Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.) announced his retirement today, mixed–but mostly dire–news for Democrats, who were hopeful that he could hold on and defeat his likely, scandal-tainted GOP opponent Tim Griffin. One of the possible reasons for the retirement? A poll conducted by SurveyUSA, paid for by the progressive blog Firedoglake, which tested negative messages about the health care reform bill and whether it made voters sour on Snyder ....Actually, Nate Silver hammered the disastrous FDL survey for idiotic methodology and cheap-ass "robopolling technology." But it's the larger point that interests me: Jane Hamsher's looking to elect a communist Congress. She working to take out any MC who won't toe the line on her public-option totalitarianism, and she's made a name for herself recently with some uber-hypocrisy that's even gotten the extremists at Daily Kos fired up.
The question, raised by Nate Silver and others: Is Firedoglake trying to scare vulnerable Democrats into retirement in order to kill health care reform? All indications point to “yes.” I’m hearing that FDL will conduct more polls in vulnerable Democratic districts, based largely on this chart of the “top 20 Democrats who could lose their seat over health care vote[s]. Snyder was at the top of that list, posted by FDL’s Jane Hamsher on Jan. 6. (One irony: Snyder is a fairly progressive member of Congress, and not a member of the Blue Dogs.)
I mention all of this after spying a very interesting report at the Fresno Bee, on Representative Jim Costa, a longtime Central Valley Democratic legislator. See, "Rep. Costa Faces Threat From the Left: Party Leaders in Valley Back Democrat Challenger Haze":
It is rare that sitting incumbents are challenged by members of their own party.And that's the thing: Even when there are huge national tides roiling the electorate, Members of Congress look out for their specific constituency interests. Voters in Michele Bachmann's MN 6th congressional are going to be drastically different from Barbara Lee's CA-9. Moreover, as Nate Silver pointed out, Americans are hugely satisfied with their own health coverage. It's actually counterintuitive for parties to campaign for ideological outliers, and as the Fresno Bee's piece notes, incumbent challenges are rare.
But Auberry resident Steve Haze is mounting a serious challenge against Costa -- and has won some surprising endorsements, including those of two members of the Fresno County Democratic Party Central Committee and party chairs in Tulare and Madera counties.
"It's a classic problem behind the ideological splits within the parties," said Jeffrey Cummins, a political science professor at California State University, Fresno.
"The activists are always more ideologically rigid than the candidates."
Haze, 59, said he decided to challenge Costa because nothing seems to be improving in the 20th Congressional District, which runs from Fresno, south through Kings County, to Bakersfield and other parts of Kern County. Democrats hold a commanding registration edge in the county -- with 50% of registered voters, compared to 33% for the Republicans.
Haze cited a 2008 study funded by Oxfam America, the Rockefeller Foundation and other nonprofit groups titled "The Measure of America" that rated Costa's district last in a national scorecard that ranked the well-being of residents.
Susan Rowe, who has endorsed Haze and is chairwoman of the Madera County Democratic Central Committee, is even more blunt.
"Steve has actually read the party's platform," she said. "He actually does show up at meetings and take questions. I haven't seen that out of Costa in quite a while."
Both Rowe and Jay Hubbell, vice chairman of the Fresno County Democratic Central Committee, also have issues with Costa's handling of the national health care debate. In particular, they are miffed that he voted in favor of an amendment to the legislation that would extend the current ban on using federal money to pay for abortions.
It also could restrict abortion coverage for those who buy coverage through a proposed government-run insurance exchange.
Some of Haze's other key endorsements have come from Gary Alford, chairman of the Fresno County Democratic Central Committee, and Tulare County Democratic Party chairwoman Barbara Waldron of Exeter.
Haze's challenge prompted Michael Der Manouel Jr., chairman of the conservative Lincoln Club of Fresno County, to ask of Democrats: "What do they want? He couldn't be any more to the left than he already is."
Costa said he has made efforts to reach out to the party activists and committee members in the counties represented by his district.
But he said he also has had to deal with some difficult issues in Congress, and when that happens, "you upset people of extremes on both sides."
Stanley Eugene Clark, a political science professor at California State University, Bakersfield, said that Costa's views "fit his district pretty well. [The district is] more conservative than the Bay Area or Los Angeles, but not without liberal elements, and that is what Costa is doing. He is kind of balancing these issues with regard to the party."
In any case, I doubt that FDL polling had much influence on Snyder's decision to retire. It's simply not going to be a Democratic year all around, and Snyder said he wanted to spend more time with his family, which includes a set of year-old triplets. FDL has another post up tonight though, "Ohio Democrat Steve Driehaus Losing To Steve Chabot 39% to 56%." No doubt "Hammering" Jane Hamsher will be touting the effects of her pollling campaign on vulnerable Democrats. Of course, her bid to oust Senator Joseph Lieberman in 2006 remains one of the most epic failures of the netroots left. So perhaps she's out to do even one better?