Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The importance of being the nominee of The Democratic National Party: Revisiting Candidates and Coattails

On April 8, I wrote the following:

Right now, when people think of November 4th, most think of who will be elected the 44th president of the United States of America. Remember, though, that in presidential election years the large voter turnout affects the "downstream" candidates, that is, the candidates running for office at the state and local level. Whatever your views about the future direction of the country, you should bear in mind that state legislatures and the federal congress will make a huge difference in steering us one way or another.

There is a connection between who heads a party's ticket and who gets elected downstream. If voters have confidence in the person who heads the ticket, they are more likely to vote "the party line" - that is, to vote in all or most of the Democrats (or Republicans) on the ballot with the party's presidential nominee. Also, if people opt not to go to the polls because they are dissatisfied with the party or with the candidate heading the ticket, the downstream candidates lose any chance of picking up those votes.
In that post, I went on to discuss Leslie Byrne, a progressive candidate running in Virginia. I used Byrne's situation as a hypothetical illustration of how a downstream candidate can be affected by who heads the Party's ticket. Now, sadly, I don't need a hypothetical any more. In Mississippi, in a Congressional special election, the relationship between different members of the Party - even if they do not know each other, even if a Democrat is unfairly attacked - is making news.

I hate the type of ad that the Republican candidate ran against his opponent. I deplore the fact that such ads have become a fact of American political life (the scary music, the Darth Vader voice, the innuendo). But the news coverage of the ad makes the point: a political Party is an institution whose members influence one another's prospects, for better or for worse.


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