Could The Democrats Have Kept The House Majority With A Little Extra Effort And Competence?
One of the most unexpected wins to drop into the Democrats’ lap was in southwest Washington state where a thoroughly red seat was won by political newcomer Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez. The prognosticators didn’t have it on their radar or lists of close races, so the DCCC didn’t spend any money there at all. Not a nickel. The district has a PVI of R+5 and the partisan swing is R+11 (slightly redder than before the new maps were drawn). Incumbent Jaime Herrera Beutler seemed like a lock. But then a funny thing happened. Very far right extremist, Trump-endorsed MAGAt Joe Kent, edged Beutler out in the jungle primary.
Crystal Fincher did an extensive interview with Gluesenkamp Pérez’s general election campaign manager, Phil Gardner, that is very much worth listening to (or reading). At one point he explained why the DCCC ignored the race. The campaign “had an internal poll that we released publicly as far back as late August that showed Marie ahead by two… [but] “this district was drawn to elect a Republican, the notion that it could flip to a Democrat in a midterm with a Democrat in the White House, just— I think no matter what sort of facts you tried to put in front of people, they just could never get past that. But I think also that— I think people didn’t— if Marie had been some, a man with a nice haircut— I just think there was something about who she was, and the fact that she was a young mom, and had never run for federal office before that people just thought, Well, surely she can't be putting together a campaign that could actually win. This is a novelty that's happening out there. And that was frustrating. But I could also see, as we were trying to convince people of our credibility, that our fundraising was going extremely well, especially online… Marie raised $2.2 million in the third quarter, which was more than any other Democrat challenging for an open seat or against a Republican incumbent, except for the guy running against Marjorie Taylor Greene. But Marie outraised Democratic incumbents in frontline districts. And I thought at that point, surely they will now see that this is not some fly-by-night scam we're running out here— it looks non-traditional because it must be, but surely now. And even at that point— no, Marie was never named one of the DCCC's Red to Blue candidates. And we asked for that— we knew that there was, it was unlikely that we were going to get air support that we can't legally coordinate, but we just wanted the designation so that when we called donors in other states, they would know we were— because there's a lot of these donors who, if you don't, if you're not Red to Blue, they don't think you're a serious candidate. And that would have cost the DCCC nothing and they wouldn't give it to us. And, of course now it’s— they're apologetic and such, but I don't know— I try not to dwell on it and be bitter about it because in the end, we won.”
They might not dwell on it, but the rest of us should… because it was decisions like this that cost the Democrats the House majority. This morning, Gaius asked me to list the districts that Democrats would have won had they run better candidates, rather than Republican-lite corporate shills… the kinds of candidates the DCCC loves to first recruit and then to invest in rather than in helping candidates like Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez.
Let’s start in California with 3 nice blue districts which now have Republican representatives. The common thread: absolutely shitty Democratic nominees, conservative, uninspiring garbage that no one except a yellow dog would ever vote for.
CA-13 and CA-22 were nearly identical stories. The DCCC recruited two of the worst members of these tate legislature, Mod Squad leaders Adam Gray and Rudy Salas (who has already declared he’s running again in 2024). Both are abysmally corrupt and conservative— the worst possible Democrats you could ever want to puke all over— with long, ghastly records of serving corporate interests that finance their careers. CA-13 has a PVI of D+4 with a partisan lean of D+7. Biden beat Trump there 54.3-43.4%. CA-22 has a PVI of D+5 with a partisan lean of D+10. Biden beat Trump there 55.3-42.3%. How could the Democrats lose districts like that? That’s what the DCCC was built by anti-progressive shitheads Rahm Emanuel, Steve Israel, Cheri Bustos and, most recently, Sean Patrick Maloney, to do. One more district in California: CA-27, where the voters have made it clear 3 times they are NOT interested in GOP-lite careerist Christy Smith. The PVI is D+4. The partisan lean is D+8. Biden beat Trump 55.1% to 42.7%. And last month Republican Mike Garcia one again beat Christy Smith, this time by a decisive 104,624 (53.2%) to 91,892 (46.8%).
