January 10, 2008
A new spin on the "Hillary will save us/kill us!" meme

Well, this is at least an original argument.


The ability of the Democratic U.S. Senate nominee to raise national party money for the general election campaign in Texas may be hindered if Hillary Rodham Clinton is the party's presidential nominee, one-time senatorial candidate Mikal Watts said Tuesday.

"If Hillary is the nominee, that will have an effect on whether the national Democrats will play in Texas," Watts said.

"The prevailing thought is the Republicans don't have anybody who will motivate their base to get out. There are some who think Hillary will do that," he said.

Watts said he has seen Texas polling that shows "right-wing Republicans" react more negatively to Clinton than they do to Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama or John Edwards.

"I think whoever is the Democratic nominee will be the president, but it's a different story cobbling together 270 electoral votes and doing well in Texas," Watts said in an interview with the Houston Chronicle.

[...]

"I don't see either McMurrey or Gene Kelly getting any traction," Watts said of the current primary. "It's pretty clear he (Noriega) will be the nominee, and he's the person best equipped to take on John Cornyn."

Watts said he does not think it will hurt Noriega in the eyes of national donors and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee if Noriega has to win the nomination in a runoff.

"It slows him down for a month. Obviously, he'd rather be the nominee earlier rather than later. But my advice to him would be to save his resources for Cornyn," Watts said.

Watts said he donated $100,000 to the DSCC in late December. He said the committee chairman, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, will decide on whether to help fund Noriega's campaign based on polling done in the summer.

"They are fiduciaries of money and they're trying to pick up Senate seats. So they'll spend the money where it will be most effective," Watts said. "Rick will be in a good position to make his case for that money, but there are a lot of pick-up opportunities across the country."


Much ground to cover here...

- It would be very nice if someone (anyone!) would cite some actual data to suggest that Hillary Clinton would be a drag on the ballot in Texas. Watts says he has seen polling data - would it kill him to see to it that the rest of us get to see this data as well? Because I for one am tired of taking people's word for this. Especially now that there may possibly be a meaningful primary in Texas, I want to have full information before I make my choice. If there really is credible, meaningful data out there that says Hillary Clinton's presence on the ballot will affect outcomes elsewhere, all of us who plan to vote in that primary should have access to that data so we can judge it for ourselves and possibly use it to help make our decision. I'm a big boy, I can handle the truth.

- Regardless of point one, I don't see the top of the ticket having much effect on the DSCC's decision to play or not play in Texas. Either Rick Noriega raises enough money and shows enough viability to make it worth their time, or he doesn't. And not to beat a dead horse, but polling might help here, too. Put a couple of polls out in the field, one that tests Clinton versus one or more of the GOP wannabees, and another that tests Obama versus same, and include a Noriega/Cornyn question in each. Is there a difference in Noriega's support between the two? Let's find out.

- I still don't get the fixation on "right-wing Republicans", who presumably are unlikely to push the button for any Democrat against any Republican. Are we saying they're more likely to sit it out if Hillary isn't there to taunt them? I guess maybe that's possible, but what about the converse - would Hillary entice more Democrats to get out and vote, out of tribalism if nothing else? What exactly is the metric here?

- To reiterate that last point, don't underestimate the potential that the type of rabid, frothing-at-the-mouth hatred Clinton inspires from those 'wingers has to backfire. Paul Waldman puts it thusly:


Throughout the Clinton presidency and her Senate campaigns, it was always the case that whenever Hillary Clinton got attacked, her approval numbers rose. Whether it was Ken Starr, Rick Lazio, or the legions of Clinton-haters, she has always thrived - particularly with women - whenever under assault, particularly by men who look like bullies. She and her people understand this very well.

I'm going to keep saying it until someone shows me objective data that proves otherwise: I think the Hillary-as-Republican-savior factor is way, way overstated. And I really wish Democrats would stop buying into the Republican spin on it.

One more thing:


As preparation for the general election, Watts said, Noriega should debate McMurrey. McMurrey has challenged Noriega to debates, but Noriega's camp has declined so far.

"I don't think debating hurts anybody. Rick and I were prepared to have a series of debates," Watts said. "You're going to want to have debates with Cornyn, and you're going to want to be able to say you took on all comers in the primary and Cornyn ought to in the general."

Noriega campaign manager Sue Schechter said the debate argument with McMurrey is a matter of "semantics." She said Noriega and McMurrey have had repeated joint appearances at local Democratic forums, but that McMurrey has not shown up for all of them.

"Our challenge would be for him to start showing up at these events where we are both invited," Schechter said.


So they're having candidate forums instead of "debates". What's the difference between the two? Far as I can tell, it's whether or not you have a Tim Russert there to ask you what kind of tree you'd be if you were a tree. This was sounds better to me, so I don't know what the fuss is about. The point is to get both candidates before the voters at the same time, and it sounds like there's plenty of opportunity for McMurrey to do that if he chooses to.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 10, 2008 to Election 2008
Comments

It would be very nice if someone (anyone!) would cite some actual data to suggest that Hillary Clinton would be a drag on the ballot in Texas.

