Lessons from the Ga. Sen. Runoff

Earlier this evening, news organizations projected that GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss won reelection to the U.S. Senate over Democrat Jim Martin.

My hats off to Jim Martin who came closer than anyone ever thought a Democrat could in Georgia. I think this campaign offers lessons for Democrats running next year in Virginia as well as in the 2010 mid-term elections.

Here’s what comes to mind:

Develop and institutionalize early voting programs. That’s how Martin forced this run-off and how Chambliss won it. It’s also why there is a Sen.-elect Hagan and Reps.-elect Perriello and Nye.

Beef up DSCC and DCCC recruitment by pledging dollars and field organizers to the general election nominee, not by clearing a primary field. This means convincing big dollar donors in Calif., N.Y. and Fla. to be willing to invest in races in places like Ga., S.C., N.C., Ala., and Tex. If President-elect Obama is going to be successful, he will need to have more Democrats representing districts and states who voted for McCain. Voters in the South will ticket split if you give them a reason to, probably more so than voters in the Northeast and West coast, but you have to recruit Tier 1 candidates.

Invest in state parties. Howard Dean’s much maligned 50-state strategy looks like a really good idea now, doesn’t it? Democrats MUST continue it.

Extend the Obama campaign’s social media expertise to the DNC, DSCC, DCCC, and 50 state parties. This stuff isn’t hard, but why I am only hearing from these groups via email. Please get it together. The GOP is still stunned by the Obama turnout machine, but they will copy it for 2010. Don’t let them catch up.

Don’t forfeit races like the one waged against Saxby Chambliss. One of the things I admire about the British system is the parties field candidates in every district or constituency. For the first time since 1990, Democrats did that in Va. We need to make it financially feasible for solid Democrats to run in even the most Republican of districts. This helps build party organizations and helps elect Democrats in down ballot races. Most importantly, it gives ALL voters a choice in every election. There is nothing more unhealthy for our Democracy than unopposed incumbents.


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