David Corn

David Corn

Washington Bureau Chief

Corn has broken stories on presidents, politicians, and other Washington players. He's written for numerous publications and is a talk show regular. His best-selling books include Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War.

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Perriello: A Tough Loss for Progressive Democrats

| Tue Nov. 2, 2010 7:40 PM EDT

One of the Democrats' best prospects, freshman Rep. Tom Perriello of Virginia, has lost his bid for reelection. He faced an arduous challenge. He was narrowly elected in 2008 in a district designed by Virginia Republicans to be GOP-friendly territory. He worked hard as soon as he hit the House to bring jobs to his district. He was no down-the-line liberal. He supported gun rights (a big plus in his largely rural district) and backed the anti-abortion Stupak amendment during the health care reform fight (another plus for his Bible-Beltish turf). More important, he was truly a populist Democrat. He supported President Barack Obama on health care and the stimulus, but he decried the administration's embrace of conventional corporatist economics symbolized by Larry Summers, whom he routinely slammed. He was a possible model for other Democrats looking to succeed in conservative but economically distressed areas.

This past summer, I spent several days chronicling his campaign. Perriello, 36, came across as an energetic and engaged politician who knew his district well. From that dispatch:

Later, racing through farmland in his white Ford pickup, Perriello explains why he thinks his brand of "conviction politics" can win over voters like Starkey: "I don't see the dividing line as liberal versus conservative. It's populist versus corporatist. If we're not standing up to the most powerful interests, where is the Democratic Party?" Perriello acknowledges that some in the conservative district may judge him harshly based on his votes for health care, cap and trade, and the stimulus. (After a tea party blogger angry about "Obamacare" published the address [6] of Perriello's brother—believing it was the congressman's home—someone cut the propane line to the gas grill.) But, Perriello notes, "I've been incredibly critical of [White House economic adviser] Lawrence Summers as someone who wouldn't know anyone making less than six figures, unless that person was driving him around." He often reminds constituents that he didn't vote for continuing the bank bailout.

When a saleswoman at an appliance store tells him that her elderly customers often can't afford the cost of replacement parts, Perriello replies, "We're not producing anything anymore. The elites in both parties are too close to Wall Street. If jobs are created in India, that's fine with them." This is not a made-in-DC message tailored by Democratic strategists. It's Perriello's home brew. He was first elected as a populist bashing the incumbent's corporate campaign donors. Now, he's running against the corporate consensus in the nation's capital—including his own party's brass.

Back in January, after Republican Scott Brown won  the Massachusetts Senate race, Perriello says, he told party leaders that the Democrats ought to introduce a different jobs bill every week to force Republicans to take a stand: "They said it was a great idea, but then it didn't happen. And the Senate is always a problem. I think most people in Washington don't get how serious the job situation is." He declares it "embarrassing" that the Democrats decided to take a six-week recess to campaign as the economy teeters. "I can't tell you how many times people in the White House say to me, 'We want to help you; what can we do?' I say, 'Put out a real jobs bill.'" Perriello is pushing to end a corporate tax credit that encourages outsourcing jobs and use the revenue—an estimated $14 billion—for job-creating programs like weatherization and energy-efficiency retrofitting.
That kind of pitch is part of Perriello's bring-it-home strategy: He says House Democrats have to toil extra hard to show how people in their districts can benefit from the big, abstract bills cooked up in Washington. During the House debate over the climate bill, Perriello recalls, he came to the district and talked to dairy farmers about how they could turn cow manure into power and possibly get off the grid—a notion, he says, that appeals to the "independent and libertarian streaks of farmers."

Perriello was a proficient fundraiser. But from the moment he entered the House, corporate and conservative groups targeted him, launching a steady blitz of negative ads against him. In a difficult year for Democrats in a difficult district for Democrats, Perriello fought hard—and he was the one House member for whom Obama campaigned—but in a Republican district he couldn't survive the double wave of anti-Washington sentiment and outside GOP big money. His defeat is a tough loss for progressive Democrats on a tough night.

The Turnout Game

| Tue Nov. 2, 2010 12:05 PM EDT

I'll never forget watching Mary Matalin, a George H.W. Bush operative, on television on Election Day 1992 in the late afternoon or early evening, saying that Bush was sailing toward reelection, with postivie GOP turnout being reported in key areas. She said this with a straight face, though every political professional in Washington and elsewhere already had access to the exit polls showing a Bill Clinton victory. Matalin knew that her guy was toast, but she was soldiering on. Which is what political ops do on E-Day. One way they do that is hyping turnout indicators that are—big shocker—favorable to their side. Consequently, the email I just received from the Democratic Party is not surprising. It notes:

The Ohio Democratic Party reports that they've already exceeded the number of volunteers they had hoped to deploy for Election Day GOTV activities.

