So, it seems everyone has their own version of a 100 Counties strategy. This is the first post in a multi-post series. I was planning on holding off on this since I am calculating the change in turnout based on counties that had all seats filled versus those that have only some seats filled. But, since there is such interest on the topic right now, I thought I would go ahead and get the ball rolling. I have two straights days of meetings coming up, but I will get part II out when I can.
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100 Counties, Part I: Why?
With all apologies to Chris Bowers who inspired me with his 50-state project.
In 2004, in the midst of the hardest-fought Presidential Election any of us have ever experienced and perhaps that the United States of America has ever faced, the North Carolina Democratic Party (meaning you and me) ran six empty Senate seats and twenty-nine empty House seats. In 2006 we fared even worse, losing 31 House and 10 Senate seats without even running a candidate. The 50-state project has been debated online and in the “Halls of Power”, but I am a firm believer. I am going to suggest, with that in mind, that we in North Carolina should push for and accept nothing less than a candidate in every race in North Carolina in 2008. And, we need to start now. This is part one of two on 100 counties.
1. Why a 100 Counties Project?
2. Who to run and how to run on the cheap.
The benefits of the 50-state project can be summed up in a few key phrases.
• The Foley Effect.
We all know the story behind Mark Foley. A Republican who was forced to run by the Republican leadership in order to keep the seat “safe” in the small wave year. But, what they didn’t count on was that their pedophilia would be smeared across the television screens of America. I am not suggesting we go out searching for these types of problems, but if they pop up on the radar screen we will have the seat covered.
• The DeLay Effect.
Opposite of what I said about the Foley Effect, I think we should push very hard to try and find DeLay type corruption. I think each campaign should teach someone how to mine the data about who is giving the candidates money. Which individuals, which PACs. Then, I think they should look for quid pro quo, examples of candidates voting along the lines of their donors and against the common folk of NC. Paint Republicans as the party of corporate influence.
• The Kissell Effect, if we win.
Larry Who? I believe Lance’s first diary on Larry was "Kissell fo’ Schizzle", and the point was “I missed his announcement because everyone missed it, who is this guy?” Now look where we are. Larry is our next Congressmen from the 8th district. The Kissell effect – a candidate that is seen as a complete longshot by everyone outside the district; who wins in spite of this because people here the candidates story and relate. They relate and they vote. With 35 or more seats being run instead of left empty, this has a real chance of happening. This year, when the election results were coming back, a NCDP official said about a House pick up “Which county is that? Who’s the candidate? I have no idea, that was not at all on our radar.” A current legislator said “That happens every couple years, someone runs a really good local race and we don’t even know about it.”
• The Kissell Effect, if we lose.
I posted a comment on this before here at BlueNC. We have a congressional race in which the Democrat is losing by 400 votes. So, close. Yet, that Congressional District contained a whole slew of House and Senate seats that went unopposed by Democrats. Does it make a difference? My gut feeling is yes, but this is where I have been held up getting all the info into Excel sheets and trying to do the calculations. So, I'll post that at a later date.
• The Genome Effect
What? None of you are genomic scientists? Well, tsk tsk. When you do genomics you “randomly” sequence pieces of the genome, short pieces a few thousand letters long. Then, you align those to figure out the sequence of the entire genome. But, you don’t shoot for 1X coverage, because there are some regions that will come up and some that won’t. What you shoot for is 6X coverage. That way, based on probability, some regions will be sequenced 8X and other 4X, but the entire genome will be covered in enough detail to give you the results you want.
If you look at the 2004 Hayes race, we had Beth Troutman running a race with $250K in funding. Not much coverage. We had a dirth of NC House and Senate seats being run, so not much coverage at that level. What we need for each county is this:
1. NC House races providing a ground game.
2. NC Senate races providing a ground game.
3. US House seat providing a ground game.
4. US Senate seat providing a ground game.
5. Governor race providing a ground game.
6. Lt. Governor race providing a ground game.
The 100 Counties strategy will give us this opportunity. Each county will have 6X coverage from the top local and state campaigns, all of which will be coordinated through the state party. Beyond that, there is a possibility of tying in the Presidential coverage once the primaries are over and a nominee is picked. And, there is always the possibility of including the County Commissioners, Mayors, etc for up to 10X coverage if we are lucky. What this means functionally is a flow of information on a near daily basis from state party, to county chair, to precinct chair, to block captain, to cluster captain, to individual voter. All from person-to-person contact, the method of contact that has been shown time and time again to actually influence voter turnout, the key to winning in 08 and beyond.
So, in summary of the question, “Why should we do it?” I think the easy answer is that it could lead to us picking up seats. The problem with this, I’ll admit, is that I come from this problem with the perspective of one who was shocked to find out that we weren’t already running a 50-state project. During my time in SC, the first thing I wanted to do was see if we couldn’t get a Democrat in every race on the ballot. It just seems instinctual to me that we fight for every seat, every race, every year. But, not everyone believes that. I would guess you can find examples in the military literature where the larger battle was won through the sacrifice of a small group. So, it would make sense that you give up in Stanly county so that you can conserve your resources to fight in Wake County. The problem with this analogy is that in military operations I doubt you would ever want a smaller group to just give up and lay down without a fight. That doesn’t provide much of a relief for the other, larger group. No, you want that smaller group to fight like wounded beasts, to give everything they have knowing that their chances of winning, of surviving, are small. But, in fighting the good fight they provide a chance for the larger group to win.
The biggest complaint against the 50-state strategy was that it cost too much and drained resources away from key races. We have yet to see how that will turn out in a non-wave year, but for now I will accept that this argument carries some weight. To that end, in part II, I am going to discuss how to run a 100 Counties program on the cheap so that it helps the local, state, and national Democratic Parties.