NDN Blog

MoveOn and more on how the internet is changing politics

Tonight MoveOn attempts a rather remarkable thing - a virtual townhall meeting with the Democratic Presidential candidates.   You can participate or learn more at www.moveon.org.

Additionally, the Boston Globe's Rick Klein has a must read piece on the meaning of the Democratic Presidential candidates huge 1st quarter fundraising advantage. It starts:

WASHINGTON -- Democrats appear to have erased the decades-long Republican edge in campaign fund-raising, building a network of well-off donors that rivals that of the GOP -- and that recently has generated more cash.

In dwarfing the sums raised by Republicans in the first three months of this year, Democratic presidential candidates capitalized on growing support from upper-income professionals. While higher-earning households overwhelmingly favored Republicans as recently as the start of President Bush's first term, the gap has narrowed to 4 percentage points among voters with annual household incomes of more than $100,000, according to the Pew Research Center's latest polls.

Democrats' recent fund-raising success challenges the traditional assumption of the Republican Party enjoying a reliable financial advantage -- and points to the outlines of a new Democratic coalition that could change the nation's political dynamics in 2008 and beyond, according to campaign finance specialists.

"It's a whole new world," said Chris Lehane, a Democratic consultant who was a top adviser to Vice President Al Gore, who was out spent by more than $65 million by Bush in the 2000 election. "To call it revolutionary is not a stretch. It is a game-changer."

The shift leaves Democrats confident that for the foreseeable future they will be able to compete dollar-for-dollar with Republicans, after decades of expecting to be outspent. By reaching a new crop of contributors -- largely through the Internet -- Democrats have tapped into a potentially powerful army of higher-income and better-educated voters who are increasingly aligning themselves with Democratic values, according to polls and demographic data.

As recently as 2002, 45 percent of voters with annual household incomes of more than $100,000 identified themselves as Republicans, while just 28 percent said they were Democrats, Pew polls found. But Pew's 2007 polling shows that gap closing to a 33-29 GOP advantage, with most former Republicans now calling themselves independents.

Just as working-class voters have been drawn to the GOP because of the party's emphasis on traditional values, many higher-income, higher-educated voters who once favored Republicans over tax policy have been moving toward the Democrats because of more liberal stands on social issues and a more internationalist perspective on foreign policy.

Those trends powered voting shifts toward Democrats in the suburbs in last year's congressional elections, where widespread dissatisfaction with the Iraq war and the Bush administration gave Democrats control of Congress for the first time in a dozen years.

"We're going through a period of transformational change," said Alan Solomont , a veteran Boston-based Democratic fund-raiser who is working on the presidential campaign of Senator Barack Obama of Illinois. "Business folks -- not ideologues, but entrepreneurs, new economy workers, venture capitalists -- are [looking at Republicans and] saying, 'This is not how I want my government represented around the world.' "

Throughout recent history, Republicans have been able to count on greater financial resources than Democrats, with an immense fund-raising operation that relied on big business and wealthy individual backers. Many observers predicted that the gap would grow wider in the wake of the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform act, since Democrats had long relied on labor unions' unlimited "soft money" donations, which the 2002 law banned.

But Democrat John F. Kerry surpassed fund-raising expectations in his 2004 presidential campaign, bringing in $253.9 million, just $38 million less than President Bush, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Democrats built on that trend in last year's mid-term congressional elections, with the party's House and Senate campaign committees pulling to within $7 million of their Republican counterparts.

In the first three months of this year, Democratic presidential candidates blew past Republicans, raising a total of $78 million compared to only $52 million for Republicans. Two Democrats -- Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton of New York -- surpassed $25 million apiece; the leading Republican fund-raiser -- former governor Mitt Romney -- hauled in $23 million.

"Clearly we've had more success with people who named themselves independents and moderate Republicans," said Hassan Nemazee , a New York-based fund-raiser for Clinton and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "We're able to pick into areas where we haven't been able to in the past."

On one level, the tremendous amount of cash flowing to Democrats is a measure of Democratic excitement about 2008. Energy translates into campaign dollars, particularly with online tools making political donations the equivalent of civic activism.

While much credit is given to the Democrats' extensive efforts to use the Internet to raise money, no fund-raising tool can be effective unless potential donors have the resources to give to a party or cause. There, Democrats are encountering a political landscape that is vastly different than it was just two years ago, when some conservatives boasted of building a permanent Republican majority in the United States...

NDN Press Release: On immigration, Mr. President, we need more than words

Earlier today I released the following statement to the media:

"In this time of deep partisanship in Washington, there has been one issue on which the President, Senator McCain, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, the Catholic Church, the Chamber of Commerce, numerous labor unions and many other grassroots groups were able to find common cause and work together: the McCain-Kennedy approach to comprehensive immigration reform that passed the Senate with broad bipartisan support in 2006.

