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It's that time of year again when election campaigning starts to take up increasingly more of the news cycle. Though few candidates are even running ads and it's still 9 months away from election day, there's no better time for you to choose which Democratic candidates to donate your limited campaign contributions to for 2014. Why is it better to donate early? Fundraising displays viability to other donors, early ad buys lock in lower rates, and the sooner a Democratic candidate can define themselves the harder it is for their Republican candidate to do so.

Here at Daily Kos we've long regarded ourselves as a reality-based community with the goal of electing more and better Democrats. While those two priorities can often be at odds, this diary aims to reconcile the two by trying to pragmatically determine where your donations will go the furthest towards moving the country as a whole to the left. Even if you only chip in $10 your contribution will still be valuable as Democrats rely heavily on small donors to help compete with the Koch brothers and other big money donors on the right in the wake of Citizens United. So follow me over the fold for a quick list of the most worthwhile campaigns to donate to in 2014.

Retaining the Senate

Given how gerrymandered the US House is, keeping control of the senate should be our very highest priority. Here are the five most effective candidates to contribute to for 2014.
#1 Mark Begich (Alaska - Incumbent) - Consensus: Tossup
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Senator Mark Begich narrowly won in the 2008 wave when a perfect storm arose and his opponent was indicted for corruption a week before the election. Since then senator Begich has been a consistent vote for all of President Obama's big priorities such as Health Care Reform, Financial Reform, Immigration Reform, the Stimulus, etc, etc etc. All of this comes from one of the, though not most conservative states, certainly one of the most Republican states in the country in Alaska. A huge factor in my emphasizing donating to Begich is just how dirt cheap Alaska is. With just 250,000 voters and only one sizable media market, your dollars in Alaska will go so much further then they would to candidates in bigger states simply due to the sheer smallness of Alaska. If Republicans are to retake the senate in 2014, Alaska is at the front line of our defense. Begich was officially endorsed by DailyKos in his initial 2008 run. Full disclosure: out of the $615 I've donated this cycle the senator received a full $200 because he's that important. If you give to any single candidate on this list, Begich should be your choice.
#2 John Walsh (Montana - Incumbent) - Lean R
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Longtime incumbent Senator Max Baucus announced his retirement since he likely could not win reelection without a dogfight and was just recently confirmed as ambassador to China. Montana is a conservative leaning state where generic Democrats struggle to win federal office, but the party has had great success winning state level office and currently very popular first term governor Steve Bullock just appointed his lieutenant governor and already likely Democratic nominee John Walsh to replace Baucus. Yes, I know that Walsh won't be perfect on issues that are more pertinent to rural states such as being anti-gun control or pro-Keystone XL, but there is just no way in hell that you can get elected in a state where Obama got just 40% of the vote by taking the liberal position on those sadly. What still makes this small state a great investment is that it will only have about 350,000 voters and like Alaska, it's dirt cheap to advertise in so your contribution dollars will go a lot further here than elsewhere. While Walsh might quietly vote the NRA-line (or maybe not, you might be surprised) his priorities will be on things like defending Obamacare, a more equitable economic system, and most importantly supporting Harry Reid for majority leader and Democratic supreme court nominees. The Republican road to the senate runs through Montana and a hold here would all but ensure we keep our majority. For the record I have given Walsh $50.
#3 Mary Landrieu (Louisiana - Incumbent) - Tossup
 photo 220px-Mary_Landrieu_Senate_portrait_zps40e5bef5.jpg

