Magazine article Politics Magazine

Blue Dog Democrats Are Fighting for Their Political Lives in 2010, Which Means Pollster John Anzalone Has His Work Cut out for Him

Magazine article Politics Magazine

Blue Dog Democrats Are Fighting for Their Political Lives in 2010, Which Means Pollster John Anzalone Has His Work Cut out for Him

Article excerpt

Politics: Your client list really runs the ideological gamut of your party--from Democrats in Chicago to the most conservative of Blue Dogs. How did that happen?

Anzalone: If you want to know the truth, I've never really thought about it that much. Here's the thing about my client list--it's what you hope it would be as a consultant. Most of these people are enjoyable to go have a beer with, go to dinner or go to church with. From one of my oldest clients, someone like Mike Doyle all the way to Bobby Bright, who lives in the same town as I do, and I just think is a good man. So it does run the gamut. It's hard to explain. Listen, we all have clients who we think are sonofabitches. But all in all, I'm proud of the people I have and they're all people I want to spend some time with.

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Politics: Has it ever bothered any of your clients? Anyone who didn't want to work with you because of a candidate you were working for?

Anzalone: No, I don't think so. I think that once they get elected and get up there in the Democratic caucus--which really is a microcosm of America itself in terms of race, ethnicity, gender and ideology--they all realize that they have a common purpose. So it has never been a problem for us. I do think it challenges us, though. It makes us better consultants to not get pigeonholed into a certain type of race. And it clearly makes what we do more exciting. You tend not to eat Cheerios every day, right? You have a few different cereals you rely on.

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Politics: Where are the top races you're working this year?

Anzalone: We've got a great client list right now. We have two of our congressmen running for U.S. Senate--Charlie Melancon against David Vitter in Louisiana, which we think is going to be a great race. Vitter is probably the most vulnerable Republican for all the obvious reasons. And then we have Paul Hodes running in the open seat up in New Hampshire, and that's going to be a great one as well. We're also doing some really fun governors races--Pat Quinn in Illinois is one.

Politics: Wait, you're calling that race fun?

Anzalone: Well, we like our Chicago politics. Listen, we're in this business because we kind of like strategic races, and if you look at our client list we haven't had any passes. We've pretty much earned everything the hard way so it's just kind of what we do. But we're also doing Rory Reid in Nevada, which has its own set of challenges, as well as Frank Caprio in Rhode Island. We have 19 congressmen and we have a good group of frontline members--Bobby Bright, Travis Childers, Dina Titus, Jason Altmire, Leonard Boswell. These are all going to be real races.

Politics: Has the patience of the Democratic leadership with some of your Blue Dog clients worn thin at this point given the extended healthcare fight and all the division we've seen among Democrats in the House this year?

Anzalone: I think that the Democratic Caucus and the speaker realizes that when you take a look at 2006 and then 2008, winning in the South and in the West helped us get the majority back. It was critical to that. So I think there is a certain understanding and sensitivity that Bobby Bright's electorate is a lot different than Mike Quigley's electorate. And I do think there's pragmatism that follows based on that.

Politics: But given the environment, even the most conservative of your Democratic clients are in some tough races now. Do you have to run them differently?

Anzalone: It's interesting "when people ask me that, because truthfully, the way that Bobby Bright runs in 2010 is not that different from how he ran in 2008. It's a conservative district. Now, you will find in more moderate districts, the races will be a lot more about creating a branding for the individual candidate and making that person more independent. …

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