Based on various news accounts, the President and his Party appear to be walking away from this broad and deep coalition, abandoning a smart, tough and sensible approach to immigration reform. Floating a brand new approach to immigration reform, the President and his Party have stepped backward and devised a new path that will do much more to please their partisans than solve this important problem. 

We hope that on this vital national issue of immigration, the President doesn't follow the lead of his Party, but rather leads it and the nation to a comprehensive solution this year. While his speech today was one we welcome, the President needs to publicly distance himself from the plan being floated by Senate Republican leaders, and say right now that he intends to pick up where we left off in 2006 - with the McCain-Kennedy approach that has already passed the Republican-controlled Senate. Anything less will show that the President, despite his passionate rhetoric today, is simply not serious about passing comprehensive immigration reform this year.   

Years of work went into crafting the McCain-Kennedy approach. It has made great progress through Congress. It has a deep and broad coalition behind it. Democratic Congressional leaders in both chambers have made it clear that passing this bill this year is a very high priority (see video from our recent event with leaders from both chambers reiterating their support). The new and flawed Republican approach being floated will unravel this coalition, and deal a severe blow to those hoping to pass comprehensive immigration reform this year.

The Republicans lost power in 2006 because their government did not produce the results it had promised and had left many important challenges unmet. At NDN, we believe the American people sent a clear message to Washington to stop playing politics and start focusing on solving a daunting set of 21st century challenges. On this issue of immigration reform, once again the Republicans seem to be on the verge of listening more to their partisans than the American people, and are in the process of walking away from a good and sensible bipartisan solution to a difficult national challenge."

The Emerging Political Agenda from the Bottom Up

The bar just keeps getting higher when it comes to all the innovative ways new tools are being used in politics, and now, government. I’m referring to two very recent developments where average people are given opportunities to contribute their own ideas on what to  do about issues for a candidate, and for a sitting governor.

The first is Obama’s new feature on his campaign website where he gives people the opportunity to submit their ideas about what to do about the national health care problem. The ideas, and the supportive contributions, can take many forms: a written idea blurb, a written personal story, a video that sheds light on the issue, or a recorded audio message that people can  make with any computer with a microphone, which is most decent ones. The audio contribution was something I had not seen done before. But taken all together, the package opportunity is different too.

This appears to be just the beginning of many other tool rollouts for Obama. Healthcare is just the first issues of many that will soon appear but also the website indicates that there will be opportunities to collaborate in other ways too. Collaboration, after all, is the essence of the new power of what is called Web 2.0.

Then there’s Deval Patrick’s morphed campaign site. The new governor of Massachusetts, who rode the new tools and much bottom-up energy to his election victory, is now trying to harness them in governing. His nascent attempt gives residents a chance to propose and support issues that the governor should take up and try to enact.

It’s very early days in both these efforts, but they are telegraphing a trend that is bound to pick up steam in the months ahead. If this country is truly going to take on the new challenges of the 21st century in effective ways, then people in politics will need to tap into the creativity and brainpower of millions of Americans who have been shut out of politics and governing – until now.

Peter Leyden  

NDN Press Release: Statement on Presidential Campaign Fundraising

I released the following statement to the media earlier today:

"Today’s announcement by Barack Obama that he has raised $25 million shows that Democrats are clearly ahead of Republicans in adapting to the new opportunities and realities of 21st century American politics. 

It appears that the collective Democratic field has raised about 50 percent more than the collective Republican field.  When the official FEC filings come out next week, there is little doubt that Democrats will far exceed Republicans in the number of people who have donated as well.

No matter how you measure it - money raised, sign-ups on social networking sites, people at events, downloads on YouTube and of course as the recent Pew poll showed, party identification - Democrats are structurally ahead of the Republicans in mastering the new politics of the 21st century. 

The 100 dollar revolution that started in 2003 continues to radically change American politics.  A combination of more states voting earlier in the primary process and an acceleration of the adoption of new tools that are making it easier for people to participate in politics will mean that by late February of 2008, tens of millions of Americans will have voted, donated, volunteered, blogged, signed up or taken some sort of action on behalf of a candidate. 

There also should be little doubt that effectively managing and tapping into the new prominence of average people in our 21st century politics is going to be one of the most critical tests of our political leaders.  

Another measure of how Democrats are better adapting to the new realities of the 21st century is the historic diversity of the Democratic Presidential field: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson, John Edwards, Chris Dodd, and Joe Biden look like the diverse America of the 21st century."

MySpace Primary: Social Networking Gone Wild

Social networking is going to play a big role in the politics of this cycle, but I think having a primary on MySpace might be going a bit far. We’ll see.

The MySpace primary seems to me to be gimmicky at this point, and I hope that does not turn off political people from the idea that social networking tools can be a powerful way to do what politics has always been about – connecting up people and their “social networks” of family and friends behind a campaign or candidate.

I made that point in an interview I did today around the breaking news. Separate the importance of social networking from the potential relevance of the MySpace primary. They should be evaluated on their own terms as two separate things.

