Democratic Nomination.

According to Insider Advantage, an InsiderAdvantage/Majority Opinion Poll shows the following:

Perdue vs. Cox
Perdue – 43 percent
Cox – 34 percent
Undecided – 23 percent

Perdue vs. Taylor
Perdue – 48 percent
Taylor – 26 percent
Undecided – 26 percent

Georgia Democratic Primary, Cox vs. Taylor
Cox – 50 percent
Taylor – 25 percent
Undecided – 25 percent

The poll also indicated that a majority of Georgians held favorable opinions of both Perdue and former U.S. Sen. Zell Miller.

With respect to Cox and Taylor, the figures on the foregoing were as follows according to this poll:

Cathy Cox
Favorable - 53 percent
Unfavorable - 15 percent
No Opinion - 32 percent

Mark Taylor
Favorable - 34 percent
Unfavorable - 19 percent
No Opinion - 46 percent

Georgians are also split when asked to identify with a particular party:

Which party do you affiliate yourself with more?

Republican - 33 percent
Independent - 32 percent
Democrat - 31 percent
Refused to Answer - 4 percent

DPG State Committee & Georgia Association of Democratic County Chairs (GADCC) have successful meetings in Macon. - GADCC hears Gov. Vilsack.

Monday's Political Insider reported that Gov. Tom Vilsack was in Atlanta on Saturday to "visit with some influential Democrats. Later that night, Vilsack [went] to Macon to speak to the Georgia Association of Democratic County Chairs."

I cannot tell you how many members that make up GADCC would meet the Political Insider's description of being "influential," but there is one description that describes them all -- workhorses of the party.

Thank your local county chair for what they do for us the next time you see one of them.

The Political Insider also noted that Gov. Vilsack stated that "[t]he manufacturing middle class of this country is under attack, and there doesn't seem to be any response to that." Gov. Vilsack spoke about this and the theme of "community" during his delivery to GADCC Saturday in one of the best stump speeches both in delivery and content that I have heard in years.

This man is going to be a serious contender in 2008 for the Democratic nominee based on the reaction of the GADCC Saturday evening. And don't think for a moment that he does not recognize the value of the role of faith in the public square.

He stated that Christ himself removed the fear of sharing with our neighbors as revealed in His feeding of the 5,000 with only 3 fish and 5 loaves.

One poignant comment the Gov. made concerned America immediately after 9/11. He stated that after 9/11 President Bush had an opportunity to unify the nataion, and this is what all of us wanted, for when we as a country act as one, there is no stronger country on the face of the earth. But rather than do this, Bush used it to divide us.

And already have gone into Gov. Vilsack remarks more than I intended, let me note in closing on this part of the evening that he reminded us that as a party were must stand for security, letting Americans know that we will insure the safety of every American, regardless of the cost, and that health care should be regarded as a right, not a privilege.

The Political Insider noted that "[i]t'll be interesting to hear how [Gov. Vilsack] played before the county chairmen." Messrs. Galloway and Baxter, he was strong, real strong, and the reaction was a strong standing ovation.

But this was not the only standing ovation of the evening. There was electricity and excitement wherever former Gov. Roy Barnes went Saturday evening. In his introduction of Gov. Vilsack it was obvious that their was mutual admiration between these two greats. Their relationship and friendship was apparent, and Gov. Barnes did a fine an introduction as can be had anywhere. And yes, he before and after extended standing ovations.

And there were more standing ovations, in particular, for the recipient of the 2005 Richard B. Russell Public Service Award, the Honorable Thurbert Baker, Attorney General for the State of Georgia.

In accepting the award Mr. Baker reminded us that:

• If we don't stand for anything, then we stand for nothing;

• A fair health plan managed by American physicians is what America was brought up on;

• We must find a way to allow teachers to teach;

• Democrats started HOPE;

• If you argue the cost of education is too much, what is the cost of ignorance; and

• As a party we have led the fight for women.

The crowd's response was both loud and enthusiastic for the Attorney General, and as noted, his short remarks were preceded and followed for standing ovations.

This annual GADCC fund-raiser provides funds for the organization's various missions, one of which is assisting active Democratic County Committee reach out and organize those in other counties with inactive or weak committees.

I know about this particular part of GADCC's mission because GADCC is presently assisting Coffee County help some of our neighboring counties reorganize in preparation for 2006 and 2008. What we are attempting to do is assist these other counties that either do not have an county committee or need help to strengthen one.

This is in keeping with GADCC's purpose of building a grassroot network of county parties.

Earlier in the day the State Committee engaged in a lengthy and highly productive discussion of our party's message. Despite the considerable time delegated to this crucial topic, Chairman Bobby Kahn indicated that the topic would remain front and center, and further reports and refinements to the party would be forthcoming.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Democrats struggle with cultural divide. Study: Party fails to project moral values.

From the ajc:

After their shellacking in November, Democratic politicians promised to do a better job of telling voters about their moral values.

But judging by a candid report last week from key party strategists, Democrats have made little progress presenting themselves in a way that would recapture rural voters or make inroads into Republican turf.

The report by the Democracy Corps, based on interviews in rural areas and Republican-leaning states, offered a further testament to the cultural divide in America that has worked to Republicans' advantage in elections.

Authors of the study also pointed to openings for Democratic candidates: growing dissatisfaction with the Iraq war, unbridled health care costs and the direction of the nation in general.

But in a withering assessment of their own party, the Democratic pollsters who put out the study raised doubts about whether Democrats can cash in on GOP problems.

"As powerful as concern over these issues is, the introduction of cultural themes --- specifically gay marriage, abortion and the importance of the traditional family unit and the role of religion in public life --- quickly renders them almost irrelevant in terms of electoral politics on the national level," the authors wrote.

The report notes that Democrats running in next year's midterm elections begin at a disadvantage with voters in rural areas and "red" states --- states captured by the GOP in the presidential election.

"The real problem for Democrats is that their elected officials, and by extension their entire party, are perceived as directionless and divided, standing for nothing other than their own enrichment," the Democratic authors wrote.

The report carries weight because of its high-profile authors. The Democracy Corps' principals are Stanley Greenberg, James Carville and Robert Shrum, top strategists for Democratic presidential candidates in recent years.

"If Democrats want 2006 to be a major change election, they have to define themselves as opposed to the mess in Washington," said Karl Agne, a Democratic pollster and one of the authors of the study.

But Democrats may first need to deal with their own problems.

The report found that, particularly among less-educated voters, cultural issues "not only superseded other priorities, they served as a proxy for many voters on those other issues."

In other words, voters who paid little attention to the difference between the major parties on substantive issues like economic policy cast their lot with Republicans because of party leaders' opposition to same-sex marriage and defense of Christian values in public life.

Democratic candidates have long fought to escape the negative connotations of the word liberal. But the Democracy Corps study suggested that they've had limited success, judging by the frequency critics used that word in describing Democratic positions on cultural issues.

The Center for American Progress, a Democratic-affiliated nonprofit group in Washington, is leading an effort to highlight the morality of many Democratic and liberal stances on social issues.

He said Democrats often are restrained when talking about their faith because of what he referred to as the need for an appropriate separation of church and state.

But he said that after soul-searching about what ails his party, he has concluded that voters want to hear elected officials share their values so they can better understand who they are.