I really don't think a poll could be devised to accurately gauge that. And polls can be deceptive, as we have just learned again this week.

So pretty much all we have is a mountain of anecdotal evidence. And our instincts.

Posted by: PDiddie on January 10, 2008 7:27 AM

My sentiments exactly! I wish these people would stop parroting right wing and media talking points. I think this anti Hillary stuff is pretty much urban legend.

Posted by: david on January 10, 2008 7:55 AM

Thanks Kuff for writing what a lot of people are saying and talking about. My friends will disavow and question every Repub. talking point
except that one. They truely buy into that B. S. -that Hillary will hurt local races and state races if she is on the ballot in Nov. Show me the polls.

Posted by: nuts101 on January 10, 2008 8:26 AM

I really don't think a poll could be devised to accurately gauge that. And polls can be deceptive, as we have just learned again this week.

Sure, but Watts says he's seen such a poll. All I'm saying is that I want to see it, too. If there really is evidence to suggest Hillary could be a drag, then I want to know that before I go vote. And if not, or if that poll smells like BS, then I want to know that as well. I don't think that's too much to ask.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on January 10, 2008 9:05 AM

Charles, I know you're smart enough to know the difference between a forum and a debate, so I'll assume that you're just shilling for Noriega on this one. But for the rest of your readers, there is in fact a massive difference between the two:

1) Excitement - A debate generates far more excitement and publicity than a forum, because people want to see both candidates answer the same questions at the same time, and possible confront each other. This almost never happens at a forum, where the candidates stick to prepared remarks.

2) Press Coverage - There will be far more press coverage at a debate than at a forum, due to the excitement that it generates and the potential for good sound bytes. And frankly, the fact that there are many forums during a campaign but only a handful of debates makes this a big event for reporters. It's the kind of thing that if you didn't cover it, especially in an election this big, people would wonder about the quality of your news desk.

2) Format - At a forum, each candidate takes turns giving his or her stump speech. This is sometimes followed by a brief Q&A from the audience, but not always. Further, the candidate can sometimes pick the people he calls on, which makes it easy to field softball questions. This is an easy day for candidates, and most of the time they won't have to go off the talking points. A debate, on the other hand, forces them to answer tough questions from a moderator, questions they may not have been expecting. Further, if one candidate ducks the question, this will be made all the more obvious if the other candidate takes it head on. Finally, a debate forces the candidates to speak directly about the issues. This may seem trivial to some, but thus far Rick Noriega has said next to nothing about the big issues in this campaign. Democratic primary voters deserve to see him side by side with Ray McMurrey, answering the same questions on Iraq, health care, immigration, and campaign finance reform.

Posted by: Jeff Versteeg on January 10, 2008 10:30 AM

The buzz in the national liberal blogosphere is that Rove and the right wingers want Hillary as the Dem candidate precisely b/c she is so polarizing and her husband engenders a lot of dredged up anger from the past, that a Republican candidate, even a pathetically weak one, as all of the party�s candidates are, would have a better chance of beating her than Obama who has the support of many Independents and cross over Republicans. But that is all speculation and chatter�.

Moving on to race for U.S. Senate here, I�ve noticed that Mr. Versteeg has criticized Mr. Noriega here, as well as on other of our state�s Democratic political blogs, including the Burnt Orange Report. I see his comments regurgitated over and over as if spewed from some Rovian type play book.

�Finally, a debate forces the candidates to speak directly about the issues. This may seem trivial to some, but thus far Rick Noriega has said next to nothing about the big issues in this campaign.�

Maybe Mr. Versteeg would like to identify who he is and what role he is playing in Mr. McMurrey�s campaign? After all, he can hardly call Charles a �shill� for Noriega for merely posting a piece that mentions him, when Mr. Versteeg himself is obviously shilling for McMurrey throughout our state�s democratic blogs. Or perhaps Mr. Versteeg is one of Cornyn�s hired hacks?

As a committed supporter of Mr. Noriega, let me tell you this, Mr. Versteeg, you are na�ve and completely uninformed if you think for a second you can get any mileage out of trashing a candidate with a proven stellar record in both the military and public service. You can hardly be contemptuous of a leader who coordinated, at the request of Mayor White, the enormous efforts to provide shelter for Hurricane Katrina�s victims in Houston. I don�t know where you live but I live in Houston and I know the exodus of New Orleans resident to Houston was extraordinary. Thanks to Mayor White, and Mr. Noriega�s efforts, Houston stepped up and did the near impossible, thanks to their brilliant planning, leadership and commitment to do the right thing. Our city�s leaders inspired all Houstonians to reach out and lend a helping hand, which we did.

This is what a true leader does.

