Disclosure: I worked for the Lamont campaign doing web design and production and some writing for the official blog (from 9/5/06 to 11/07/06).

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Lessons from TX-28

As many are aware, Ciro Rodriguez lost his primary challenge to incumbent Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar yesterday in Texas. The race has many parallels with the Lamont-Lieberman race: a candidate supported by traditional Democrats and the netroots took on a proud Bush-loving incumbent supported by right-wing forces. Both Genghis Conn at Connecticut Local Politics and Bob Brigham at Daily Kos have insightful post-mortems on the lessons that can be gleaned from Ciro's campaign for Ned Lamont. Both are worth reading in full.

Genghis is right in stating that "the race seems to raise more questions than it answers." While there are many similarities between the two races as noted above, there are also many differences that make them difficult to compare, in ways that bode both well and not-so-well for Lamont. On the one hand: the demographics of the two districts couldn't be more different, a Senate race will always be very different from a House race, Ciro Rodriguez was already a known quantity in the district having served as a Congressman and challenged Cuellar two years ago, and (perhaps most importantly) primaries in Texas are open to any voter regardless of party, whereas in Connecticut they are closed. (This last fact is particularly relevant given that no GOP candidate filed for this district, leaving all Republican voters able to pull the lever for the Club for Growth-supported Cuellar). On the other hand, Lieberman is an 18-year incumbent and national figure with vast networks of support, while Cuellar was a first-termer who barely won his primary against this same challenger two years ago.

The more useful way to look at TX-28 is through analyzing the performance of the netroots in this race, which must and will be an integral part of any successes the Lamont campaign hopes to have this year. As Bob argues, we as the netroots need to define our goals in this race that will begin for real on Monday:

Now back to Joe Lieberman. How should the netroots define success, based only on the election results or based on what happens each and every day until August 8th? I suggest the latter.

The goal in Connecticut shouldn't be to beat Lieberman but to demonstrate that there are severe consequences for acting like Joe Lieberman. The chances of winning the election aren't good, but the potential to punish Lieberman is very real. By judging success every day, Lieberman's best case scenario is to pull a Pyhrric victory....

This effort could be considered a success before the first ballot is cast. Regardless of whether the voters punish Lieberman, he should be punished. If the goal of the netroots is to provide this punishment, then can will be victorious.

I certainly view the campaign in a less quixotic light than Bob does. But his point is valid. The goal is of the campaign is obviously to win, but the goal for the netroots cannot simply be what happens on election day, much of which will be out of our control. There is only so much the netroots can accomplish, and it may very well be that on August 8th the political atmosphere will be such that it will be impossible to attain electoral victory. But it may easily turn out the other way too - no one really knows how the dynamics of this low-turnout race will shape up given that Lieberman has never faced a primary challenge before.

But both this campaign and the netroots also need to take a long-term and big-picture view of what they hope to accomplish. The mere existence of this campaign is already one huge success: Joe Lieberman will have to defend his record to Connecticut Democrats for the first time in 36 years. And there are surely more successes to come, leading up hopefully to the ultimate one: Senator Lamont (D-CT). But while aiming for this ultimate goal, it's crucially important to study the lessons of past efforts and point the way towards future successes, either in Connecticut or elsewhere.

And I definitely agree with Bob's description of the strength of the blogs:

...the intrinsic value of the blogs isn't funding, but communication. Focusing on whacking Lieberman every single day plays to the strength of the netroots, and judging by Dan Gerstein's reaction to Howie Klein, is what worries Lieberman the most.

We'll certainly keep on doing our part here!
Texas-red state w/ an open primary
Connecticut-blue state w/ a close primary

-nuff said.
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