So just those 3 California seats would have brought the House total to 216 to 219. Let’s look at anotherDemocratic disaster area: New York. The most obvious fuckup was DCCC chair Sean Patrick Maloney’s boneheaded decision to force the popular Mondaire Jones out of his district so that he could run there himself since it is somewhat bluer. NY-17 has a D+3 PVI with a D+7 partisan lean, while Maloney’s district, NY-18, has a D+1 PVI with a D+3 partisan lean. In the end— despite a gigantic spending disparity— Maloney lost the seat and, ironically, his own district went blue. By the way, Biden beat Trump in NY-17 by 10 points, And that’s just the most obvious fuckup in New York.
The Syracuse district, NY-22, was a perfect opportunity for a red to blue flip. Mainstream conservative John Katko is retiring from a district with a D+1 PVI and D+2 partisan lean (and where Biden beat Trump 52.6% to 45.2%. Instead of running a progressive— Sarah Klee Hood would have won the general election— the Democratic establishment coalesced around a worthless conservative, Francis Conole, who managed to lose to Republican Brandon Williams 50.49 to 49.51, despite Conole spending $2,967,164 to Williams’ $856,601. Conole being a worthless conservative, the DCCC kicked in another $1,707,520 and Pelosi’s SuperPAC spent $2,645,000— and their ally Sam Bankman-Fried— sensing a corrupt pile of garbage— put at least half a million dollars more into Conole’s race.
There are 3 more New York races worth discussing, all on Long Island, all of which I have lived in at one time or another in my life, NY-01, NY-03 and NY-04, 3 open seats. First the basics:
NY-01 (Lee Zeldin) R+3 PVI and an R+5 partisan lean
NY-03 (Tom Suozzi) D+2 PVI and a D+4 partisan lean
NY-04 (Kathleen Rice) D+5 PVI and a D+10 partisan lean
All three districts nominated incompetent, uninspiring Democrats with no message who offered the voters absolutely nothing at all other than, “They’re worse than we are and they’re going to steal Choice.” It didn’t work, not even in NY-03, where the candidate was George Santos, arguably the worst candidate the GOP nominated in 2022, but where the Democrats countered with Robert Zimmerman, some old Hillary fundraiser as their candidate, who managed to lose 53.8% to 47.2% in a district Biden had won 53.6% to 45.4%.
That’s 4 or 5 seats that should have hone blue. Let’s leave flipping the Zeldin seat out and call it 4 seats. With the 3 in California and these 4, that makes seven and would make the scores 220 Democrats to 215 Republicans. There were 6 other seats where the DCCC sabotaged itself:
AZ-01 (R+2), where the DCCC spent $95
GOP incumbent David Schweikert beat Kevin Hodge 50.44% to 49.56%
AZ-06 (R+3), where the DCCC spent zero (in deference to their allies at DMFI which was opposed to Democratic primary winner Kirsten Engel.)
Republican Juan Ciscomani beat Engel 50.7% to 49.3%
FL-27 (even PVI, D+1 partisan lean), where the DCCC spent $95
Republican incumbent María Salazar beat state Sen Annette Taddeo 57.3% to 42.7%
MI-10 (R+3), where the DCCC sent zero
Republican John James beat Democrat Carl Marlinga 48.8% to 48.3%— 1,600 votes
NJ-07 (R+1), where the DCCC spent $95
After Democrats redrew incumbent Tom Malinowski’s district to favor Republicans, Tom Kean Jr beat him 51.4% to 48.6%
OR-05 (D+2), where the DCCC gave up quickly, in deference to their pal, losing primary incumbent Kurt Schrader.
Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer beat Jamie McLeod-Skinner 51.0% to 49.0%
TX-15 (R+1), where the DCCC spent $95
Because the DCCC hates progressives, Republican Monica De La Cruz was allowed to beat Michelle Vallejo 53.3% to 44.8%
So… yeah, the Democrats could have held onto the majority. How much of this was due to DCCC incompetence and how much to a desire to not win the majority so a shitty 118th Congress will be blamed on Republican intransigence and sabotage during the 2024 presidential cycle?