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How Dems Can Avoid Disaster in 2010

Over at Capitol Ideas, there’s also some good advice for Republicans:

Find Candidates That Fit Their Constituencies And Districts. If he were advising Democrats, Republican consultant Ray Zaborney of Harrisburg said he’d tell them to “find people who are true to where your party is, but make sure you modernize your message.”

Fresh off a trip to Virginia, where he advised state Republicans, Zaborney pointed to GOP gubernatorial candidate Robert McDonnell, who he says beat Democrat Creigh Deeds last week by appealing both to moderates and the party’s conservative base.
“Bob McDonnell is as conservative as they come, but he talked about issues people care about,” Zaborney said.

He contrasted McDonnell with the example of Doug Hoffman, the Conservative Party candidate who was defeated by Democrat Bill Owens, handing the Democrats a win in New York’s 23rd Congressional District for the first time in a century.
Unlike the doctrinaire Hoffman, who was backed by national conservatives,McDonnell “stayed true to his principles, but moved past just tax cuts and vouchers for education,” Zaborney said.

“The one who wins is the one that consolidates both sides of their party best and, of course, the middle,” he said.

I’ve never believed the common wisdom often heard on conservative talk radio that if only we ran candidates who were conservative enough, we’d be guaranteed victory. It’s certainly a mistake to run left leaning candidates like Scozzafava in a district that could support a right-of-center moderate, but Doug Hoffman probably wasn’t the right man for that district. Understand that he lost in a year when Democratic turnout was pitiful. He might have won the seat for one term, or two, but if he governed too far to the right of his district, he’d be open to an attack from the center. If anyone doesn’t think that’s a possibility, just ask Rick Santorum.

Whether Republicans want to admit it or not, the Democrats have made great gains by running candidates who tailored their message to their districts, and are now using it to push an agenda that is far to the left, even for many of the Democrats they used to get their majority back. I fully believe the Democrats will be punished in 2010 for running too far to the left of the country, but it’s hard to argue the strategy hasn’t been effective for promoting a progressive agenda. The GOP has a lot they can learn in the example.

4 Responses to “How Dems Can Avoid Disaster in 2010”

  1. bombloader says:

    I think the conservative talk show hosts comments have a grain of truth. Republicans in the last 10 years or so have seemed to be quick to throw the potentially popular fiscal conservative ideas under the bus when the going gets tough. Then they sometimes try double down on more controversial social conservative ideas, or simply play to national security concerns. It reminds me of Microsoft and Windows -the basic product doesn’t work well and gets low ratings, so lets add features and hope nobody notices the problems that didn’t get fixed.

  2. Sebastian says:

    The great trick is winning the middle while moving some of your base’s ideas forward. The Democrats have been very successful at that. The GOP, not so much.

  3. Sebastian says:

    In short, the GOP has been effective at winning the middle, but not very effective at moving the middle for the sake of its base.

  4. Dave R. says:

    “It’s certainly a mistake to run left leaning candidates like Scozzafava in a district that could support a right-of-center moderate, but Doug Hoffman probably wasn’t the right man for that district. Understand that he lost in a year when Democratic turnout was pitiful.”

    Make that “hard left candidates like Scozzafava in a district that could support a moderate conservative…” and I’ll buy it. But calling an Acorn-endorsed, union-endorsed, Margaret Sanger-awarded GOP candidate to the left of the Democrat a “leaner,” and assuming a traditionally Republican district calls for a right of center moderate, shows too much acceptance of conventional wisdom and media spin.

    Hoffman started as an unkown polling in the teens, and finished down by five points in a race where the official GOP candidate, who had withdrawn and endorsed the Democrat, still got five percent of the vote. One thing that hurt him was not being fully prepped on local issues. Which is not admirable I admit, but also not surprising when a private citizen takes on career politiciasns in a short-run special election with no primary, In a regular election, either he’d have lost the primary or had time to get up to speed.

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