Mary Landrieu is, like Mark Begich, an instrumental player on the Democratic team. Despite representing a very conservative state she has been there for us on most of the big votes such as Health Care Reform, Dodd-Frank, Gun-Control, and Immigration Reform. This is Louisiana, a state that went for Romney by 17% so it shouldn't come as a shocker that she defects on certain issues such as fossil fuelsn when the oil industry dominates parts of the Louisiana economy. Still, Landrieu is the only Democrat in the Deep South who represents a Romney district who is pro-choice. That should be reason enough to contribute to her reelection as a profile in courage, but in addition to women's rights she's been a consistent vote for us on the issues and is a solid vote for majority leader Harry Reid and supreme court nominations. Her state is roughly 6 times the size of Alaska or Montana so she is my #3, but senator Landrieu, who faces a strong opponent in party-line Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, is a very worthy endorsement and definitely worth your campaign donations. When Democrats pass big ticket agenda items, Landrieu will be there to have our backs despite coming from one of the most conservative states in the country. If you want to talk about the 50 state strategy, it begins in races like this. If Republicans are to take the senate this seat will probably be the most pivotal race in their path to 51. While I have not personally donated to Landrieu due to budget constrains, that doesn't mean you shouldn't.
#4 Kay Hagan (North Carolina - Incumbent) - Tossup
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Senator Hagan is facing her first reelection in a state that Mitt Romney narrowly won. Unlike the first two senators, Kay Hagan has been a completely reliable vote on all key legislation since her 2008 election yet all the while has maintained a moderate image and decent approval ratings. Super PACs linked to the Kochs and other millionaire Republicans have already spent over $7 million to defeat her and this is an expensive state, but it is critical that we hold this seat if we want to hold the senate after 2014. Hagan will continue to vote with Democrats on all of our big priorities such as immigration reform, efforts to combat climate change, ensuring fairer taxation, etc, and as such she is the most liberal senator whom I'm endorsing for you to contribute to (because thankfully the more liberal incumbents are safer). I have given $25 to Hagan and more in previous years.
#5 Alison Lundergan Grimes (Kentucky - Challenger) - Lean R
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Kentucky secretary of state Alison Lundergan Grimes is taking on public enemy number one in the senate, minority leader Mitch McConnell who more than anyone else has done the most damage stifling the Democratic agenda and economic recovery during Obama's presidency. Grimes has already been a fundraising powerhouse and Kentucky is not a very expensive state, but this race ranks last among the senate elections because it will be a money pit, yet still worthwhile. Kentucky voted for Mitt Romney by 23% but has a longstanding Democratic tradition locally. Unfortunately that requires candidates like Grimes to support the conservative position on coal and climate, but aside from that she will be a solid moderate Democrat supportive of Obamacare, progressive economic reform, abortion and women's rights, and Democratic supreme court nominees. That she would take out the truly despicable Mitch McConnell, who is one of the nation's most unpopular senators, is just icing on the cake. Recent polls have all shown Grimes competitive with him if not leading even though Mitch has already spent millions. I have donated $100 to Grimes and in total she has raised nearly $5 million in a state with about 1.3 million midterm voters, demonstrating her campaign chops and McConnell's vulnerability.

Retaking the House

#1 Carol Shea-Porter (New Hampshire's 1st - Incumbent) - Tossup
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Representative Shea-Porter was an unknown, underfunded liberal activist when she pulled off the biggest upset win in 2006 and became a solid liberal vote until her loss in the utter landslide of 2010. However, in part thanks to a flawed and scandal-plagued successor as well as the massive reversal of fortunes in New Hampshire between 2010 and 2012, Shea-Porter was able to post a rather impressive 4% victory last year that exceeded Obama's margin in her district. Despite having to rely in part on the expensive Boston media market, Shea-Porter is definitely deserving of your dollars as someone who has never hid from being a true liberal and one of the very few who has a chance to win and keep winning a swing district. If we're to flip the house this district is a critical hold, but if we're to pass key legislation in the future, reelecting Shea-Porter will help ensure that our majority caucus doesn't have to rely on conservadems like it did after 2008. If that didn't convince you, Shea-Porter was officially endorsed by DailyKos in 2012 with our Orange to Blue program and you can read her questionnaire here. I have personally given Shea-Porter $25 this cycle and even more previously.
#2 Staci Appel (Iowa's 3rd - Candidate) - Tossup
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This district recently opened up with a surprise retirement of a long-time popular Republican incumbent. Former state senator Staci Appel is the all but assured Democratic nominee and had already raised a respectable amount when incumbent Tom Latham was in the race. Like Shea-Porter, Appel is not shy about being a true progressive who will support the Democratic agenda in a swing district, but has also had success at winning a conservative senate district in 2006. Fortunately the Republican field is divided and consists of less than ideal candidates, giving us an excellent opportunity here. Retaking the house requires us winning Iowa's 3rd and Appel would be a solid vote for defending healthcare reform and protecting the middle class. I have not given to Appel since I reached my budget limit before this seat became competitive, but like Shea-Porter she is an excellent choice where progressiveness and electability meet.
#3 Aimee Belgard (New Jersey's 3rd - Candidate) - Tossup
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Along with Iowa's 3rd, this swing district saw a surprise retirement late last year from a popular Republican incumbent. The Republican field is divided and Democrats have coalesced around Aimee Belgard who sits on the county council of Burlington County, which is the majority of the district. While Belgard's positions on the issues are not extensively well-known, she is a solid supporter of women's rights, would help us protect Obamacare, and fight economic inequality. This seat is critical to gaining the house and Democrats might even be fortunate enough to face crazy tea partier Steve Lonegan who lost to senator Cory Booker, so Belgard is a great investment to pick up a Republican-held seat.
#4 Gwen Graham (Florida's 2nd - Challenger) - Lean R
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This district requires a moderate in a Democratic challenger but when the House is gerrymandered to hell, this is among the best of the districts that we can do. Here we have a traditionally Blue Dog seat that is nonetheless locally more Democratic downballot than Florida despite a Romney win. Given all this you shouldn't expect a liberal to win, but when the 218th House seat went for Romney by 1.6% let's be reasonable. This seat went for him by around 6% in 2012, but unlike most it favors Democrats a lot more at the local level; for instance Alex Sink won it by 7% in the 2010 disaster and Senator Bill Nelson won it by 11% last year. This seat should be eminently in reach with a Democrat who is (very sadly, this is the Deep South...) white and not named Barack Obama and when Charlie Crist will carry it with ease for governor. Gwen Graham is the daughter of very popular former senator Bob Graham who retired in 2004 after 3 terms. Given how Blue Dog heavy this region is, yet how Gwen Graham herself has not given an indication that she'd be a blue dog herself instead of a more mainstream moderate, this is definitely a worthy seat to contribute and unfortunately one we must win if we want the majority. Graham would be a solid supporter of Obamacare, women's rights, the middle class, and Nancy Pelosi for speaker and as such I previously donated a small amount to her as I believe this seat is really a Tossup.
#5 Ann Callis (Illinois' 13th - Challenger) - Lean R
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Republican Rodney Davis is one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents and this is one of our best pick up opportunities in the entire house and was the single closest Democratic loss in 2012. Unlike that year, when we nominated the underfunded perennial candidate and somewhat too liberal David Gill for this Romney district, this cycle we have a moderate, mainstream Democrat in popular Madison County (which represents a third of the district) former Chief Judge Ann Callis. She was Democrats' top choice in 2012 but demurred that cycle as it looked like popular quasi (thanks to gerrymandering) incumbent Tim Johnson would run for reelection, but eventually he declined soon after the primary. Now his former staffer Rodney Davis is the incumbent and has been a fairly consistent vote for Republicans on all major votes such as reaffirming their support for the far right Ryan Plan for health care. Given how this is a district where Obama fairly significantly underperforms how local Democrats perform, it should be a tossup come election day, particularly for a very strong Democratic candidate and a solidly conservative Republican incumbent. As with other Democratic women running in a swing district, Callis would support Obamacare, be a solid vote on women's issues, and importantly be another vote for speaker Pelosi and as such I have previously given her a small contribution.

