Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Electoral Elucidations '06: David vs. Goliath

By: UnrepentantNewDealer

Well, I had intended to post on the midterm elections sometime before, you know, election day. But, honestly, I've been so busy out there in the trenches trying to overthrow the corrupt Republican regime in Congress, that I quite literally haven't had the time. I've been canvassing (that's the door-to-door form of voter harassment) and phone-banking (far more polite than anonymous robo-calls) practically every spare moment for the last few weeks. Just this morning, I got up before 5:30 in the morning to cast my ballot the minute the polls opened at 6:30 and then positioned myself 50 feet from the entrance to the elementary school polling place to hand out campaign literature.... in the cold and the pouring rain. I'm typing this between noonish classes afterwhich, it's back out into the trenches till polls close at 7:30 pm. I have so much to say about all this, my personal experiences with this campaign and my thoughts on the broader national picture, but it will have to wait until after the election.

I have just two things I'd like to bring up now: First, the candidate I've been helping out this semester is Larry Kissell. He worked in the textile mills for 27 years before getting his degree and becoming a high school social studies teacher. He threw his hat into the race this year to challenge incumbent Rep. Robin Hayes, depending on who you talk to, either the third or fourth-richest man in Congress, a man who got his wealth by marrying into the Cannon textile company--you know, the one that shipped all its jobs to China. Textiles were the mainstay of the 8th district and last year, when the Central American Free Trade Agreement came before Congress, Hayes told his constituents he was "flat out, completely, horizontally oppssed to CAFTA," which was "not in the best interests of the core constituency I represent," and he vowed "there is no way I could vote for CAFTA."

Funny thing happened on the way to the House floor. The bill came to the floor, Hayes voted no, and the bill lost by one vote. In a highly irregular move in violation of House procedures, the bill was kept on the floor late into the night anyway as the GOP leadership searched for one persuadable vote. Speaker of the House Denny Hastert sequestered Robin Hayes in his office. God only knows what Hastert threatened him with, but when Hayes came out, visibly shaken, he changed his vote, and voted for CAFTA, thus enabling it to pass.

Hayes undoubtedly thought he could get away with promising not to vote for CAFTA and then turning around and voting for it anyway. After all, the D.C. Democrats would run some California liberal, as in the last several elections, and the voters in this conservative but still-majority Democratic district would again vote for Hayes. He thought wrong. The D.C. Dem. establishment candidate bowed out early and Kissell won the primary and set out winning the hearts and minds of NC-08 voters. I really don't have time to get into all the details now, but the gist is, this year, Hayes actually has a credible opponent. And judging by the polls, as well as the reaction I've gotten from voters today and in the last few weeks, Kissel is going to win, and win convincingly. Most tellingly, the Kissell campaign has volunteers at every precinct polling station in Meck and probably in the entire 8th district. I've been at two polling places today and no Hayes supporters have yet shown up. We're fired up and passionate about our candidate, enough to wait out in the cold pouring rain. Hayes' supporters.... well, I suppose you can't blame them; after all, it is raining.

While Hayes' supporters aren't out in evidence, Kissell voters sure are. Even with the rain, turnout seems to be far higher than normal in a midterm election, from every age group. And I've long since lost track of the number of voters who have come up to me and chewed Hayes out, asked me how good Kissell's chances are and thanked me for being out there, "fighting the good fight."

So, how is it that every news organization and political guru rates NC-08 a "solid Republican," or just in the last few days, "leaning Republican," race? Simple. Money talks. Hayes ended September with $1.2 million in his campaign war chest and the ability to self-finance with his estimated $100 fortune. Kissell ended it with $88.94, as he is dependent on small contributions from individual donors, rather than corporate donations, and has to spend every penny he gets almost as soon as he recieves it. When asked about it, Kissell replied that his campaign's bank statement looked a lot more like the average 8th district voter's than Hayes'. And amazingly, Kissell is tied or ahead of Hayes in the polls.

It has often been said that the system is too corrupt, that only candidates with tons of money can win. That's going to be proven wrong today here in southern NC, and probably throughout the nation. Think about it though: if a former mill worker with $88.93 can defeat an incumbent millionaire, that means that the American Dream is still alive, that Mr. Smith can indeed go to Washington, David can indeed defeat Goliath, that honesty and decency can trump the Almighty Dollar. That's an inspiring lesson, no matter what party you support.

There is a groundswell of support for Democrats in the 8th district and for Democrats nationally. Again, as with the NC-08 race, nationally, Republicans are favored by many to win because of their financial advantage, polls be damned. Barron's, for example, predicted that Republicans will keep control of both House and Senate because they have more money. They rated races, using only one tool: the amount of money each side has on hand. On the other extreme, the MSM, loving to gush over poll results, keeps nattering on about a Democratic landslide. There is no doubt in my mind that, if the system wasn't rigged by both parties to protect incumbents, there would be a Democratic landslide on the order of the "Republican Revolution" of '94. Since it is rigged (more on that in a later post), a landslide is unlikely.

I suppose I should go on the record before the polls close with my highly-unscientific predictions: Democrats need to pick up 15 seats to control the House, I'd say we pick up between 25-30 (my gut instinct is that it will be more than that, but I don't want to get overconfident and jinx it.) We need to pick up 6 to control the Senate. We've got Pennsylvania, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Montana in the bag (yeah, I know the last two races have tightened recently, but I find the poll results here showing Lincoln Chafee and Conrad "Most Likely to be Indicted" Burns tied with their Democratic opponents a little hard to swallow). So, that leaves two seat that need to go our way out of these three: Virginia, Tennessee, and Missouri. All are very close. Tennessee appears to be out of reach; what was once a tied race has turned into a sizable Republican lead, probably thank to the now-infamous Republican miscegenation ads (though I'd love to be proven wrong about this and Tennessee elect the first black senator from the South since Reconstruction). Virginia is very close too, but I think Jim Webb will pull an upset against George "Macaca" Allen. That leaves Missouri, and only a fool would try to predict the outcome of that one. If I had to say, I'd give the advantage to Jim Talent, as Missouri has traditionally been a very Republican state, but it's going to be extremely close. If I'm right, the Senate will again be split exactly 50-50 with Dick Cheney casting the deciding vote, as was the case during the first few months of Bush's first term. If I'm wrong and Talent loses, the Dems have both houses of Congress, unless they lose somewhere else. Should be an interesting night all around. Feel free to leave your own predictions in the comments box and we'll see who got the closest.

Now, back into the trenches,

Michael J. Smith