Sometimes you just have to latch on to what’s seems like an obviously crazy idea and run with it. If nobody ever grabbed for a rather insane looking brass ring, we’d have never had the turducken. It is with this wild eyed spirit of possibilities rising from the ash fields that I propose giving serious consideration to a plan suggested by Moe Lane at Red State. The seat in the the US House of Representatives most recently held by Congressman Jesse Jackson jr is now rather famously open. So here’s the plan.
Now that he’s resigned it… how’s about trying to, maybe, I don’t know: win it?
Hold on, hear me out. Let’s jump back for a second to 2009. You might remember that in 2009 Rahm Emanuel resigned his House seat (IL-05) in order to bungle being White House Chief of Staff. Well, that caused a special election to trigger, and at the time I took the position that hey, how’s about trying to, maybe, I don’t know: win it? …And I was told, quietly but firmly, no. Folks didn’t like the candidate, didn’t like the idea of spending the money, didn’t want to contest the seat.
At first glance it’s easy to blow this idea off as a pipe dream. We’re talking about Illinois -2 here. It takes in Cook and Will Counties, part of the southern suburbs of Chicago itself. Jackson carried it with 63% of the vote while he was away in a medical center seeking treatment for a possible mental disorder. Why would anyone spend money on this race, right? You’d need to check the exact math for me, but I think IL-2 is approximately D + 107.2.
But Moe is looking a little further than that and it all comes down to numbers. Turnout is at its highest in presidential election years. It falls off considerably during the mid-terms. Turnout for odd year elections is simply pathetic. What is the turnout in odd year special elections? It’s sub-pathetic, unless the race turns into a national media feeding frenzy like the Doug Hoffman debacle. As an example, Moe returns to the aforementioned special election to fill Rahm Emanuel’s seat. Mike Quigley beat Rosanna Pulido, 30.6K to 10.6K. Read that again. The Democrat won with 30,600 votes. In this last election, it’s true that Jackson swamped the field with 181, 067 votes. But Republican Brian Woodworth got 67,396 votes and independent candidate Marcus Lewis took 38,733 votes.
If you let that sink in for a moment, you’ll come to the same conclusion Moe did. In a very low turnout election, there is a pool of Republican voters with some possible lift from independents which could amass enough votes to take the seat – potentially by a fairly wide margin. Granted, it would only be for one term, and the winner would be sent packing in 2014, but there’s a larger point here. With all the talk we’ve been hearing about “micro-targeting” and what a bunch of geniuses the Democrats were this cycle with polling science, this could prove to be a perfect, miniature laboratory to test those ideas on the Right side of the coin.
So how do you do it? The first thing to settle on is what you don’t do. You don’t dump a ton of money into an air war that gets the Democrats noticing that there’s a race going on. What you do instead is bring back a very old, but mostly forgotten idea which we used to great effect in 2010: Precinct Captains. Invest the available resources in identifying one solid Republican in each and every precinct. Get them the data from pouring through registration stats to identify every single Republican and potential independent in the few miles around their house. Help them round up a few friends and quietly begin going door to door explaining the situation. Save your money for the final week before the special election and then hit a direct mail bomb targeting only the people on those lists.
The message is fairly simple. “Hey. There’s an election on Tuesday, and for the first time in living memory you’ve got a chance to have your voice heard. All you have to do is show up, because the liberals aren’t going to. Hell, we’ll even come give you a ride.”
Would it work, even in such a dismally conservative-poor area? You won’t know unless you try. But if it did, it would send shock waves across the country and be used as a model for the next cycle, demonstrating that 21st century election science is a game that both parties can play, not just Team Obama.
Think about it.