Finally, Mr. Versteeg, given the precarious times in which we live right now, thanks to the Bush Administration's appalling criminal incompetence on both the national security and domestic fronts, it seems to me that we need a proven leader who has the stamina and will power to negotiate with the global forces that threaten us, as well as with the domestic bullies - none other than the Bush Administration's corporate self interests groups that have replaced we the people in our so-called representative government.

Given both men�s records on military experience and pubic service, Mr. Noriega makes Cornyn look like the blithering coward and light weight that he is. All the money in the world can�t buy Cornyn bravery and integrity.

Posted by: Libby Shaw on January 10, 2008 5:00 PM

Libby, you're making my point for me. I know that Rick Noriega served in the military. I know that he helped accommodate Katrina evacuees in Houston. I know these things because they are all he and his supporters, and now you, ever talk about. A laudable record of public service is a great thing, for starters. What matters most, though, to people who have more than a superficial understanding of public policy, is where a candidate stands on the issues.

This is a pretty basic idea, but in today's political climate, the vast majority well-known commentators, and the bloggers who uncritically parrot their views, are obsessed with the horse race. Electability, polling, demographics, and the like, make up the bulk of most pundits' analysis, and this is on a good day. On the worst days, we get the recent flap over Obama removing that silly flag pin, or the amount of ink spilled about Hillary's little pity party in New Hampshire.

No doubt you are preparing to fire back that these things ARE very important, and I only reveal my naivete by continually insisting that Rick Noriega tell us where he stands on the issues. The difference between you and I, Libby, is that I think for myself. When a lot of other people, even famous ones on TV, seem to think something is very important, I'm still able to make up my own mind about what matters most to me. Now this is going to sound trite to a jaded, cynical, political operative such as yourself, but this is how I feel how a candidate will vote when she is elected means a lot to me. Everything else means very little.

I can hear you screaming it now if your candidate cant win, then it doesnt matter how he would vote! To tell you the truth, my engagement in the political process is not all about picking the winning horse. Im not simply playing the game, Im also working to change the way its played. I support the candidate who best represents my progressive views, even if that candidate is not the front runner. This sends a message that I will not support a candidate just because he has a D next to his name, and that I will not succumb to the current fashion of focusing on winning over principles. Ive been posting on the blogs that are covering this race to get the word out that there are substantial differences between Rick Noriega and Ray McMurrey on the issues. I think that democratic primary voters should make their choice on the basis of how this country will be affected by the votes that these candidates would cast in the Senate.

You sanctimoniously declare that we need a leader who will stand up to corporate interests in Washington. Bravo. I share your passion for a truly representative democracy. Why then, if you want so badly to get the money out of politics, do you support Rick Noriega, a candidate who accepts money from lobbyists, and was once a lobbyist himself? Ray McMurrey has pledged not to accept any contributions from registered lobbyists. Which candidate do you think is more likely to stand up to big business when he gets to the Senate? The one who was put there by big business, or the one who got there by the sweat of his brow?

Before blindly giving your support to the likely candidate, why not visit Ray McMurreys website, and read for yourself where he stands on the issues? You might find that his platform makes a whole lot of sense single-payer national health care, a timetable of one year for withdrawal from Iraq, and publicly funded elections at both the state and national level. These may be things that you support, or at least enjoy giving lip service to. Either way, why not make an informed decision, rather than being one more lemming?

Regarding your insinuations about my role in the McMurrey/Cornyn campaigns, I am not being compensated by either. Further, if you think that posting on blogs qualifies as using the Rovian playbook, then you havent heard about the mans best work (see 2000 South Carolina Republican primary).

Yes, I am a big McMurrey supporter, but not because all my friends were buzzing about him. I read about his candidacy in the Austin Chronicle, and was shocked and inspired that a person with such progressive values would even think to run as a Democrat in this state. Frankly, the vast majority of Democrats in Texas are weak and shortsighted. They are always in survival mode, simply trying to eke out an election the elections that are deemed to be winnable. Texas Democrats are just happy to be here, and are constantly acting like the second-choice party because we live in a red state. Most of them shy away from a comprehensive progressive vision simply because they dont think ideas like single-payer health care or campaign finance reform will play well here. I recently had an exchange with a blogger who lauded Noriega for voting against the Defense of Marriage Act here in Texas. He claimed it was a gutsy vote. How pathetic are Democrats in Texas when we stand up and cheer for a representative who casts a simple vote against bigotry? In this day and age, isnt that the least we should expect of our elected officials?

We need to be the party of big ideas again. The New Deal. The War on Poverty. The civil rights movement. The womens rights movement. This is the Democratic Party going out and making things the way they ought to be, even though we started out in the minority. Even though some of these ideas were not popular at first within our own party. We didnt get all the rights we have today by supporting centrist candidates who stand for nothing and play for the middle. We did it by marching and working and fighting for years and years until the elements that stood in our way were weakened and brushed aside.

We could be that way again if Democrats would start voting based on values and not whos winning the horse race.

Posted by: Jeff Versteeg on January 10, 2008 10:43 PM