   * In last 3 Days alone Ohio Democratic volunteers filled more than 9,000 volunteer shifts, made 2.1 million calls and knocked n nearly 400,000 doors

   * In the Democratic stronghold of Mahoning County, turnout for the last day of Early Voting surprised even Board of Election Director Tom McCabe, who said "We had lines all day long, 40 people deep at times. It's amazing. It was our busiest day yet for voting at the counter."

   * Students at universities across Ohio did literature drops until 1:00 am and then woke up at 5:00 am to begin their door-hanger shifts.

It also says:

* There was "a late Democratic surge in early voting in Florida, particularly among AfricanAmericans."

* "Poll workers are reporting “shocking” turnout in Democratic Strongholds in the Lehigh Valley" in Pennsylvania.

* "Dozens of students launched canvasses and 'dorm storms' from the Indiana University student union in Bloomington, where Democrats already lead in early voting."

* "Election judges are reporting long lines, greater than expected turnout in Dem stronghold Prince George's County" in Maryland.

So much good news? In the intelligence field, they call this "cherry-picking." It's what pols do before it's time to count the pits.

UPDATE: A new DNC email reports:

   * A disproportionately high number of  Cook County voters cast early vote ballots—44.2% of early vote ballots cast statewide came from this county despite representing only 38.5% of all registered voters in Illinois.
   * Election judges in St. Louis say lines this am as long as 2008 in St. Louis: http://bit.ly/cyw7Gn
   * Strongly democratic South Bend Indiana is seeing very high voting turnout http://bit.ly/dwpTcI
   * Reports in from Pittsburgh. High volunteer turn out and lots of folks out on the doors now: http://bit.ly/dne7Jn
   * In Philadelphia, local election officials are reporting strong turnout for an off-year election: http://bit.ly/bDI1Za
   * 45 plus minute waits reported in heavily African American area of DeKalb County in the metro Atlanta.  Delays not caused by anything at polls, but rather people in line.
   * Long lines in Bridgeport, a key community for many of the competitive races in CT: http://bit.ly/dwGvLC
   * We’re getting a report that a parking lot at a polling station is so full, people are having to driving home and walking to the polls. No irregularities have been reported, just high turnout in the Garden State.  
   * There are several reports of big turnout in urban areas across North Carolina. Voters and elections officials report a steady turnout at the polls Tuesday morning on a day that some political experts say could be turf-changing for the country. http://bit.ly/cPgxqh

Another DNC update:

   * In the first two hours of calling, Dem volunteers have made 246,343 phone calls to targeted voters – that’s a blistering 2,052 calls per MINUTE or 34 calls per SECOND.
   * More than 1,550 canvassers are now going door-to-door through our targeted communities, making sure that these voters cast their ballots today for Democrats.
   * In the Lehigh Valley, election officials say they've seen three times the number of voters they're used to at this time of the day: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYndhPYvHMc
   * According to NBC Philly, reports from around the state indicate that voter turnout is higher than expected: http://bit.ly/dnVKJa
   * Voters are reporting that there is heavy turnout in voting locations in the Chicago and the suburbs– even before 7:00 AM: http://huff.to/aiZTZL
   *Turnout in Democratic heavy Louisville is higher than expected according to local elections officials. http://bit.ly/cAXchu. VIDEO: http://bit.ly/adoTcX

DC Ticker on ABC News: Obama, sell; Axelrod, sell

| Tue Nov. 2, 2010 9:41 AM EDT

I've previously explained the DC Ticker I compile most days, which is now being featured on ABC News' website show, Political Punch, hosted by Jake Tapper. Here are the final (and perhaps too obvious) pre-election picks featured on this week's PP:

Pelosi, sell. The first woman to become Speaker of the House—and the first woman, it seems, to lose the position.

Reid, sell. Even if the Senate majority leader beats Sharron Angle, he's so weakened that some Democrats will consider a mutiny.

David Axelrod, sell. Blame the message man.

Obama, sell. Is the Age of Obama over? How does he change the script for Act II?

Hillary Clinton, buy. In a clever move, she left town for two weeks. So it isn't about her.

You can receive the almost-daily DC Ticker report by following my Twitter feed. (#DCticker is the Twitter hashtag.) Please feel free to argue with my selections—though all decisions of the judges are final. And please feel free to make suggestions for buy or sell orders in the comments below or on Twitter (by replying to @DavidCornDC). Don't forget: DC Ticker is merely an advisory service. It and its author cannot be held liable for any investments made in politicians, policy wonks, or government officials on the basis of the information presented. Invest in politics at your own risk.

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