Want to Lose in 2010? Then be a Moderate

I actually feel a little sorry for this guy. Meet the most hopeless candidate of the 2010 midterm election cycle, Republican Chad Lee, running for Wisconsin's second congressional district.

Statistical wizard Nate Silver gives Lee's opponent, incumbent Democrat Tammy Baldwin, a 100% chance of winning reelection. Not 98%, not 99%, but a sure bet -- as sure as the sunrise. She voted for TARP, the healthcare reform bill, and the stimulus package. She's the only openly lesbian member of congress. She opposed Bush's war and torture policies. She's pro-choice and pro-same sex marriage. There's video of her dancing with crossdressers at a Madison Gay Pride rally (which is awesome). If Barack Obama is a commie, then Tammy Baldwin is off the scale. She's the leftiest leftist in all of leftiedom, with the possible exception of Dennis Kucinich. And she's a leadpipe cinch for reelection. It's such a certainty that the race isn't even getting local coverage. Seriously, some people are going to be surprised to see her on the ballot and will wonder who this other guy is.

And Chad Lee? He's a perfectly average Republican candidate. A made-for-TV handsome young white fella, he's crazy enough to qualify as a teabagger, but not crazy enough to stand out in the current crop of lunatics his party is putting on the ballot nationwide. He's not losing because he's incompetent. In another district, against another candidate, it's not hard to imagine him as the frontrunner. Here, he's nobody. The GOP has completely given up on this seat -- and on Chad Lee.

In a year when Republicans are set to make big gains in the House of Representatives, the Baldwin-Lee race can be instructive. While Wisconsin's second is a liberal district, Baldwin took the seat only after Republican Scott Klug retired. Klug owned it. If history means anything at all, this should be a swing district. And this year, it should be swinging right. Yet this year, Tammy Baldwin owns it as much as Klug did.

If what the right would call a wild-eyed, radical leftist isn't losing this year, then who is? Blue Dogs, that's who.

[Wall Street Journal:]

More than half the members of the Blue Dog Coalition -- the organization of moderate to conservative Democrats in the House -- are in peril in next week's election, a stark indicator of how the balloting could produce a Congress even more polarized than the current one.


Of 54 Blue Dogs in the House, six already have retired or decided to seek other offices. Of those trying to stay, 39 are in competitive races, according to the Cook Political Report, and 22 of those are in pure toss-ups.

I could explain this, but it's already been explained for me -- by Harry Truman in 1952.

I've seen it happen time after time. When the Democratic candidate allows himself to be put on the defensive and starts apologizing for the New Deal and the fair Deal, and says he really doesn't believe in them, he is sure to lose. The people don't want a phony Democrat. If it's a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time; that is, they will take a Republican before they will a phony Democrat, and I don't want any phony Democratic candidates in this campaign.

It's the phony Democrats who are losing this year. The equivocators, the apologists, the so-called "moderates." Voters want people who believe in something and Blue Dogs seem to be nihilist. If there's a lesson to be learned in this election, it's that principle matters. Believe in something, stand up for something, or find yourself out on the street. As Jim Hightower is fond of saying, "There's nothing in the middle of the road except yellow stripes and dead armadillos." And defeated Blue Dogs.

Of course, this lesson will be lost on Democratic leadership. They'll do what they always do; look at the examples of defeat, while ignoring the examples of success. They won't look at successful candidates like Tammy Baldwin, they'll look at the people who are beating the Blue Dogs and conclude they need to be more like them. Being a Democratic strategist means always learning the wrong lesson. Forget Harry Truman, hello Sarah Palin. The answer to every problem is to move to the right. Let the apologizing for healthcare reform and the stimulus begin.

It's the people who are voting this cycle that the Democrats will worry about, not the people who are staying at home. I'm lucky, I get to vote for a real, live Democrat. Others have a choice between Republican and Republican-lite. No wonder they're staying home. Give people a clear choice and they'll get off their butts. Give them no real choice and they're going to be less than enthused.

This is the lesson of 2010. Don't expect anyone to learn it.


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