Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A meaningful outcome.

Last night, in a crushing upset that absolutely nobody predicted, and most thought was impossible, a young man of ambition and promise put a stake in the ground for his career, his constituents, and his country.

When he undertook to run for Congress, it was a job that many wanted, but none – except him – believed they could have. In her twelfth term in Congress, Nancy Johnson’s base of support was appraised as impregnable, her financial advantage overwhelming, and her resume too formidable to challenge. Nearly everyone who considered the prospect concluded it was a professionally deadly undertaking. Everyone was waiting for her to retire.

And now, she will.

Chris Murphy readily acknowledged, in a Sunday morning interview with WFSB’s Al Terzi early in the cycle, that it was a monumental undertaking. He showed neither false bravado nor a morbid preoccupation with the task he had set for himself, he simply began to talk about the issues, and to build the campaign that he has clearly been thinking about since 1996 when, as the young campaign manager for Charlotte Koskoff, he nearly picked Johnson off.

But how did this happen? Reached on the set of WVIT shortly after wrapping up the evening as the NBC affiliate’s expert commentator from the Democratic side, Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy offered this analysis:

“This is a great story of hard work and of how an incumbent who appeared to be untouchable walked into a perfectly executed campaign by Murphy.

Most particularly, her over-reaction on TV went a long way to dispel the persona that she had worked so hard to manufacture. She had spent a lot of time and energy wanting people to think that she was nice, and happy and loved everybody and was kind to everybody. And when she really over-reacted on TV – and the viciousness with which she went after Murphy – I think people came to think of her as really a mean person and an unkind person. And I think that’s why her campaign fell apart.”


One Republican source familiar with Johnson campaign manager David Boomer’s modus operandi corroborated Malloy’s take, saying that the Johnson campaign had violated one of the principles that had been part of her successful formula over the years, “They always shifted back to the positive message about five days out. They didn’t do that this time.”

Something did change about ten or twelve days ago, judging from the polls, and I asked Murphy if was there was a point at which he felt that the momentum changed; did he know at some point that things were moving in his direction? “I think that in large part it was over the last couple of weeks” he affirmed, “when people saw a very different vision on the air waves about a campaign that was talking about positive change, versus a very different vision from our opponent, and I think that may have been one of the things that turned the corner.”

Last night he high-fived and hugged and beamed his way to the microphone, his supporters and co-workers screaming their support and jostling for position near the stage. “For the rest of your lives, do not ever, ever let anyone tell you ever again, that a thing cannot be done,” was his opening line.

On a stage far from the one in Waterbury where Murphy stood, the next Speaker of the House of Representatives urged her party forward. “Tonight we have made history. Tomorrow let us make progress,” Nancy Pelosi was saying, and Chris Murphy clearly intends just that:
Let tonight be an unmistakable call to this district, to this state, that no matter the expectations, no matter the conventional wisdom, no matter the obstacles that are set in front of you, that the impossible is never impossible.

People don’t want their lives to governed by fear, they want their lives to be governed by hope. Tonight, the voters of the Fifth Congressional District cast an unmistakable vote in favor of hope.

Let’s talk about what we hope this election means tonight across this country. It means that for the millions of people around this country who are uninsured, for the millions more seniors across this country who are struggling to pay for their health care, it means that after today, things will change.

It means that if you are one of the millions of children who grow up in poverty across this state and across this nation – going to bed every night hungry and wanting – things will change.

And, it means if you are one of the thousands of brave and courageous men and women who are fighting for this country abroad under civilian leadership more interested in scoring political points than protecting this nation, it means things will change.

Tonight is our night to celebrate. But tomorrow is our day.


Afterward, between phone calls with politicians and radio broadcasters around the state, State Senator Tom Gaffey of Meriden, who gave the nominating speech at the Fifth Congressional District convention earlier this year, and introduced the next Congressman to the room last night, didn’t mince his words. “Here is a young man who took on just a Herculean task: to beat Nancy Johnson; a twenty-four year incumbent who was extremely well financed. For Chris to have this victory tonight is just incredible. And I’ll tell ya, things are gonna change in politics in this state. We took a major step today. A major step.”

Chris Murphy’s victory over Nancy Johnson defies easy description. It will be studied and talked about for many years to come, and establishes its architect and principal as one of the Democratic Party’s rising young stars nationally.

Without a doubt, the biggest news of the day in Connecticut.

23 comments:

Patricia Rice said...

Senator Lieberman...Senator Lieberman...Senator Lieberman....I am so happy that the people of CT saw through Negative Ned's one issue campaign. Hats off to Jimmy Amann for having the courage to back his friend. Today, Dodd,Larson,Delauro and a whole bunch others have some major azz kissing to do. Where's my lawyer friend from Hartford now? Hope he didn't bet too many breakfast away!