Carnahan cited President Harry Truman as a model for Democrats trying to reach a balance in presenting their public and private beings. Truman spoke often of his faith and quoted the Bible in his first address to Congress.

"I don't think it's so much changing as it is being open to sharing things in a better way," he said.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Bush’s reckless invasion of Iraq has turned a man (Osama bin Laden) and an organization (Al Qaeda) into a philosophy and a movement.

Cindy Sheehan represents only a small part of America’s greater tragedy in Iraq.

By Eleanor Clift

Any other politician who had a Gold Star mother in his driveway would get the cameras rolling, give her a big hug and gain points for compassion. Instead of doing what should come naturally to a democratic leader, President George W. Bush deepened the crisis enveloping his presidency by arrogantly refusing to grant Cindy Sheehan an audience. He may have missed that opportunity for good now that Sheehan has rushed to California to see about her ailing mother.

Before Sheehan left Crawford, Texas, on Thursday, Bush explained to reporters that he needs to get on with his life, a remark stunningly insensitive to the thousands of maimed soldiers returning from Iraq, and the families of the more than 1,800 dead. Cycling, his new exercise narcotic, is important, he went on, because Americans want to know that their president leads a balanced life. No, Mr. President, we just want to know that you’re balanced, period.

There’s a war going on. Americans are dying, and so are Iraqis. August is already one of the bloodiest months since this ill-fated venture was launched more than three years ago. “Setting aside talking to Cindy Sheehan, he should be talking to [the American people],” says Marshall Wittman, a policy analyst with the centrist Democratic Leadership Council and a former adviser to Sen. John McCain. Wittman supported the invasion of Iraq, but says the management of the war has been a failure. He can't think of a single Republican elected official who defends the way the administration is handling the war. “They’re hiding,” he says.

So is Bush. A five-week vacation is a luxury you’d expect of a French president, not an American leader in the midst of a war. Maybe he’s agonizing in private and rethinking his strategy, but his behavior conveys an unsettling disconnect from reality. His problem is not Cindy Sheehan and her heroic stand but the facts on the ground in Iraq and an administration in disarray over what to do. It’s becoming clear this is not a winnable war. The insurgency is not in its last throes, as the vice president claimed some months ago. It’s getting stronger, and the notion that an Iraqi Army can take over any time soon is pure fantasy. “We’re training up the civil-war factions of tomorrow,” says an aide on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Sheehan has been latched on to by lots of groups, with the notable exception of the Democratic Party. The party as a whole is terrified of doing anything that would leave them vulnerable to accusations they’re not supporting the troops, or they’re weak on national security, so they don’t get into the debate in any memorable way. Their risk-averse tactics bring back memories of the Kerry campaign, which was so frightened of making a wrong step, they couldn’t make a right step. The protest that began in Crawford and is spreading around the country got no help from the institutional Washington Democrats. It sprang from the grass roots, and that’s why it may endure after Bush’s summer solstice ends and hound him for the rest of his days as president.

Democrats did not support the war as robustly as Republicans, and the GOP could take a hit in the ’06 congressional elections if the war situation doesn’t stabilize. But because of their studied ambivalence (remember Kerry’s “I voted for it before I voted against it”?), Democrats won’t get the benefit of being on the right side of public opinion now that the winds are shifting. Bush’s numbers are getting close to where Lyndon Johnson’s were in 1968, and LBJ’s announcement that he would not run for re-election set the stage for the long slog toward withdrawal. The scary thing about Bush is he doesn’t have to worry about re-election. He can get down to single digits in the polls and remain resolute in his determination to stay the course in Iraq. He doesn’t want his legacy to be a failed war. He’d like to shift that burden to the next president, Republican or Democrat.

Getting out of Iraq precipitously would almost certainly plunge that country into an all-out civil war, which could ripple through the Middle East and empower Iran in ways that would make Saddam’s rule look benign. But more of the same is unacceptable, and Cindy Sheehan could be the catalyst for Democrats to finally find their voice of opposition. Wisconsin Democrat Sen. Russ Feingold has begun calling for withdrawal by the end of 2006. He’s on the left of his party, and his proposal for an end date hasn’t yet been taken up by his colleagues on Capitol Hill. Feingold is the late Sen. Paul Wellstone’s ideological heir, and like Wellstone, he’s one of those rare politicians not there just to feed his ego. He cares about issues and believes in what he’s doing without calibrating how it might impact his political future.

If only Bush’s biggest mistake was refusing to meet with Sheehan. She is a footnote to the greater catastrophe of Iraq, a war without end that we cannot win and cannot leave. As former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer puts it, Bush’s reckless invasion of Iraq has turned a man (Osama bin Laden) and an organization (Al Qaeda) into a philosophy and a movement, insuring a violent and bloody struggle that will continue for decades.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Cathy Cox picks up a senatorial endorsement.

According to Insider Advantage, State Sen. Curt Thompson, D-Norcross, has endorsed Secretary of State Cathy Cox for governor.

Thompson’s district is centered in Gwinnett County. All Democratic House members from Gwinnett have previously endorsed Cox’s campaign.

What Democrats Should Be Saying according to David Ignatius.

From The Washington Post:

This should be the Democrats' moment: The Bush administration is caught in an increasingly unpopular war; its plan to revamp Social Security is fading into oblivion; its deputy chief of staff is facing a grand jury probe. Though the Republicans control both houses of Congress as well as the White House, they seem to be suffering from political and intellectual exhaustion. They are better at slash-and-burn campaigning than governing.

So where are the Democrats amid this GOP disarray? Frankly, they are nowhere. They are failing utterly in the role of an opposition party, which is to provide a coherent alternative account of how the nation might solve its problems. Rather than lead a responsible examination of America's strategy for Iraq, they have handed off the debate to a distraught mother who is grieving for her lost son. Rather than address the nation's long-term fiscal problems, they have decided to play politics and let President Bush squirm on the hook of his unpopular plan to create private Social Security accounts.

Because they lack coherent plans for how to govern the country, the Democrats have become captive of the most shrill voices in the party, who seem motivated these days mainly by visceral dislike of George W. Bush. Sorry, folks, but loathing is not a strategy -- especially when much of the country finds the object of your loathing a likable guy.

The Democrats' problem is partly a lack of strong leadership. Its main spokesman on foreign policy has become Sen. Joseph Biden, a man who -- how to put this politely? -- seems more impressed with the force of his own intellect than an objective evaluation would warrant. Listening to Biden, you sense how hungry he is to be president, but you have little idea what he would do, other than talk . . . and talk.

The same failing is evident among Democratic spokesmen on economic issues. Name a tough problem -- such as energy independence or reform of Medicare and Social Security -- and the Democrats are ducking the hard choices. That may be understandable as a short-term political strategy: Why screw up your chances in the 2006 congressional elections by telling people they must make sacrifices? But this approach keeps the Democrats part of politics-as-usual, a game the GOP plays better.

Howard Dean is a breath of air as chairman of the Democratic National Committee -- but unfortunately a lot of it is hot air. Dean is admirably combative, and in that he reflects a party that is tired of being mauled by Karl Rove's divisive campaigning. The problem with Dean is that, like his party, he doesn't have much to say about solving problems. Pressed about Iraq last Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation," Dean passed the buck: "What we need is a plan from the president of the United States." Rather than condemn a NARAL Pro-Choice America ad against the Supreme Court nomination of Judge John G. Roberts that was so outrageous it was pulled from the air, Dean averred: "I'm not even going to get into that."