There is no question that social networking will be big in politics – not the least because it is a critical medium to reach the Millennial Generation, that increasingly important young constituency.

There are a lot of questions about how a MySpace primary will fare in a real-world primary world. But you never know. I could be wrong….

Peter Leyden   

Google & Echostar Partnership: a first step towards buying political ads on satellite TV?

As television audiences become increasingly segmented through technologies such as cable, DVRs, and satellite TV, a broadcast-only strategy of reaching viewers just doesn’t work anymore. Satellite TV subscribers, for example, are among the most difficult for political advertisers to reach because ads can only be bought nationally on the non-local channels.

Simply put, while a political advertiser can buy ads on popular cable channels such as TNT, TBS, and A&E by buying through their local cable company, it’s been impossible to buy ads on those very same stations on satellite networks.

Today’s announcement by Google and Echostar could change this dynamic. Google announced today that it will sell TV ads on the 125 stations distributed by Echostar Communications’ DISH network.

The TV ads will work much like Google’s online search ads do – advertisers specify how much they’re willing to pay, and through an automated auction, the ads with the highest price are selected. What’s more, just like in the online search ads, advertisers can choose by geographic region:

Mr. Desai said the television ad system would work much like Google’s existing online and offline advertising systems. EchoStar would make some unspecified amount of air time available to Google’s advertisers. Advertisers or agencies would upload video spots to the system along with their desired target audience or network and would specify the price they are willing to bid for the air time.

Google’s ad system would then select the winning ads and play them on the air. Using information collected by EchoStar’s set-top satellite boxes, it will be able to give advertisers a report showing how many people viewed any ad and whether users tuned it out in the first few seconds.

Google will also use information collected by EchoStar to deliver the ads to their target audiences more precisely, the companies said.

Advertisers will not be able to designate specific households, but will be able to choose individual networks like ESPN or MTV and a time of day. Alternatively, they could choose a demographic group or geographic region, and Google’s system would schedule the ads across a variety of networks.

This is still a pilot program, but it could be the beginning of a significant change in political TV ad buying.

How Close Did We Get to a Kerry-McCain Ticket?

MyDD blogger and intrepid reporter Jonathan Singer interviewed John Kerry yesterday and you won't want to miss what Massachusetts' Junior Senator said about John McCain. 

Jonathan Singer: There's a story in The Hill, I think on Tuesday, by Bob Cusack on the front page of the paper talking about how John McCain's people -- John Weaver -- had approached Tom Daschle and a New York Congressman, I don't remember his name, about switching parties. And I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about what your discussions were with him in 2004, how far it went, who approached whom... if there was any "there" there.

John Kerry: I don't know all the details of it. I know that Tom, from a conversation with him, was in conversation with a number of Republicans back then. It doesn't surprise me completely because his people similarly approached me to engage in a discussion about his potentially being on the ticket as Vice President. So his people were active -- let's put it that way.

Singer: Okay. And just to confirm, you said it, but this is something they approached you rather than...

Kerry: Absolutely correct. John Weaver of his shop... [JK aswers phone]

John Weaver is McCain's chief political strategist, his Karl Rove essentially.  Wonder how this news will play wth GOP primary voters.

Responding to Tancredo

Today, Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO) entered the race to become the next President of the United States. His participation in this campaign guarantees that we will hear more about his policies, which include deporting 12 million people, and we will hear more rhetoric proposing an America whose definition omits a key element of the past that we at NDN hold dear: the value of immigrants.

Today, Congressman Tancredo has given the Hispanic community a reason to stand up and be heard: to silence the xenophobic nature of conservatives like Tom Tancredo and their allies in the Republican Party. Tom Tancredo and others want to take this country towards a future that denies its past and its foundation.

Now we must challenge all presidential candidates to come to the table (or return to the table as in the case of Senator John McCain) and repudiate such positions so we can work towards a responsible, comprehensive solution.

Newt Gingrich Wants to Take us to War with Iran

Has this guy read a newspaper in the last 5 years?  It's like it's 1998 and he's addressing the Project for a New American Century.  Nobody can rest until Gingrich and his ilk are thoroughly discredited.  We know what happens when we let neocons test drive our foreign policy. 

PS

This video was posted by Gingrich's own people.  That's right, it's not oppo research.  Wow.

John McCain Leads Coalition of the Delusional

John McCain was in Baghdad this weekend with Senator Lindsay Graham to brag about how well the surge is going.  They capped off the trip by taking a "three minute drive across the Tigris river from the green zone" to walk through a market.  Accompanying the Senators were 100 heavily armed soldiers, 3 Blackhawk helicopters, 2 apache helicopters and a partridge in a pear tree.  NBC's Tom Aspell, who reported the story from Baghdad, told Imus that with similar military protection "even Paris Hilton could ride a bicycle in a bikini through Anbar province."  After you get that image out of your head, look for Ret. Gen. Barry McCaffery's reasoned analysis of what is really going on in Iraq today.

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