It's always encouraging when a candidate demonstrates an understanding of grassroots campaigning and calls on the new media to get the word out about her candidacy. It was with just such gusto that Dr. Donna Campbell, Republican for U.S. Congress TX-25, breezed through the lobby of the Sheraton on Saturday looking for redstate support. This was just minutes after giving a speech at a rally for doctors opposed to Obamacare in front of the Capitol. And while her entry was chaotic, her enthusiasm was contagious.
Count me as someone glad to see some fight in this race, especially from an overlooked candidate in an uphill battle against one of the Democrats most established Texas politicians. Her willingness to embrace the conservative blogosphere, to connect with the voice of the people instead of the political establishment, was a breath of fresh air and exactly what our founding fathers were looking for in citizen representatives. But can Dr. Donna Campbell win? Does a conservative stand a chance against an entrenched Democrat like Lloyd Doggett in a traditionally blue district?
The answer may surprise you. It certainly surprised me. I’ve looked inside the numbers, deeper than I care to look at numbers, and the congressional district Lloyd Doggett represents is a wildcard with all sorts of unpredictable factors at play. It’s far from a safe seat for Democrats in this election. In fact, this could end up being the Scott Brown victory of Texas. Here are the 10 reasons why Campbell can beat Doggett:
1) TX-25 has been redistricted and reconfigured a number of times, mostly as a Democratic stronghold, but the voter make-up in its current shape (which has only existed for four years due to a court decision in 2006) gives more influence to rural and suburban voters than traditional liberal Austinites.
2) Hays County, just south of Austin, is the second largest county in the district and voted for John McCain over Barack Obama in 2008, albeit closley. It is one of the fastest growing areas of Texas with 400% growth in the last four years. Most of this represents middle class families looking for affordable homes with good schools, which tends to make them more conservative.
3) Statewide Republican candidates have carried the district. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison won the district as recent as the last midterm, winning seven of the eight counties by an average of almost 20 percentage points. The only county she lost was Travis County, but she still garnered 43% in what is considered a liberal stronghold. Republican Lt. Governor David Dewhurst achieved similar success in 2006, garnering 44% of the Travis County vote. If Donna Campbell can hit 40% in Travis County, she will most likely win.
4) Lloyd Doggett won the 2008 election with 191,000 votes but Barack Obama was on the ticket (not to mention there was conservative backlash against Bush who couldn’t even speak at his own convention). However, Doggett only garnered 109,800 votes in the midterm election two years prior. Given the historic nature of the 2008 election and record turnout by minorities and first-time voters, I want to call Doggett’s showing in 2008 an outlier.
5) Doggett’s opponent in 2008, Republican George Morovich, received nearly 90,000 votes in a losing effort without running any ads or spending more than $30,000. Assuming the enthusiasm gap for Republicans is accurate this year and taking into account Dr. Donna Campbell’s larger advertising budget and more effective campaigning, she should be able to surpass George Morovich’s numbers (and top 100,000 easily). That puts her within striking distance.
6) Donna Campbell is kicking Lloyd Doggett’s butt on facebook. Trailing him by 1500 facebook fans just a few months ago, she has not only surpassed him, her lead has grown to nearly 400 people, showing where the energy in this campaign lies.
7) This is the worst political environment for incumbents since 1994, which is ironically the first year Lloyd Doggett was elected to Congress. It’s also a bad year to have a D next to your name, as so many Democrats' political ads have demonstrated by omitting their affiliation. These factors will cost Doggett votes he used to take for granted.
8) Gender counts for something. Hillary won Travis County over Obama in the Democratic primary. There appears to be a gender bias here (again, see Kay Bailey Hutchison) that will help give Donna Campbell a two to three point boost.
9) Lloyd Doggett continues to make his job more difficult. He fled a town hall to bash his constituents on Hardball with Chris Mathews and just recently singled out Texas to qualify for education dollars every other state received without stipulation. Rick Perry has made this a big issue of his campaign and major newspapers have given both candidates negative press for the unnecessary political showdown that is costing Texas school children.
10) Donna Campbell is a fresh, dynamic, energetic, and likable, as she demonstrated at the redstate gathering on Saturday. Lloyd Doggett is a stodgy, old, out-of-touch millionaire.
The bottom line is Dr. Campbell can score an upset in District 25 if her base turns out (and it will) and she gains 60% of independents (very manageable in this midterm). In other words, this is not the farfetched scenario political pundits would have you believe. The only reason it looks like such an upset is because the dinosaur media is assuming 14 years of voting patterns in the district when they should only be examining the last two (and giving added weight to the midterm of 2006).
Redstate bloggers have a chance to make Donna Campbell the next Nikki Who? If you heard Nikki Haley speak Saturday, and wow was she great, that’s a reference she made to herself before conservative bloggers boosted her candidacy. We can do the same for Dr. Campbell. She will get no financial support from the party establishment (the same one that throws money away on Charlie Crist and Mike Castle but can't find resources for up-and-coming conservatives), so once again it's up to us. After yesterday’s whirlwind appearance, who wouldn’t want to help the good doctor? Not to mention destroy the Democrats morale by stealing one of their "safe seats."