Today's Democrats have trouble expressing the most basic theme of American politics: "We, the people." Rather than a governing party with a clear ideology, they are a collection of interest groups. For a simple demonstration, go to the DNC's Web site and pull down the menu for "People." What you will find is the following shopping list: "African American, Asian Amer./Pacific Islanders, Disability Community, Farmers and Ranchers, Hispanics, GLBT (Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transgender) Community, Native Americans, Religious Communities, Seniors & Retirees, Small Business Community, Union Members & Families, Veterans & Military Families, Women, Young People & Students." That's most of the threads in the national quilt, but disassembled.

What can the Democrats do to seize the opportunities of the moment? I suggest they take a leaf from Newt Gingrich's GOP playbook and develop a new "Contract With America." The Democrats should put together a clear and coherent list of measures they would implement if they could regain control of Congress and the White House. If the Democrats are serious, some of these measures -- dealing with economics and energy -- will be unpopular because they will call for sacrifice. But precisely for that reason, they will show that the Democrats can transcend interest-group America and unite the country.

America doesn't need more of the angry, embittered shouting matches that take place on talk radio and in the blogosphere. It needs a real opposition party that will lay out new strategies: How to withdraw from Iraq without creating even more instability? How to engage a world that mistrusts and often hates America? How to rebuild global institutions and contain Islamic extremism? How to put the U.S. economy back into balance? A Democratic Party that could begin to answer these questions would deserve a chance to govern.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Shipp: Democratic strategists facing struggle to stop Ralph Reed. Taylor is asked to switch races from Gov. to Lt. Gov.

Bill Shipp reports that a group of Democrats are pleading with Taylor to seek a third term as lieutenant governor. These folks are determined to stop Ralph Reed before he gains the first rung of power in elective politics.

Shipp notes that a growing perception that Cathy Cox has momentum in the governor's race is not helping Taylor's fund-raising activities. This notwithstanding, Taylor's brain trust thinks Taylor can corner the black vote and some rural whites plus a bloc of disillusioned teachers to win the nomination.

The above does not surprise me. What does surprise me is Shipp's noting that -- at this early time in the process -- Taylor seriously considered switching races. Not to put words into the Dean's mouth, his column notes the following:

"The opportunity to square off against a budding Goliath in a nationally watched state contest might come along only once in a career. Even so, though Taylor seriously has considered the get-Ralph assignment, the betting here is that he will not switch races. Democratic coaches next week and even next year still will be looking for a player big enough to knock down Reed.

"No matter what his critics say, Reed's relationship with Washington lobbyist Abramoff, as it is currently reported, is not enough to deny him an election victory. As the old political saw goes, "You can't beat somebody with nobody."

Roberts Battle Adds to Democrats' Divide.

From The Washington Post:

The public tug of war among Democrats this week over the Supreme Court nomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. underscores the conflicting pressures facing Democratic leaders as they try to satisfy a growing cadre of activists anxious to battle President Bush while avoiding the appearance of being captives of their most vocal constituencies.

The debate over what to do about Roberts is the latest in a series of disagreements over the past three years pitting the party's Washington-based leaders against traditional liberal advocacy groups or the newer world of grass-roots activists stitched together through e-mail and Web logs.

Some elected officials, according to critics, have been slow to appreciate how the power balance in the Democratic coalition has shifted -- away from established interests and toward citizen activists who tend toward a more aggressive brand of politics.

Party leaders in Washington trying to manage this unruly alliance as they prepare for Roberts's confirmation hearings face a delicate choice, according to party strategists and other analysts. They can risk heading into the 2006 midterm elections with a demoralized base. Or they could potentially turn off swing voters, who may view Bush's nominee in less ideological terms and could recoil at a party they perceive as driven by die-hard activists.

Rank-and-file Democrats "want the Washington party to fight every day on every issue and to fight more effectively and better," said Simon Rosenberg, co-founder of the New Politics Institute, a think tank for progressive politics and new technology. "The truth is, it's going to be hard to fight and win every battle. . . . It's finding that right balance that's going to be the art of keeping our coalition together over the next few years."

Earlier this month, another quarrel broke out over the party's tactics in a special House election in Ohio, in which Democrat Paul Hackett came within 5,000 votes of upsetting Republican Jean Schmidt in an overwhelmingly GOP district. Hackett enjoyed strong support from progressive bloggers, who helped him raise more than $400,000, but the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee did not put money into the race until the final weekend. Some grass-roots activists complained bitterly that the DCCC had missed an opportunity to score a stunning upset.

The worlds of the bloggers and of the liberal advocacy groups are different, but both share concerns that the Washington-based leadership's strategy may condemn Democrats to permanent minority status.

My concern is in bold. As a party we must pick our battles and advocate such things as being fiscally responsibile.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Will Virginia 2005 Predict Georgia 2006?

Bill Shipp's Insider Advantage notes:

The events occurring [in Virginia] this Fall could provide a preview of Georgia’s election next year.

Virginia’s statewide electoral cycle is a little different from that of the rest of the nation. It’s sandwiched in between a year after the presidential melee and twelve months before most states hold theirs. Most people see it as a warm-up for other statewide elections. Candidates, themes and policies are all closely watched for signs, signals and cues from voters. This year, Virginia will be no different.

[T]here are some lessons for Georgia political pundits. What you need to know is what to watch for. These include (1) attitudes toward incumbency, (2) who moderate swing voters fall for, (3) the success of some key themes designed to motivate the ideological base to turn out on Election Day.

Democratic Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine is hoping to ride the incumbent’s coattails to the statehouse in Richmond. The next best thing to re-election for popular Gov. Mark Warner is to promote his deputy to his post. Warner turned heads with his blue win in a red southern state (some feel he may run for the 2008 presidential race). Kaine hopes to do the same with a focus on education, jobs and transportation.

Republican Attorney General Jerry Kilgore has taken a different tack. No doubt, he came to the conclusion that the key to electoral success is to follow the Bush-Cheney-Rove playbook, which can be summed up in three words: motivate your base. Kilgore has focused his campaign on God, guns and gays. He has made abortion and the death penalty key statewide issues and made subtle jabs at affirmative action. The plan is to throw some red meat in the red state to fire up conservatives to come out in droves, just as they did in November of 2004.

Russ Potts, a Republican state senator who has crafted a position as a fiscal conservative, but a social liberal [is also running as an independent]. He has drawn moderate Republicans who are uncomfortable with their party’s dramatic right-turn toward the social conservative movement.

A Mason-Dixon poll undertaken for the Richmond Times-Dispatch showed Kaine with 38 percent, Kilgore with 37 percent, and Potts with nine percent.

[The article is by John A. Tures, an assistant professor of political science at LaGrange College.]

Liberal cities are largely black and conservative towns are mostly white.

U.S. News & World Report reports:

Forget blue vs. red as the trait that determines liberal versus conservative cities. It's all about race. At least one group--the Bay Area Center for Voting Research--says so. Their proof: Liberal cities are largely black and conservative towns are mostly white, according to a new survey from the nonpartisan think tank.

