Monday, August 08, 2005

OH-2 and the Internet

The Republican, Jean Schmidt, won this August 2, 2005 Congressional by-election, but the Democrat Paul Hackett came very close, losing 51.7% to 48.3%. Now there is talk of him as a Senate candidate in Ohio in 2006.

Overall I think the result could be significant as an indicator of changes coming, especially given Bush’s falling polls. However, the Ohio Republican Party is beset by scandal – summarized well in this Charlie Cook analysis about OH-2 – so its broader importance is less clear. There has quite a bit of good discussion of the OH-2 election in the blogosphere. I recommend the following summary from the Emerging Democratic Majority blog, where one of the key points is about the new power of the liberal blogs:

One of the key lessons of Hackett's near-win is the power of the liberal blogosphere in raising needed funds for individual campaigns. Lead by The Swing State Project, liberal bloggers raised an estimated $500,000 for Hackett, two-thirds of his campaign budget of $750,000, according to the WaPo article.

Another lesson for Dems is that Hackett's impressive tally was boosted by his refusal to water down his criticism of the Administration's Iraq policy or tone down his anti-corruption message.

Victory for Howard Dean
One of the big winners out this contest was Howard Dean, both as DLC chair, and for his organization, Democracy for America, which raised and donated large sums to a grateful Mr. Hackett.

The traditional approach to politics on the part of establishment Democrats has been to concede the bastions of the other side, and focus resources and effort on swing districts. By that standard they would have ignored OH-2. But the partisan Democratic bloggers, and Howard Dean, want to carry the fight to red state America so they pitched in here. The OH-2 battle is a classic example of the divergences, where the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, run by Clintonista Rahm Emanual, entered the contest very late after the Republicans, worried about losing, started to invest in their campaign. Even so the DCCC post-mortem earned them some pointed criticism in the blogosphere because the post did not emphasize that Hackett had enthusiastically attacked Bush’s Iraq policy.

The tension between the bloggers and the more traditional Democrats is analyzed extraordinarily well by Los Angeles Times columnist Ron Brownstein in a column for the National Journal that was reprinted here in this Daily Kos posting. In my opinion this is a seminal piece of analysis about a key current trend in American politics.

The key difference between the netroots activists and the more cautious traditionalists is summarized this way:

The Democratic Internet base cradling that trigger does not speak with one voice. But the emerging generation of online Democratic activists, many of them young and shaped by the bruising partisan conflicts of the past decade, seems united most by the belief that the quickest way for Democrats to regain power is to confront Bush more forcefully and to draw brighter lines of division between the Democratic Party and the GOP.

OH-2 will not be last chapter in this debate.

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