Friday, February 19, 2010

Will Democrats Forget to Carry the One on Ellsworth Political Calculus?

Jon Easter has a terrific post on the discussion of Brad Ellsworth among Marion County Ward Chairs and Vice Chairs, and it's not pretty.

But here's the agonizing aspect of not being able to get everything you want in politics.

For independent voters (gobs of whom Democrats will need to win to keep Evan Bayh's seat in a GOP-leaning state), Ellsworth is the closest thing to a rock star the party has. His pedigree is perfectly suited to deflect the traditional Republican attacks: soft on crime, gun swiping, fiscally irresponsible, anti-family (whatever that means), socialist, and ultra-liberal.

Ellsworth comes from law enforcement, all of his votes has been "pro" anti-terrorism, pro war funding, against raising the debt ceiling, for "pay-as-you go," and on the "gag" issues for most politicians - guns, abortion, and gays - he's followed the GOP (and his district's) lead, not his party's.

Ellsworth is labor-friendly though. He voted for 14 of 17 AFL-CIO items in 2009, which was the same as Baron Hill and Joe Donnelly. (Only the legally-beleaguered Peter Visclosky and the labor stalwart Andre Carson did better).

Look at statewide Democrat losses, such as Joe Kernan's, and you'll see that few can muster the votes Frank O'Bannon and Evan Bayh put up down there. The key to victory among independents is to ensure that they stay focused on household economics, not the "gag" issues. In my mind, that really leaves only two candidates: Ellsworth and Baron Hill.

Hill is better on choice. He voted with Planned Parenthood 71% to Ellsworth's 0% in 2008. Hill is better on immigration. He only got 54% from the Federation for American Immigration Reform to Ellsworth's 100%. Hill is marginally better on GLBTG issues, and he's more willing to meet with state GLBTG leaders. Hill got a 50% rating in 2007-2008 from the Human Rights Campaign; Ellsworth got a 30%. But Ellsworth is marginally better on labor with a lifetime AFL-CIO record of 87% to Hill's 78%. (Of course, this is a tricky metric itself because Hill is stronger for some unions than Ellsworth and vice versa).

But Ellsworth hasn't done but anything politically ill-advised like get caught in Youtube video that became a sensation in an age of silly gotcha politics. Also, when the GOP runs their inevitable "Democrat morphs into Obama" ad, it'll be easier to make it stick with Hill, who used his superdelegate vote to courageously endorse Obama early on.

In short, independent battle? Leans Strongly Ellsworth.

But it's not enough to win the independents if you can't get your own people energized enought to get out the vote. Base battle? Unanimous decision for Hill.

But what if the choice isn't really having Ellsworth or Hill, but rather, Ellsworth as the only electable candidate versus...gulp...Dan Coats or John Hostettler? That's a terrifying prospect that could make anybody double-check the math.

Indiana Democratic Party, please tell me you're polling Hoosiers as I write this.



Unknown said...

For a while I didn't realize you were kidding about the objective thing.

Chris Worden said...

Huh? I'm not sure whether that's a compliment or an insult, but let me explain for the benefit of all. This blog is Democratically-oriented, and for that, I'm not apologetic. What makes it "painfully objective" is that I will call out my own party when it needs it. Without reservation. If all you are looking for somebody who can regurgitate all the latest Democratic talking point even when they don't maintain intellectual honesty, you're wasting your time here. If you want a fair assessment of events IN the Democratic Party, you'll get it here.

interestedparty said...

And, Ellsworth has already beaten Hostettler out of his congressional seat. Although John apparently didn't put up much of fight. Maybe he saw the handwriting on the wall and stopped trying.