"The great political divide in America today is not red versus blue," says Phil Reiff of the Center. "It's now clearly black versus white." His top examples: The most liberal city is Detroit, where blacks in the 2000 census made up about 80 percent of the population. The most conservative city is Provo, Utah, where blacks made up less than 1 percent of the population. "Detroit and Provo epitomize America's political, economic, and racial polarization," said Center researcher Janet Kim. "As the most conservative city in America, Provo is overwhelmingly solidly middle class. This is in stark contrast to Detroit, which is impoverished, black, and the most liberal."

Of course there are exceptions, though mostly on the liberal side. The No. three city on the liberal list, Berkeley, Calif., and No. eight, Cambridge, Mass., are very white. But the center has an excuse: Liberals need each other. "These liberal white communities," says Reiff, "are more reminiscent of penguins clustering together around a shrinking iceberg than of a vibrant, growing political movement."

Union rift worries Democrats.

From U.S. News & World Report:

The president's increasingly anemic poll numbers and the relatively strong showing by an Ohio Democrat in a recent special election for the House of Representatives are among the things giving Democrats hope about their prospects at the polls in next year's congressional midterms.

On the other hand, Andy Stern is among the things giving them heartburn. Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, the fastest-growing labor union in the country, thinks that labor has not been getting its money's worth from Democrats and vice versa.

"We've been an ATM for the Democratic Party for a long time," he recently told U.S. News. Big Labor has been the linchpin in the Democratic coalition for decades, contributing millions of dollars to Democratic candidates and causes as well as raising huge armies of workers and volunteers for election campaigns.

In many ways the declining fortunes of the Democratic Party over the last generation or two have mirrored those of the labor movement. And now Stern, who recently led a labor movement revolt by pulling his union out of the umbrella AFL-CIO, is also insisting that Democrats clarify their vision if the alliance is to persist.

"They have lost their moral compass," he says, "and that is why the party has lost so much of its base."

But clearly, Stern's decision to leave the AFL-CIO is rife with contradiction: His chief criticism of the labor movement leadership is that it has done nothing to increase union membership, which has steadily declined over the past 35 years. Yet Stern's decision to pull his 1.8 million members out of the AFL-CIO leaves Big Labor more fractured and fractious than it's been in a long time. His explanation is that change is necessary, or extinction is inevitable.

"We did not try to divide the labor movement," he said. "We tried to modernize it. This country is going through the most traumatic social and economic change in its history, and the result of that is that it has not been good for workers."

Stern says that the role the breakaway unions, billed as the Change to Win movement, play in the 2006 midterms will depend on what kind of working relationship they develop with their old friends at the AFL-CIO. But with the wounds still so raw, the prospects for a détente are hard to measure.

For Democrats so dependent on union help, the hope is that this family feud gets worked out sooner rather than later.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Bush's Iraq Rating.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

American support for Bush's handling of Iraq continues to erode, a new Harris poll shows. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults now rate the president negatively with regard to Iraq, and public confidence in the situation there, including U.S. involvement, continues to decline, according to the online survey of 2,339 adults. Since March 2003, Harris has asked, "Overall, how would you rate the job Bush has done in handling the issue of Iraq?"

While all the fuss about same-sex marriages is nothing but gay bashing, as a party we believe in the wisdom & legality of conventional wedlock.

Today the Political Insider cuts to the chase on the issue of gay marriage, noting:

"For Republicans, gay marriage is the non-wedding gift that keeps on giving. And giving. And giving.

"Nine months ago, Georgia voters approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage (which according to mere statute already was illegal in the state) by an astounding 76 percent.

"Let's dispense with any discussion about morality, and go straight to the crass interpretation that politicians have carried away from that number.

"Seven-six percent means that you can waffle on gay marriage, and even support it. Or you can run for statewide office. But you can't do both.

"To the layman, 76 percent might represent a settled issue — something to walk away from. Democrats, ever a suspicious lot, don't think so. They doubt Republicans will return a stick that handy to the closet. So to speak."

Next the Political Insider notes that "[g]ay marriage" is "the big daddy of all cultural issues," and that not only will the Philistines revive gay marriage as a campaign issue, but:

"What form next year's culture war will take, Democrats aren't sure. Possibly the issue of gay adoption."

What the Political Insider did not remind us of is something the Political Insider was the first to bring to our attention.

By challenging the results of the 2004 76% constitutional amendment referendum, the gay community itself has substantially contributed to the gay marriage issue being around come Nov. 2006.

The Political Insider did this when it noted last fall "that the state Supreme Court could toss the amendment aside [, and this] prospect brought a faint smile to the governor's lips. A reworked anti-gay marriage amendment couldn't come back until November '06, when Sonny Perdue would be running for re-election."

Someone Tell the President the War Is Over.

Although the following represents where things stand with many Americans, it is not time for Democrats to begin being critical of the war. To do so runs the risk -- especially in the South -- of being perceived as soft on terrorism and not backing our troops.

It is a bed the president has made; allow him to lie in it; the time to be critical will come, but it is not now.

Someone Tell the President the War Is Over

By Frank Rich
The New York Times

LIKE the Japanese soldier marooned on an island for years after V-J Day, President Bush may be the last person in the country to learn that for Americans, if not Iraqis, the war in Iraq is over. "We will stay the course," he insistently tells us from his Texas ranch. What do you mean we, white man?

A president can't stay the course when his own citizens (let alone his own allies) won't stay with him. The approval rate for Mr. Bush's handling of Iraq plunged to 34 percent in last weekend's Newsweek poll - a match for the 32 percent that approved L.B.J.'s handling of Vietnam in early March 1968. (The two presidents' overall approval ratings have also converged: 41 percent for Johnson then, 42 percent for Bush now.) On March 31, 1968, as L.B.J.'s ratings plummeted further, he announced he wouldn't seek re-election, commencing our long extrication from that quagmire.

But our current Texas president has even outdone his predecessor; Mr. Bush has lost not only the country but also his army. Neither bonuses nor fudged standards nor the faking of high school diplomas has solved the recruitment shortfall. Now Jake Tapper of ABC News reports that the armed forces are so eager for bodies they will flout "don't ask, don't tell" and hang on to gay soldiers who tell, even if they tell the press.

The president's cable cadre is in disarray as well. At Fox News Bill O'Reilly is trashing Donald Rumsfeld for his incompetence, and Ann Coulter is chiding Mr. O'Reilly for being a defeatist. In an emblematic gesture akin to waving a white flag, Robert Novak walked off a CNN set and possibly out of a job rather than answer questions about his role in smearing the man who helped expose the administration's prewar inflation of Saddam W.M.D.'s. (On this sinking ship, it's hard to know which rat to root for.)

As if the right-wing pundit crackup isn't unsettling enough, Mr. Bush's top war strategists, starting with Mr. Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers, have of late tried to rebrand the war in Iraq as what the defense secretary calls "a global struggle against violent extremism." A struggle is what you have with your landlord. When the war's über-managers start using euphemisms for a conflict this lethal, it's a clear sign that the battle to keep the Iraq war afloat with the American public is lost.

That battle crashed past the tipping point this month in Ohio. There's historical symmetry in that. It was in Cincinnati on Oct. 7, 2002, that Mr. Bush gave the fateful address that sped Congressional ratification of the war just days later. The speech was a miasma of self-delusion, half-truths and hype. The president said that "we know that Iraq and Al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade," an exaggeration based on evidence that the Senate Intelligence Committee would later find far from conclusive. He said that Saddam "could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year" were he able to secure "an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball." Our own National Intelligence Estimate of Oct. 1 quoted State Department findings that claims of Iraqi pursuit of uranium in Africa were "highly dubious."