Bonus: Retaking the States

Mark Schauer (Michigan Governor - Challenger) - Tossup
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Congress isn't the only place where Democraics candidates can do a lot of good advancing the progressive agenda. Former congressman Mark Schauer is the presumptive nominee to take on first term and modestly unpopular governor Rick Snyder. Republicans have total control of Michigan thanks to a heinous gerrymander even though Democrats won the popular vote there by a wide margin in 2012. With that control they have passed a Right-to-Work for less law aimed at destroying unions, tax cuts for the rich at the expense of the middle class, and a disgusting "emergency manager" law that allows them to circumvent Democratic-held locally elected governments like Detroit and gut public employee pensions. Electing Mark Schauer would give us the all-important veto against their right-wing onslaught and if we're able to take the state legislature would allow us implement a progressive agenda in a state damaged by decades of Republican rule. Furthermore, if Schauer is elected he'll have an incumbency advantage going into 2018 where another win would allow us to block a Republican gerrymander next decade and allow us the chance of passing truly progressive policies in a state of roughly 10 million people. Snyder has a significant fundraising edge of Schauer but local and national Democrats aren't deterred and neither should you be.

So please, consider giving $5, $10, $25, $50, or even $100 if you can afford it to one or more of these candidates. They're not all perfect progressives, but these candidates represent some of the most effective uses of your liberal donation dollars in our fight to keep the Senate, take the House, and further the progressive cause nationwide.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Vital information. Thanks. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stephen Wolf, thomask, Vatexia, MichaelNY

    As I am in NC, I will be not only donating but also working to get Democrats to the polls.  Money is tight, though, and it's helpful to know where it might make a difference.

  •  You already know who I'd add to the list (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stephen Wolf, MichaelNY, kurt

    My friend Daylin Leach in PA-13; a Dem will win the general no matter what, but he's going to boldly (and with humor) advance progressive causes in an effective way which the others either can't or don't want to.

  •  A fairweather Dem, no doubt, (10+ / 0-)

    with only a 65% record of voting with Party Leadership, nevertheless Ron Barber (AZ CD-02) is going to need all the help he can get if he's going to keep the seat Blue and a vote for Speaker Pelosi.

