Oh, how sweet it is. We've been telling you for some time about the 6th congressional district special election in Kentucky, pitting former state Attorney General Ben Chandler against Alice Forgy Kerr.
This was the first federal election of the 2004 cycle. Kerr based her campaign almost exclusively on her strong support for the Bush agenda. And the AP is now reporting that Chandler has beaten Kerr decisively. That marks the first time since 1991 that a Democrat has won a Republican seat in a special election.
This is a big deal for a number of reasons.
The first is the shot in the arm it'll give to Democrats around the country.
But another part of the story is Internet fundraising. As you'll notice there on the left, the Chandler campaign has been advertising for about the last two weeks on this and a number of other blogs. The campaign budgeted about two grand for blog advertising. And my understanding is that by today they had raised close to $100,000 from contributors who linked through from those blogs on which the campaign was advertising.
In other words, they got roughly a 50-fold turnaround on their investment in the final two weeks of the campaign. And in case you're wondering one hundred grand is a lot of money in a House race.
Now, obviously that's exciting news for proprietors of blogs looking to open up revenue streams from advertisers. But the bigger story here is about the Democrats and the Internet, and the way this technology seems to click, shall we say, for the Democratic demographic.
Democrats have always lamented how Republicans just have far better direct-mail lists than they do, and how the Republicans are just plain better at it. And they do have better lists and they are better at it. But I've always thought that it wouldn't really matter all that much if the Democrats had high quality lists too. The truth is that direct-mail, for whatever reason, just works with folks who are apt to give money to Republican campaigns. And it just doesn't with Dems, or at least not nearly as well. It's a different demographic. For whatever social or cultural reasons, the technology or mechanism -- in this case fundraising by mail -- is just particularly well suited to one demographic and not to the other.
But the Internet does seem to work for Democrats. That was clear in the spectacular early success of the Dean campaign and now you're seeing it in smaller ways in individual House races. That doesn't mean that it won't work equally well for Republicans; we just don't know yet. But for the first time in a long time Democrats have a technology, a mechanism that is allowing them to raise large sums of money, not from a few well-heeled givers but from large numbers of energized Democrats giving $10, $50 or $100 a shot. It's already starting to make a difference.
And as long as we're at it, there's another special election coming up in which a Democrat has a good chance to pick up a seat currently held by a Republican. That's the June 1st special election for South Dakota's single House seat. The Democrat is Stephanie Herseth.
Fiction: "Then close your eyes and tap your heels together three times. And think to yourself, 'There's no place like home. There's no place like home.'"
Source: The Wizard of Oz.
Reality: "The artificial windows revealed an inviting blue sky. Bush portrayed a similarly sunny outlook with remarks that used "optimistic" or "optimism" seven times in 49 minutes. He repeatedly stressed the power of positive thinking as an engine of job creation."
Source: "Bush Upbeat on Economy in Campaign Preview in Fla.", Mike Allen, Washington Post, Feb. 17th, 2004.
I came home this afternoon and saw this headline on the front page of the CNN website: "Bush says Democrats would threaten fiscal health."
The article's lede said Bush told a crowd in Florida that "Democrats would endanger America's fiscal health by raising taxes."
This is one of many reasons why President Bush is in trouble. On fiscal policy, he has not simply lost all credibility. With claims like these, he is right on his way to becoming the butt of jokes. And laughter and derision are in many ways the deadliest bogies in politics.
When the president came into office the budget surplus was over $200 billion. Now the deficit is over $500 billion.
Even my frail grasp of mathematics tells me that's a deterioration in the nation's fiscal health of roughly three-quarters of a trillion dollars in the three years he's been in office. And for almost all of that time the president's party controlled both houses of congress.
And he says the Democrats are a danger to the nation's fiscal health?
This is the arsonist in your house telling you that stranger outside with the hose can't be trusted.
On Friday, I reported on a tense exchange between <$Ad$>Helen Thomas and Scott McClellan over whether the president had taken time off from the Guard because he had been compelled to perform community service.
Now Harry Jaffe provides some helpful follow-up on the spat in The Washingtonian.
Thomas says âI think they are getting pretty nervous about this."
McClellan says "Helen was asking about trashy rumors. Thereâs a difference between trashy rumors and journalism. I will not dignify them from the podium."
"'I never gave anybody hell,' he would later say, 'I just told the truth and they thought it was hell.'" David McCullough quoting Harry S. Truman, Truman, p. 664.
Thirty-five years old today. In the last several <$Ad$>months this marker seemed hard to get my head around, and more than a little daunting. But now that it's here, it feels right, like it's where I should be.
Thank you very sincerely to all who've sent good wishes.
I took a light week last week. But this week ahead we should be back to the standard frequency of posts. And there's certainly plenty to write about.
The new line out of the White House is that they really just haven't been in campaign mode. But with the Democrats being so mean and ungenerous, well ... they'll have to let loose the dogs.
Allegedly predicting this shift, Peggy Noonan has a piece in the Post today which, among other things, is, in the first few grafs, a good example of cliche and slander gussied up to look like literature. It's worth taking a moment to read.
The key to so much of this is that Republicans -- particularly those in the president's orbit -- simply don't have much experience being on the receiving end of what they normally serve up with such alacrity and zest. They're knocked off balance. Their breath is a bit taken away.
There is a natural tendency for each side to believe the other side is meaner, more disciplined, more unfair, more this, that, and the other. But it's only very recently that Democrats have had enough of an infrastructure of media and fundraising to raise the attention of their ideological competitors. And the White House has, for literally years now, been sowing the wind while using aggressive tactics and the climate of national emergency to knock back any response.
That's beginning to change.
More on all of this soon.
Mathew Gross was Director of Internet Communications for the Dean campaign. But that title, if anything, belied his importance. He was one of the real wizards behind the Dean Internet phenomenon.
He's now left the campaign and set up his own blog.
It's one you won't want to miss.
In fact, Joe Trippi has set up a blog too.
I'm waiting to see what journalists are able to make of the president's Friday night military service record document dump. I don't have copies of them. So, like you, I'm waiting to hear what they find.
Yesterday, though, there was a new development when one of the president's fellow Guardsmen, John B. Calhoun, came forward to say that he clearly remembered him showing up for his required drills in Alabama through the summer and fall of 1972.
"We didn't have the planes that he could fly," Calhoun told the Associated Press. "But he studied his manuals, he read flying safety regulations, accident reports -- things pilots do quite often when they are not getting ready to fly or if they don't have other duties."
Interestingly, though, as the Houston Chronicle notes this morning, the documents released Friday night show "Bush's transfer to the Alabama squadron wasn't approved until September 1972, months after Bush's presence as recalled by Calhoun."
Now, needless to say, if we were still operating under the rules that prevailed in the mid-1990s, James Carville would have been appointed Independent Counsel in the late summer of 2002 to investigate Halliburton. He'd have had the Intel shenanigans, the Plame matter and the Niger documents added to his brief since then. A cowed AG would have given him the Guard matter around the middle of last week. And in a couple days some FBI agents would be showing up on Calhoun's doorstep ready to squeeze him as silly as any freshly sliced wedge of lime in close proximity to a bottle of Corona.
Lucky for him Dems don't play so rough.