It was on these false premises - that Iraq was both a collaborator on 9/11 and about to inflict mushroom clouds on America - that honorable and brave young Americans were sent off to fight. Among them were the 19 marine reservists from a single suburban Cleveland battalion slaughtered in just three days at the start of this month. As they perished, another Ohio marine reservist who had served in Iraq came close to winning a Congressional election in southern Ohio. Paul Hackett, a Democrat who called the president a "chicken hawk," received 48 percent of the vote in exactly the kind of bedrock conservative Ohio district that decided the 2004 election for Mr. Bush.

These are the tea leaves that all Republicans, not just Chuck Hagel, are reading now. Newt Gingrich called the Hackett near-victory "a wake-up call." The resolutely pro-war New York Post editorial page begged Mr. Bush (to no avail) to "show some leadership" by showing up in Ohio to salute the fallen and their families. A Bush loyalist, Senator George Allen of Virginia, instructed the president to meet with Cindy Sheehan, the mother camping out in Crawford, as "a matter of courtesy and decency." Or, to translate his Washingtonese, as a matter of politics. Only someone as adrift from reality as Mr. Bush would need to be told that a vacationing president can't win a standoff with a grief-stricken parent commandeering TV cameras and the blogosphere 24/7.

Such political imperatives are rapidly bringing about the war's end. That's inevitable for a war of choice, not necessity, that was conceived in politics from the start. Iraq was a Bush administration idée fixe before there was a 9/11. Within hours of that horrible trauma, according to Richard Clarke's "Against All Enemies," Mr. Rumsfeld was proposing Iraq as a battlefield, not because the enemy that attacked America was there, but because it offered "better targets" than the shadowy terrorist redoubts of Afghanistan. It was easier to take out Saddam - and burnish Mr. Bush's credentials as a slam-dunk "war president," suitable for a "Top Gun" victory jig - than to shut down Al Qaeda and smoke out its leader "dead or alive."

But just as politics are a bad motive for choosing a war, so they can be a doomed engine for running a war. In an interview with Tim Russert early last year, Mr. Bush said, "The thing about the Vietnam War that troubles me, as I look back, was it was a political war," adding that the "essential" lesson he learned from Vietnam was to not have "politicians making military decisions." But by then Mr. Bush had disastrously ignored that very lesson; he had let Mr. Rumsfeld publicly rebuke the Army's chief of staff, Eric Shinseki, after the general dared tell the truth: that several hundred thousand troops would be required to secure Iraq. To this day it's our failure to provide that security that has turned the country into the terrorist haven it hadn't been before 9/11 - "the central front in the war on terror," as Mr. Bush keeps reminding us, as if that might make us forget he's the one who recklessly created it.

The endgame for American involvement in Iraq will be of a piece with the rest of this sorry history. "It makes no sense for the commander in chief to put out a timetable" for withdrawal, Mr. Bush declared on the same day that 14 of those Ohio troops were killed by a roadside bomb in Haditha. But even as he spoke, the war's actual commander, Gen. George Casey, had already publicly set a timetable for "some fairly substantial reductions" to start next spring. Officially this calendar is tied to the next round of Iraqi elections, but it's quite another election this administration has in mind. The priority now is less to save Jessica Lynch (or Iraqi democracy) than to save Rick Santorum and every other endangered Republican facing voters in November 2006.

Nothing that happens on the ground in Iraq can turn around the fate of this war in America: not a shotgun constitution rushed to meet an arbitrary deadline, not another Iraqi election, not higher terrorist body counts, not another battle for Falluja (where insurgents may again regroup, The Los Angeles Times reported last week). A citizenry that was asked to accept tax cuts, not sacrifice, at the war's inception is hardly in the mood to start sacrificing now. There will be neither the volunteers nor the money required to field the wholesale additional American troops that might bolster the security situation in Iraq.

WHAT lies ahead now in Iraq instead is not victory, which Mr. Bush has never clearly defined anyway, but an exit (or triage) strategy that may echo Johnson's March 1968 plan for retreat from Vietnam: some kind of negotiations (in this case, with Sunni elements of the insurgency), followed by more inflated claims about the readiness of the local troops-in-training, whom we'll then throw to the wolves. Such an outcome may lead to even greater disaster, but this administration long ago squandered the credibility needed to make the difficult case that more human and financial resources might prevent Iraq from continuing its descent into civil war and its devolution into jihad central.

Thus the president's claim on Thursday that "no decision has been made yet" about withdrawing troops from Iraq can be taken exactly as seriously as the vice president's preceding fantasy that the insurgency is in its "last throes." The country has already made the decision for Mr. Bush. We're outta there. Now comes the hard task of identifying the leaders who can pick up the pieces of the fiasco that has made us more vulnerable, not less, to the terrorists who struck us four years ago next month.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Rep. Greg Morris of Vidalia. - Say what you will, this defection hurts.

The ajc reports that State Rep. Greg Morris, a Vidalia Democrat and entrenched party insider, today will announce his defection to the GOP.

Regardless of what we might be tempted to say and think, this one hurts more than usual because Rep. Morris was an upcoming leader in our party. This notwithstanding, I definitely agree with House Minority Leader DuBose Porter (D-Dublin) assessment that Morris is making "a big mistake."

In his interview with the ajc, Morris indicated that this past legislative session the GOP came through on many of the issues that were important him -- pro-life, tort reform, ethics.

Today our challenge is greater than it was yesterday. It includes showing Rep. Morris that in fact he did make a mistake. Winning the governor's race in 2006 will be step one. And refining our message sooner rather than later becomes even more important.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

For Democrats, a Troubling Culture Gap.

The Washington Post reports:

Dissatisfaction over the war in Iraq, the economy and rising health care costs might spell trouble for Republicans, but a study by Democratic strategists warns that their party's failure to connect with voters on cultural issues could prevent Democratic candidates from reaping gains in upcoming national elections.

Democrats have expressed bewilderment over Republican gains among lower-income, less-educated voters, saying they are voting against their economic self-interest by supporting Republican candidates. But the new Democracy Corps study concludes that cultural issues trump economic issues by a wide margin for many of these voters -- giving the GOP a significant electoral advantage.

The study is based on focus groups of rural voters in Wisconsin and Arkansas and disaffected supporters of President Bush in Colorado and Kentucky. The good news for Democrats: All the groups expressed dissatisfaction with the direction of the country and with the leadership of the president and the GOP-controlled Congress.

Then came the bad news: "As powerful as the concern over these issues is, the introduction of cultural themes -- specifically gay marriage, abortion, the importance of the traditional family unit and the role of religion in public life -- quickly renders them almost irrelevant in terms of electoral politics at the national level," the study said.

Many of these voters still favor Democrats on economic issues. But they see the Democrats as weak on national security, and on cultural and moral issues, they view Democrats as both inconsistent and hostile to traditional values. "Most referred to Democrats as 'liberal' on issues of morality, but some even go so far as to label them 'immoral,' 'morally bankrupt,' or even 'anti-religious,' " according to the Democracy Corps analysis.

