Monday, October 27, 2008

Lampson, Skelly foundering

In a tidal-change election year, some things will sadly remain the same:

U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Stafford, trailed Republican challenger Pete Olson by 17 percentage points early last week, according to the survey by Zogby International. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, led Democratic challenger Michael Skelly more modestly, by 7 percentage points, with virtually the same margin of error.

In both Republican-friendly districts, a key factor appeared to be the Democratic candidates' inability to run strong among independent voters and cut deeply into the ranks of Republican voters.

Yeah, those would certainly be among the reasons. But another one also is that both men blew off the Democratic activist base in their districts by hewing hard to the right. Their attempts to lure Republican votes cost them both badly-needed blockwalkers and phone-bankers.

For his part Lampson has strongly supported the Iraq war, changed his mind to favor offshore drilling, and has touted his Blue Doggishness and desertion of the Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives as a "centrist" position, unbeholden to Speaker Pelosi.

The Republicans called bullshit anyway of course, and Nick hasn''t been able to make his (quite good) case of representing the 22nd District effectively.

Skelly meanwhile pissed all over MoveOn when they had a rally outside Culberson's office earlier this year. He has similarly proclaimed his enthusiastic support for "driling everywhere now". He calculated this was a necessity in a district that is home to Houston's energy corridor.

That was a miscalculation, in my opinion. Very comparable, I would say, to John McLame's picking Sarah Palin as V-P: a short-term gain which turned into a 4th-quarter drag.

Whatever votes Skelly and Lampson may have picked up by pandering to the Right with their conservative positions simply wasn't worth the grassroots support it cost them. No amount of millions in TV advertising affected this simple truth.

See, Republicans may cast a ballot but they aren't doing the blockwalks and phonebanks to help get the Democratic vote out for these guys. Even in a landmark election year -- when Democrats will likely retake several Harris County executive slots and judgeships, the rising blue tide won't be enough to lift Lampson and Skelly. They tied themselves to a red anchor.

Are there just too many damned Republicans in the 22nd and 7th Districts? Yes, there are. That's the way Tom DeLay and Tom Craddick drew them, after all. That will change in 2010 with a Democratic majority in the Texas House, though.

But the impact of Democratic activists -- yes, the liberals and progressives who put out the signs and electioneer the polls and attend the rallies and work our precincts -- who are lukewarm about a Democrat who tries too hard to look like a Republican, even in a Republican-leaning district, cannot be underestimated.

We know that when the voters have a choice between a real Republican and a pretend one, they'll vote for the real one every single time.

Truthfully -- and unfortunately for Lampson and Skelly -- there's too many Blue Dogs in the Congress as it is. The good news is that those conservative Democrats will likely be marginalized after November, but they are still rogues in the party. Nancy Pelosi is at fault here for not enforcing caucus discipline; she gives them carte blanche to run off the reservation if they feel they need to, so they do. It just looks a big bunch of pandering to Republicans.

You don't see any GOP Congresspersons acting too much like Democrats, do you? They get kicked out of the Republican party for that.

The reason Congress has approval ratings in the single digits is because many Democratic voters are highly displeased with the Democrats in Congress for refusing to stand up against the abuses of power of the Bush administration, among those issues torture and wiretapping. The reticence to end the war (Lampson) and the enthusiastic endorsement by a wind energy gazillionaire of "drill baby drill" (Skelly) show up as the straws that break the blue camel's back.

In the "More and Better Democrats" math, it looks like we'll have enough after next week. Now we need to make sure that the ones that get elected are the best Democrats they can be.

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