    My Baja Arizona Kossacks friends think I'm nuts for supporting Barber in light of some of his undeniably atrocious for a Progressive votes, but Romney carried the district and Barber only won election by a couple of thousand votes weeks after election day.

    The same challenger, Martha McSally, the first female combat fighter pilot, is back better funded that ever, in a district with two major military installations, and Barber has been the subject of those Koch funded anti-ACA tv ads for several months.

    If this seat stays Blue it'll be because Barber got a lot of outside help.

    War beats down, and sows with salt, the hearts and minds of soldiers." Brecht

    by DaNang65 on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 01:50:13 PM PST

    •  your Baja Kossack friends are nuts if they think (10+ / 0-)

      they're going to get a better rep from that district, given how its basically 50-50 and Barber and Giffords are the only Dems its elected in my lifetime, and both are moderate to conservative Dems. The area obviously likes Rs given how easy Jim Kolbe had a time of it there.

      ...better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity, than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference. -FDR, 1936

      by James Allen on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 02:18:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks, James, (8+ / 0-)

        what you wrote is exactly what I've been trying to tell them. Party leaders from state and national levels have put the squelch on a primary.

        No Dem with even an outside shot at electability will declare, so its Barber or McSally. She's stated she won't moderate her tea-ish views, perhaps enough moderates and independents will see the light.

        War beats down, and sows with salt, the hearts and minds of soldiers." Brecht

        by DaNang65 on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 02:26:13 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  my home town elected its state senator (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          GoUBears, MichaelNY, Skaje

          to congress in 2008 and he became a blue dog. He and his now ex-wife are prominent local pols (she's a county commissioner, one of only 2 Dems on the 5 seat commission in a swingy county) and lots of local progressives are unhappy with their records. But they are stronger campaigners in swing areas than anyone else in the county, and our home town is one of the only cities in the county Obama lost even in 2008, and in fact didn't win a single precinct. They had to fight to earn their place.

          Yeah they're not perfect but he votes with us when it counts and he easily holds down what would otherwise be a swingy congressional district. I get it.

          ...better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity, than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference. -FDR, 1936

          by James Allen on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 02:55:47 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Barber is a great pick as well (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DaNang65, Odysseus, MichaelNY, Skaje

      I just wouldn't put him in my top 10. Top 20 definitely, but I'm guessing most Kossacks don't have the budget for that and I certainly don't so I tried to keep the list short.

      Barber has certainly been defecting on symbolic votes that are utterly meaningless to maintain his moderate cred. I would imagine he'd gladly back major agenda items like a minimum wage increase if they ever got a vote.

      •  Where were you guys Saturday night (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        James Allen, MichaelNY, sacman701

        (Baja AZ Kossacks meetup)? Thank you Stephen, I've been feeling like a lone voice for sanity. I especially like

        Barber has certainly been defecting on symbolic votes that are utterly meaningless to maintain his moderate cred.
        None of his votes that have so outraged my friends amounted to anything. Certainly not considering how he'd have been beaten over the head during the general with those votes had he gone the other way. Pre-emptive disarming.

        War beats down, and sows with salt, the hearts and minds of soldiers." Brecht

        by DaNang65 on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 02:40:45 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  I like to differentiate between politicians (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY, gabjoh

      There are some who vote conservatively and hold a swing/conservative district.  And then there are assholes who go on tv and trash Democrats.  The latter are the ones who deserve to be scorned.

  •  Kind of wish there was polling in UT-04 (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, MichaelNY, kurt

    Because if I could prove that Doug Owens polled well against Mia Love (he probably won't, but bear with me), I'd recommend donating to him. He's a bit more liberal than Matheson (supports civil unions and a small minimum wage increase, as do the majority of Utahns), but has an overwhelmingly moderate facade, which successful legislative Dems need.

    While we're probably going to lose this district, Owens is the best candidate we're going to get and he could technically win in an upset.

    (oh, and back to avoiding DKE and DK for me, need to write my stories).

    Leftist Mormon in Utah, Born in Washington State, live in UT-04 (Matheson).

    by Gygaxian on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 02:07:48 PM PST

  •  I've been burned enough (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, ChadmanFL, MichaelNY, kurt

    by donations to candidates who don't live up to expectations that I'm a bit leery of giving to people. Plus, now being on a fixed income (though hopefully we'll see a large increase in Mr. Scribe's pension check if his employer starts chipping in for my insurance once I turn 55 next month) we don't have a lot of disposable income.