Democrats Karl Agne and Stan Greenberg, who conducted the focus group, said Democrats need a reform-oriented, anti-Washington agenda to overcome the culture gap. At this point, Democrats are in no position to capitalize if there is a clear backlash against Republicans. "No matter how disaffected they are over Republican failures in Iraq and here at home," they said, "a large chunk of white, non-college voters, particularly in rural areas, will remain unreachable for Democrats at the national level."

Another and surprising viewpoint on voter ID's.

Sam Griffin, Jr. is Editor and Publisher of The (Bainbridge) Post-Searchlight, and solidly in the conservative corner. This week he writes the following:

When NPR’s Juan Williams—even the perpetual liberal apologist Juan Williams—finds the intemperate, vitriolic remarks of Jesse Jackson, Judge Greg Mathis and Atlanta columnist Cynthia Tucker at the Atlanta rally for extension of the 1965 Voting Rights Act outrageous and false, it must be bad indeed. But Monday night on the O’Reilly Factor, Williams said of Georgia’s photo ID voter law: “Sounds reasonable, but far left pundits such as Cynthia Tucker, editorial page boss of the Atlanta Constitution, say asking for IDs will disenfranchise some minorities. The truth is this—valid picture IDs will cut down on fraud. Elderly and sick people can easily acquire them, and the whole issue is a fraud. But it serves the purpose of ideologues like Jesse Jackson and Cynthia Tucker, and that's what this is really all about."

Goodness gracious. What’ll happen next?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Cox camp has just released a significant announcement.

Cathy Cox's campaign has just announced that this morning nearly 2/3 of the Georgia House Democratic Caucus announced that they are endorsing her.

The announcement noted that this was the largest single endorsement yet in the 2006 gubernatorial campaign.

The group endorsing Cox include 51 Democrats in the Georgia House of Representatives (plus one independent state Representative).

Monday, August 08, 2005

Cleland confirms that he will not seek the office of lieutenant governor.

Despite some balloons floated by others, Max Cleland told ajc's Political Insider that he definitely will not seek the office of lieutenant governor next year. Wouldn't it have been fun though?

Today's Political Insider cautions that we are in the early innings, and thus don't count Taylor out.

Along the same line of my Saturday post, today's ajc Political Insider says:

[I]t's far too early to offer Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor a premature burial.

Taylor is a Democratic candidate for governor. He was first in the '06 race to challenge Sonny Perdue, but has lately been eclipsed by Secretary of State Cathy Cox — another Democrat who's done well in fund-raising and in recent polls.

In those polls, Cox has exhibited strong support among African-American voters, tapping into what many presumed to be Taylor's strength.

Nearly everyone will agree that the increasingly middle-class nature of Georgia's black vote has made it harder to fathom. Even while the white Republican vote is drifting toward a church-network discipline, the black Democrat vote is moving away from that model.

Persuasion has become harder. Loss of control of the state Capitol has shifted the power of patronage to the GOP side.

Then there's been the death of former Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson in 2003, and the recent conviction of former state Sen. Charles Walker of Augusta. Both were accomplished organizers of the African-American vote.

That said, Taylor is a fine student of the black interests in Georgia, as good as any white politician in the state.

In fact, we've picked up some interesting movement in Taylor's campaign — small stuff, but it's all small in August. On Friday, state Sen. Ed Harbison, former chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, hosted an event for Taylor in Columbus.

Former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young and Senate Minority Leader Robert Brown of Macon were detected making phone calls for Taylor downstate last week, drumming up attendance by black pastors and ministers at another event.

Brown is at least Walker's equal in terms of organization, and is almost certainly the better chess player. He's shown no tendency to be blinded by self-interest.

Brown was crucial to Jim Marshall's congressional victories in '02 and '04. Brown acknowledges that black elected officials will split over Cox and Taylor, but says Taylor's rural network is in good shape.

Things are less clear in metro Atlanta, Brown said — but Taylor's latest financial disclosure provides some clues. Hank Aaron is on Taylor's list of givers, which means Taylor might well have the support of Aaron's brother-in-law, too — U.S. Rep. David Scott of Atlanta.

U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, whose strength lies in south DeKalb County, has also tipped her hand in Taylor's direction.

Look for Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin to stay neutral, at least for now. At first, that may not sound good for Taylor. But if Cox's strategy is to feminize next year's race, the sidelining of the most popular black woman in Georgia isn't such a bad thing.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Rich Liberals Vow to Fund Think Tanks. Aim Is to Compete With Conservatives.

The Washington Post reports:

At least 80 wealthy liberals have pledged to contribute $1 million or more apiece to fund a network of think tanks and advocacy groups to compete with the potent conservative infrastructure built up over the past three decades.

The money will be channeled through a new partnership called the Democracy Alliance, which was founded last spring -- the latest in a series of liberal initiatives as the Democratic Party and its allies continue to struggle with the loss of the House and the Senate in 1994 and the presidency in 2000. Many influential Democratic contributors were left angry and despairing over the party's poor showing in last year's elections, and are looking for what they hope will be more effective ways to invest their support.

Financial commitments totaling at least $80 million over the next five years generated by the Democracy Alliance in recent months -- at a time when some liberal groups, such as the George Soros-backed America Coming Together, are floundering -- suggest that the group is becoming a player in the long-term effort to reinvigorate the left.

The alliance is the brainchild of longtime Democratic strategist Rob Stein, who spent years studying conservative groups -- in particular their success in sustaining GOP politicians and achieving many of their policy goals. Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democrat Network, is working with Stein and is a leading promoter of his effort.

As alliance officials see it, many liberal groups are designed to protect an agenda that was enacted by past Democratic majorities -- as opposed to generating new ideas and communication strategies to win support from voters who do not belong to labor or other traditionally Democratic constituencies.

Alliance organizers said they are seeking to avoid involvement in the ideological disputes that have plagued Democrats in recent years.

My Yankee friend has it right again! When will we ever learn . . . .

Democrats, change your ways

By Joan Vennochi
The Boston Globe

It is time for Democrats to stop moaning about John Roberts and John Bolton and start doing something productive -- such as figuring out how to win elections.

Even though Democrats continue to resist the outcome, George W. Bush won the 2004 presidential contest. His reelection triggered a time-honored cliche: To the victor, go the spoils. Bush selected a Supreme Court nominee and an ambassador to the United Nations who reflect his philosophy. Any Democratic president would do the same.

The Senate has the responsibility to press Roberts on his views and philosophy. But it should come as no shock that Bush would select a conservative thinker as his nominee. So far, activists' effort to paint Roberts as an extremist looks silly. Here is a candidate whose first written response to questions from lawmakers states that judges should possess ''modesty and humility." Roberts understands how to market himself to the masses in a way the abortion rights lobby never learned.

This week, Bush bypassed the Senate and installed Bolton as emissary to the UN. In doing so, the president broke no law; he merely used a procedure that allows him to fill vacant positions when the Senate is in recess. If Bolton is as unsuited for the position as opponents insist, that will become clear soon enough. Ultimately, any failure on Bolton's part will help Democrats in what should be the party's main goal: winning back the voters who now view them as the powerless party of the petulant.

And powerless the Democrats will remain -- unless more of them win office.

More evidence of their difficulty comes from Ohio. On Tuesday, former state Representative Jean Schmidt, a Republican, narrowly defeated Paul L. Hackett, a Democrat and Iraqi war veteran.

Schmidt won a special election to replace Representative Rob Portman, a Republican who resigned from Congress after winning Senate confirmation to become US trade representative. Hackett, an underdog, lost by only about 4,000 votes. He scared the GOP, but still he lost.

