Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Is it ever too early to unite?

Gordon Quan will not be running for the Democratic nomination for the 22nd Congressional District in Texas. The Chronicle has the announcement here. This is Tom DeLay's seat in south Houston - much of it Sugarland and Fort Bend county. Obviously, the Democrats are going to target DeLay due to his string of ethical violations which have had him in the (unflattering) spotlight of late.

Two months ago, it looked as if the race for the Dem nomination was shaping up to be a real battle. Richard Morrison, the Democrat who gave DeLay an unexpectedly close race last November, had not really stopped campaigning since the election. Gordon Quan, a popular at-large Houston city councilman, had formed an exploratory committee to look into a run for the House. And Nick Lampson, an eight-year vetran of the House who lost his seat due to DeLay's partisan redistricting plan, had announced that he would run.

Word is that the Democratic party really pushed for a lone candidate, Lampson, to oppose DeLay. But, does that strategy make sense? Does it work? The following is something I wrote way back on 4-Feb-04 regarding the Democratic Presidential nomination - it was entitled The Dems Big Mistake???

For a week now, and three or four times last night, Democratic party insiders seem to be arguing for the following:

Let's rally behind a candidate, everyone else drop out, and within the next week wrap up our nominee and let him coast through the spring to the convention.

Richarson, gov. of New Mexico, and the gov. of Arizona both said that specifically in interviews last night, and several pundits noted and and reporters have mentioned discussions "behind the scenes". Is that really the best strategy? Is that a Big Mistake? Bush's approval ratings have been tumbling, and it seems to me that the primary reason is that the democratic party is getting TONS of press and media coverage due to the primaries and debates. As soon as a candidate is assured, there is no story - and the media will ignore the democrats until the convention. Doesn't it make MUCH more sense to keep Clark/Edwards/Dean and even Sharpton/Kuchinch in the race - debating - making primary night speeches on national television - and overall just hammering away...? Why should the Party make the choice to lose this free media coverage to make ... Bush ... clear to the voting public. Of course, there is the theory that they all beat up on each other, and the nominee can use the spring to raise money. But, if all the candidates can be convinced to keep bringing the heat to Bush, and point out differences between ideas, but not personal attacks (which there haven't been many of anway) that doesn't hold water...and the money will come in once the nominee is chosen. I'd rather see Dean and Sharpton on national TV slamming Bush long into March and April - I'd rather see Edwards showing the public that the Dems are the party to unite the two Americas - and see Clark show America that a general and NATO commander is a Democrat - even if Kerry is the de facto nominee. Am I just missing something?

Tooting my own horn a bit, I believe I was dead-on with those points. I think that it was pretty clear as the spring wore on that the momentum that the party had built against the Bush administration just whimpered away. The reason - there was no more story. As long as you had local stations covering candidates coming into your town, national stations covering primary victory or concession speeches you had a big - and free - story to tell the public.

It seems to me that the Democratic party is making the same mistake in Texas 22. They want to consolidate the money behind one candidate, not divide the message, or run the risk of attacks weakening the general election candidate. Those concerns are valid...but do they outweigh the benefits of an actual nomination race? Imagine three good candidates - and I think that Morrison, Quan, and Lampson are all good candidates - running a campaign for a full year. Getting pretty good press coverage at events, being able to hit such diverse sections of the district at the same time - and all the while keeping the pressure on DeLay for a whole year before the general election. By the time the vote came around, the voters of Texas 22 would be intimately aware of what the Democratic Party offered, and the failings of The Hammer.

But that's not what we're going to get. Morrison announced he would not run about a month ago. Quan dropped out yesterday. So the Democrats get a good candidate in Nick Lampson...who is going to be absolutely invisible for the next 14 months. I'd rather have seen a really good nomination battle which kept the District and DeLay in the spotlight for 18 months.

Another Big Mistake???

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