    I'm more likely to give to movements rather than to candidates; I'm already planning to send some cash up to OR for the marriage equality measure, and will be looking close at the California ballot for propositions I want to support. If I donate to any candidate it will likely be our local Congressperson Mike Honda who is facing a primary challenge from a pro-business Democrat, meaning someone who might not be looking out for worker's interests when push comes to shove.

    There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

    by Cali Scribe on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 02:12:03 PM PST

  •  we need more diaries like this, thanks (6+ / 0-)

    I live in a very red state and a ever so slowly turning demographic.  I have very little that I can donate but find myself struggling with this during most election cycles.  Where will what little I have do the most good?  This year it's not a problem, I"m going with Michelle Nunn, but now that I understand that Democrats' ignoring the lower level elections is costing us all dearly, I think that the more information we can get on this topic, the better for all.

    sometimes the dragon wins

    by kathy in ga on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 03:33:29 PM PST

    •  Time can matter as much as money. (4+ / 0-)

      Phone banking is incredibly time consuming.  Please volunteer if you can't donate.

      Also, in GA, please call all of your county parties and try to get full slates.  It is tremendously discouraging to go vote and find half of the offices are unopposed.  Contest every seat - State house and Senate as well as US House and Senate.

      -7.75 -4.67

      "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

      There are no Christians in foxholes.

      by Odysseus on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 05:10:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I wish this could be a permanent feature (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stephen Wolf, MichaelNY

    on DK.

    Not just your list of worthy candidates, but something that Kos and staff put together along with comments and suggestions.

    It would be a big project because it would need to be state sensitive too.

    I try to set a budget for a two year cycle of political contributions.  Deciding how to divide that up is a chore, and I probably make big mistakes.  I suspect I'm not alone.

  •  I'm supporting Shenna Bellows (D) for ME-Senate (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    she has strong progressive values and is not afraid to stand up for her beliefs. She had an incredible fundraising report from her first quarter, actually out raising a 3 term incumbent. There is no clearer distinction in a race this year than this one between a faux moderate Red Dog and a Progressive champion who lives her values.

    Maine has a history of supporting the underdog, and even the iconic Sen Margaret Chase Smith lost in her final race after losing touch with life on the ground floor in Maine.

    The PCCC and Blue America have endorsed Bellows for her work against the Patriot Act and the NSA, and for her support for campaign finance reform, marijuana legalization, marriage equality, single payer, and a living wage.

    Check her out on FB or at and read more about her here on dKos under the group Bellows for Senate.

    •  Why, do you expect Collins to to abruptly retire? (5+ / 0-)

      Because we're not winning that seat unless she does.  As much as I abhor Collins's faux moderation the voters of Maine have a weird fetish for her.  She had legit Dem challengers in 2002 and 2008 and crushed both.  I'm sorry, but donating money to the Maine Senate race as it stands is a pointless exercise.

      Intelligence agencies keep things secret because they often violate the rule of law or of good behavior. -Julian Assange-

      by ChadmanFL on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 09:42:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  ChadmanFL is absolutely correct (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GoUBears, MichaelNY

      I hate to break it to you, but I'm in Maine, and everything you wrote in your comment is irrelevant to the people of Maine. Mainers don't care about Bellows, or her views, or her resume, or her fundraising, or anything else about her.

      Mainers absolutely love Susan Collins. The most recent PPP poll showed Collins having a 62% approval rating among Democrats, and she led Bellows 54-40 among Democrats and 59-20 overall. Any time, energy, or money spent on this race by Democrats is wasted time, energy, or money. Focus on races that are actually winnable.

      (-8.38, -4.72), CT-02 (home), ME-01 (college) "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one." -Spock

      by ProudNewEnglander on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 06:24:36 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I agree 100% on Begich (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stephen Wolf, MichaelNY

    He really has surpassed any expectations I had when he was elected.  I didn't know all that much about him and just assumed we were getting a conservadem.  But what we ended up with is a pretty solid Dem who really only throws the GOP a bone on issues where he's more or less obligated to - guns and environmental issues.  Outside of that he's pretty progressive.  Of all the Dem seats currently considered Tossup or worse Begish is the most important hold IMO.  I'd probably put Landrieu #2 though.  I really like Walsh, but I'm just not seeing that seat being held unless 2014 turns out to be a very good election nationally.

    Intelligence agencies keep things secret because they often violate the rule of law or of good behavior. -Julian Assange-

    by ChadmanFL on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 09:38:46 PM PST

  •  Really fantastic diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stephen Wolf

    Congratulations, Stephen!

    Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

    by MichaelNY on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 12:59:25 AM PST

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