by Jim Nintzel
If there's one thing that the four Republicans who have been campaigning for the chance to take on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords have in common, it's their attacks on Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama. They really, really hate Washington under Democratic control.
Tom Dollar over at fivethirtyeight.com notes that similar efforts to turn races into referendums on Pelosi haven't fared so well:
Nancy Pelosi is not a political celebrity, nor is she as confrontational as Gingrich. She is a polarizing figure, but polarizing for voters who have already been polarized one way or the other. If Tim Burns, Doug Hoffman and Jim Tedisco have taught Republicans anything, it should be that they can't count on a tide of anti-Democrat fervor at the expense of ignoring local issues. Contrast these two ads from last November's NY-23 election: the Conservative Hoffman plays up his anti-Pelosi, anti-Washington credentials, while the Democrat Bill Owens talks about bread and butter issues—literally. (The dairy video was removed for unlicensed use of the Got Milk? trademark.) Hoffman's stances made him the darling of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, but his attacks on big government were tone-deaf in a district whose economy is dependent on an army base, the Border Patrol, and several state prisons and universities.
All politics is still local, and the Democrats have succeeded in the last dozen special House elections (with the exception of the Hawaii anomaly) by running candidates attuned to their districts. Republicans have run a uniform anti-Pelosi/Washington/Democrat/spending/stimulus/health care campaign—and lost. Even in a wave election, the House is not the British House of Commons: Americans vote for their Congressperson, not the party leader. 2010 may yet be a great year for Republicans (and Nate still thinks it will be), but they might want to start worrying less about Nancy Pelosi and more about the price of milk.
There are unique issues at play in CD 8, particularly the border strife. We'll see how well the strategy plays out here in November.
BTW: Poll-cruncher Nate Silver has landed a gig with the NY Times.