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Democrats Sneak Up On Red Districts

CQ's Bart Jansen reports on the new style of Democratic campaigning, now that so many of the House seats they want to poach are in purple/red districts:

A key element of the strategy to hang on to these “majority maker” districts is to downplay any suggestion that the incumbents — mostly members of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition — might rub their constituents the wrong way, ideologically speaking, and to highlight the ways they’ll be fighting on behalf of their districts in more crucial everyday struggles. ... “I’m pro-life and pro-gun,” [ultimately victorious Mississippi special-election candidate Travis] Childers said in one ad. “I approved this message because I’ll do in Congress what I’ve done in Mississippi — work with both parties, balance budgets and create jobs.” “There isn’t any magic sprinkle dust,” said John Anzalone of Anzalone Liszt, which worked on the Cazayoux and Childers campaigns. “We didn’t bash Bush. It’s not a meat cleaver. It’s much more, ‘Hey, I’m the guy who’s going to take care of your needs. I’m going to work in a bipartisan fashion.’ ”


This soft-focus marketing has given fits to Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. Cole argues that such candidates aren’t really running as Democrats by supporting gun rights and opposing abortion. Rather than embrace these candidates in the culture wars, Republicans aim to lash them to liberal positions of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Obama. “They have to disguise what they are to be formidable candidates,” Cole said. “If they voted up here the way they’re running, believe me, they could all get in the Republican Study Committee and be in good standing.”

Aw, poor, poor Tom Cole, unhappiest man in Washington. But the story begs a question I've wondered about since the 2006 midterms: Does the Democrats' voraciousness to take over red districts bring people who should be Democrats back into the fold -- or stretch the definition of "Democrat" so far it starts to lose meaning? If there's a big Democratic wave in the House this November, which looks likely, how many members of the Democratic caucus in the 111th Congress will be effectively "pro-life," "pro-gun," or hard-line on immigration?

Photo: Conservative Democrat Travis Childers with Nancy Pelosi, the kind of picture he needs to avoid. Getty Images.

--Eve Fairbanks