In his campaign, Hackett called Bush a ''chicken hawk" for failing to serve in Vietnam and ''a cheerleader for the enemy," for goading Islamic militants to ''bring it on." It was not a winning strategy against Bush in the past, and it wasn't for Hackett against Schmidt. His attacks caused Republicans to throw money and resources into the race. Besides, chicken hawk Republicans have a track record for knowing how to dissect and dismantle war heroes, from fellow Republican John McCain to Democrats Max Cleland and John Kerry.

Democrats continue to fight the last campaign, while Republicans are planning for the next two. While the Democrats are busy bashing Bush -- a second-term president who is not running for anything -- the Republicans are working on their strategy for victory in 2006 and 2008. Ken Mehlman, the Republican National Committee chairman, continues the GOP outreach to Latino and African-American voters. Dividing up the Democratic base and conquering even a small piece of it helps Republicans in future elections and hurts Democrats.

Already, Democrats are beginning the familiar waltz down losing paths, courting liberal activists in Iowa and New Hampshire. Why? If Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack runs for the Democratic presidential nomination, the Iowa caucus is irrelevant. If Kerry runs again, the New Hampshire primary is also less important.

Democrats should spend more time in places like Ohio, and it should be quality time. They should be listening, for once, to what voters are thinking, not telling voters what is wrong about their thinking and their past choice on election day.

Democrats should also do with stem cell research what Republicans did with gay marriage: present the issue for a vote on every possible state ballot. Republican Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader from Tennessee, just demonstrated the power of the issue. Frist's surprise endorsement of a bill that would approve federal funds for new lines of stem cells enraged the right. But Frist knows the political center supports it, and the political center is where a presidential contender wants to be. In stem cell research, Democrats, for once, have an issue that fires up their base and cuts to the center, across diverse demographic groups.

Sniping about Bush's vacations and workout schedule is not a long-range strategy for Democratic success. Winning on election day is what it takes to derail nominees like Bolton and Roberts.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Bill Shipp's Georgia discusses results of a new Republican poll.

In a new poll released this week by the Republican polling firm Strategic Vision Taylor received a 50 percent approval rating; with 34 percent disapproval; and 16 percent undecided. Cox received a 54 percent approval rating; 35 percent disapproval; and 11 percent undecided.

When Democrats were asked their choice for governor in 2006, Cox led Taylor in the poll with 48 percent to 36 percent for Taylor with 16 percent undecided.

In potential match-ups between Perdue and Taylor, the results were Perdue 52 percent; Taylor 40 percent; and 8 percent undecided. Against Cox, the results were Perdue 51 percent; Cox 45 percent, and 4 percent undecided.

The poll found that 53 percent of respondents approved of Perdue's job performance, with 37% disapproving, and 10 percent undecided.

The poll of 800 likely Georgia voters was conducted on July 31-August 2, 2005, and has a margin of error of the +/- 3 percent.

In discussing the poll, Matt Towery noted that while he never takes polls which are affiliated or poll for one particular party as seriously as others, "this particular firm has proven to be pretty good . . . but I don’t think we have a news quality survey yet that tells us where the races really are.”

"Typically, the sort of poll we conduct for news organizations which we or Zogby conduct for news organizations, would show an undecided in at least the double digits this far out," Towery writes in discussing the poll.

Could it be different this time? Based on my experience to date, I have talked with very few Democrats who do not already have a candidate. But Matt Towery is probably correct in noting that more voters are undecided that this poll indicates.

Why? Readers of this blog follow politics very closely. But no doubt many of the masses at this time, a year away from the election, have not given much thought to whom they will vote for. And one of our jobs is to just make sure they vote Democratic.

A year before the Democratic primary, State Sen. Ed Harbison is getting on board with Georgia's "Big Guy."

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reports:

"It's his time," Harbison said. "He has paid his dues and governor should be the next rung on the ladder."

Taylor -- the self-proclaimed "Big Guy" of state politics -- is in his second term as lieutenant governor. A former state senator from Albany, he has a 19-year career of public service.

Next summer's Democratic campaign promises to be lively. Joining Taylor in the primary race is Secretary of State Cathy Cox, another longtime party regular.

That made his decision difficult, Harbison said.

"Cathy is a great leader," he said, "but Mark Taylor has the ability to win."

Friday, August 05, 2005

Measuring the Blogosphere.

The New York Times reports:

Nearly 80,000 new blogs are created every day, and there are some 14.2 million in existence already . . . .

Some 900,000 new blog postings are added every day . . . .

The blogosphere - that is, the virtual realm of blogdom as a whole - doubles in size every five and a half months.

If the blogosphere continues to expand at this rate, every person who has Internet access will be a blogger before long, if not an actual reader of blogs. The conventional media - this very newspaper, for instance - have often discussed the growing impact of blogging on the coverage of news. Perhaps the strongest indicator of the importance of blogdom isn't those discussions themselves, but the extent to which media outlets are creating blogs - or bloglike manifestations - of their own.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Repeat post from 5-16-05: Part of our message can be: Jesus Cares for the Poor, so do We. Democrats Make America Stronger.

Billboards have been in the news lately, and reminded me of the following 5-16-05 post that I thought was worth reposting:

The Blog for Democracy has pointed out a great Web site published by a South Dakota county group calling itself Grassroot Democrats -- South Dakota. This South Dakota group's identifying itself as being Democrats from the State of South Dakota is what I had in mind with my "A Georgia Democrat & Proud of It" bumper stickers. In each case our binding identity is that we are all Democrats from a particular state, for us the great State of Georgia.

Grassroot Democrats -- South Dakota has made what seems to me to be a wise investment in a couple of billboards that read: "Jesus Cares for the Poor, so do We. Democrats Make America Stronger." I feel certain this investment has the potential to pay big dividends.The rank and file Democrats want the party to come out and say we are not ashamed of our faith, belief in God and Judeo-Christian heritage.South Dakota's largest newspaper picked up on the Grassroot Democrats -- South Dakota billboard and wrote the following:

"Democrats speak out on religion

Democrats are tired of letting Republicans own the faith and values message, so they are taking their case to the streets.

A billboard campaign was launched Monday by the Minneheha County’s Grassroots Democrats, letting people know what their party stands for, says chairwoman Lisa Engels.

Green, black and white signs at Seventh Street and Minnesota Avenue and at Russell Street and Westport Avenue say: “Jesus cares for the poor, so do we. Democrats make America stronger.”

The whole thing behind it is to counteract the Christian right and their so-called monopoly on religion,” Engels said. “They have been able to get out there and convince people that the flag wraps better around them than it does us, and that is not true.”

They plan to take their message statewide, she said.

(5-5-05 article in the Sioux Falls, South Dakota's Argus Leader.)

The Grassroot Democrats -- South Dakota Web site also has some other quotes and comments that are worth noting. Among them:

Democrats make America stronger.

We firmly believe this. We are excited to take the message “Democrats make America stronger” to the street. We also believe discussion makes America stronger, that is why we did not shy away from reminding America of our values – taking care of the poor and managing the deficit. Based on the outpouring of financial support, we know you agree with us – Democrats do make America stronger.

Ike predicts future for GOP.

"Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are [a] few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid." - President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 11/8/54

[And I digress to remind you what Virginia Gov. Mark Warner said at our Jefferson-Jackson Dinner that I noted on my 3-21-05 post to the effect that moderate Republicans are upset that the party of Lincoln and Eisenhower has become the party of Ralph Reed and Tom DeLay.]

Proud Democrats -- The Party of Equality, Opportunity, and Responsibility.

What a great theme "Democrats make America stronger" is!! Those noted above of taking care of the poor, taking care of the deficit and the GOP not having a monopoly of religion and faith are only a beginning. Let's put our minds to work here friends.

P.S. This post is dedicated to Mel who found the Grassroot Democrats -- South Dakota Web site.

With ACT shutting down, where will major Democratic donors place their resources in the 2006 Congressional elections & the presidential race in 2008?

The New York Times reports:

A primary Democratic fund-raising engine in the 2004 presidential race, America Coming Together, is shutting down most of its operation, leaving unclear its role in the elections next year and beyond.

The group, known as ACT, engineered an extensive effort to mobilize Democratic voters in 12 closely divided states last year while an allied organization, the Media Fund, backed the plan with thousands of television commercials. The strategy resonated with liberal donors, and the two groups together raised almost $200 million to become a crucial component of the Democratic effort to retake the White House.

George Soros, the philanthropist and financier, alone gave almost $20 million.

ACT ran 78 field offices and had almost 6,000 employees at its peak. It is now cutting all but a handful of its 28 remaining staff members as leaders re-evaluate its future.

ACT and the Media Fund were born over dinner conversation at a restaurant on Dupont Circle here months before Senator John Kerry secured the Democratic presidential nomination. Several top Democratic operatives met to discuss how to raise money and help the Democratic candidate under new more-restrictive campaign finance rules. What emerged was a plan to tap large donors using so-called 527 committees that, unlike candidates or political parties, are allowed to collect unlimited contributions.

ACT and the Media Fund raised enough money to alarm Republicans, who initially tried to fight the use of 527 groups through legal challenges. When the Federal Election Commission declined to pass tough regulations, Republicans turned to groups of their own. The largest, Progress for America, raised almost $45 million in a matter of weeks to support Mr. Bush.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

For Democrats & Sen. Hillary Clinton, it is necessary that suburban women cancel out the votes of their husbands.

Planting Her Flag
Hillary Clinton is carefully positioning herself as a hawkish centrist. How proving that she is tougher than the boys could work for her in 2008.

By Eleanor Clift

Hillary Clinton wants to be the darling of the left and the candidate of the center, and why not? More than any other Democrat, save one—her husband—she knows what it takes to win, and she fully and completely comprehends the opposition.

Liberals went ballistic this week when Clinton called for a ceasefire among Democrats at a much ballyhooed appearance before the DLC, the centrist Democratic Leadership Council that helped elect her husband president. Clinton’s “Rodney King Moment,” is all about 2008, says a former John Kerry adviser: “What she’s saying is, ‘Why can’t we all get along and support me?’”

Clinton didn’t single out liberals, and her intent might have been more ecumenical in urging all wings of the party to turn their guns on the “hard-right ideology in Washington” instead of each other. But her presence at the DLC convention in Columbus, Ohio, spoke volumes. It said to the left that this is where she is planting her flag for the presidential race. And what she’s doing now is taking care of whatever perceived weaknesses she has, as well as those of the Democratic Party. She shouldn’t trim her principles, but she has the leeway to defy the liberal stereotypes. As a progressive in a country where half or more of voters are reflexively conservative, she has to find ideas that surprise people and grab their attention if she’s going to break through as a national candidate.

This kind of intraparty warfare is familiar ground for Democrats. Hillary’s comments were almost identical to the sentiments Bill Clinton voiced some 15 years ago at a DLC event when there was a dispute with the Democratic National Committee. Having the vast left-wing conspiracy after you isn’t a bad thing in a political climate where the liberal label is problematic. Democrats can’t depend on urban strongholds anymore to carry them to victory. They’ve got to do better in the exurbs, those new subdivisions springing up everywhere. For Hillary, that means getting suburban women to cancel out the votes of their husbands. At the end of the day, criticism from the loud fringes of the party helps keep her positioned in the middle.

Hillary’s hawkishness didn’t get as much attention as her gentle rebuke of her fellow Democrats, but gaining credibility on national security was the real message of her DLC speech. She urged a “unified coherent strategy focused on eliminating terrorists wherever we find them,” a more ladylike way of saying we’ll hunt them down and kill or capture them. If the New York senator can emerge as the Democrats’ Margaret Thatcher, tougher than the boys, she will overcome a major hurdle for a woman seeking the presidency. In a recent poll sponsored by National Journal, voters were asked whether Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice had “the right stuff” to be president. Clinton scored higher on toughness than Secretary of State Rice, a former national-security adviser and an architect of the Iraq war. “The American people have a relationship and understanding of her, and there’s a toughness attached to her that is real and genuine,” says pollster Ed Reilly. The poll also tested voter attitudes toward a presidential candidate who is a woman, an African-American, a liberal or a conservative. The liberal label was the only area where people freely expressed their negative bias.

Ultimately an antiwar candidate will also emerge on the Democratic side, and it could be Al Gore. He hasn’t done anything to advance his candidacy, but he has universal name recognition and is a favorite of Internet activists through MoveOn.org. The Bush administration may be venal, but they’re not stupid, and they’re beginning to lay the groundwork—at least rhetorically—for a pullout from Iraq beginning next year. Gore has the luxury of waiting and seeing whether there will still be a war left for him to oppose by ’08.

Five years ago, when Clinton first ran for the U.S. Senate in New York, she had to overcome resistance among women who thought she was too hard and calculating. She was trying then to soften her image, but now the premium is on toughness. And Clinton has one advantage over other Democrats, she has been under fire from the other side for 15 years; she understands how they operate, and she’s got the war-room mentality to fight back. It’s not personal for her anymore. She’s not going to feel bad if they call her names, or portray her as something she’s not. She’s going to respond.

Just as Karl Rove eviscerated Gore’s ethics and John Kerry’s patriotism, the line of attack against Clinton will be to question her strength of character and portray her as a calculating, ambitious woman who will do anything for power, including staying with a husband who humiliated her. It’s a game she’s played before, and she’s getting pretty good at winning.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

What an accurate assessment from both perspectives.

Conservatives typically praise religious activism on abortion and homosexuality but dismiss liberal clerics who offer theological insights on economics or social spending. Liberals love preachers to speak out for civil rights and economic justice. But they see "a church-state problem" the instant anyone in the clergy speaks out for vouchers or against abortion and stem cell research.

(From Why It's Right to Ask About Roberts's Faith by E.J. Dionne, Jr. in The Washington Post.)

Monday, August 01, 2005

The Political Insider reports on the Democratic nominee for governor.

Among Republicans, summer thinking has shifted to cast Cathy Cox, the Democratic secretary of state, as Sonny Perdue's most likely opponent next year. For the moment, Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, who for three years has served as Perdue's favorite nemesis, has been dethroned.

Keeping women voters on Perdue's side has become an essential part of Republican thinking.

The entrance of Karen Handel, the Fulton County commission chairman, into the statewide contest to replace Cox as secretary of state is proof that certain GOP leaders have begun plotting with this new eventuality in mind.

(The ajc's 8-1-05 Political Insider.)