Anonymous said...

For the CT Republicans there was a single bright spot...Sam Caligiuri's decisive victory to replace Chris Murphy

It appears voters in this area turned against candidates of both parties who waged negative campaigns, based on how far Caligiuri ran ahead of Nancy Johnson's shockingly weak performance.

Had an observer early on determined that Murphy would have a huge lead in Waterbury and tie in Wolcott, most would have presumed the coattails would have pulled Zoni to victory. But he lost by 3,000 votes

MikeCT said...

Murphy ran his trademark old-fashioned, shoe leather, door knocking campaign. He had a more positive, youthful, and optimistic message than any of the other House challengers. I thought he was also the most eloquent and straighforward public speaker.

It also helped that Johnson went negative before any other incumbent in the country, and ran a hateful smear campaign that backfired on her. Hope sometimes wins over fear.

He won despite her likely 2-1 fundraising advantage!

His campaign will serve as a model for other Democrats.

Anonymous said...

Pat Rice--

You're cheering about Jimmy "the Thug" Amann's prominence on stage with Lieberman last night?

What you fail to understand is the dynamics of the two-party system. You have your primaries, then you are supposed to fall in line.

The progressive/Lamont wing of the Party is in the majority. Dodd, Larson, DeLauro, etc, only did what they were supposed to, according to the rules of the game.

The person who better start with the ass-kissing is Jim Amann. He had no right to do what he did, and my bet is that he eventually pays for his stupidity.

Party loyalty isn't optional to the majority of us.

Paul Vance said...

Really resounding win for Chris Murphy, when you look at the numbers he won where he was supposed to (Urban areas) and where he was not supposed to (the bedroom communities). He did a great job of backing off the negative (or at least appearing to) while Johnson seemed stuck in the negative.

Now I need Chris to bring some money back to Waterbury from DC

Anonymous said...

Murphy ran a great campaign...good for him. But the real story last night was Chris Shays. He never went negative, ran a courageous campaign and was willing to win or lose on Iraq. If Rob Simmons concedes, Chris will be the ONLY Republican member of the House in all of New England. And the residents of CT's 4th are lucky to have him as their representative.

Anonymous said...

Paul--

Waterbury sold its soul to Joe Lieberman, and you're already begging Murphy for hand-outs

I thought that with all his experience,
Lieberman was the Pork-master.

Paul Vance said...

Geez, at least someone gave Waterbury credit for having a soul. During this campaign, I wondered if maybe being born in Waterbury was the mark of Original Sin.


Begging for handouts? Nah, but hoping the the new Congressman will bring back money to the largest town in his district? You bet.

Conservative Democrat said...

Paul Vance said:
Now I need Chris to bring some money back to Waterbury from DC

So Paul, maybe you can convince Chris to get some big-time federal dollars to help fix City Hall since, sadly, the people defeated that referendum.

Anonymous said...

As usual Chris Murphy ran a great campaign. Johnson ran a very poor one, and played perfectly into his hands. To me Chris Murphy was going to win this seat if not this year, then in two years anyway.

The people of the 5th district do expect some signs of positive change from him. 24 years is too long for anyone, from either party, to be either in Congress, or the Senate.

Will he bring the change he spoke of? Or, will he just be a puppet for Pelosi? He was elected to first represent the best interests of the people of the 5th district. I hope he remembers that.

Congratulations to Congressman elect Murphy, and good luck....

Anonymous said...

Now I need Chris to bring some money back to Waterbury from DC

Maybe Rowland and Johnson fan Mike Jarjura should start by apologizing for publicly sitting on his hands and not lifting a finger to support Murphy, for fear of upsetting Johnson.

Mr X said...

Chris Murphy did excellent It was about time that old hag Johnson got her walking papers out of touch and now out of time!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

What is there really to say at this point? Congressman-elect Murphy's acceptance speech said it all.

"People don't want their lives governed by fear. They want their lives governed by hope."

Sadly, as many of us (but not enough apparently) knew, this is what we can expect for the next 2 years, a congress and a congressman who believes that everything needs to be governed, regulated and monitored.

People do not want to be goverened. They want to be given the tools and opportunities to live their own lives to the best of their abilities, pursuing their own dreams and their own happiness.

But, as always, that's just my opinion. For now, I'll go take a seat, reflect on yesterday's results and await Congressman Murphy's first bill legislating hope and mandating that I be governed by hope. That'll be a neat trick.

Anonymous said...

Murphy won by 12% - 56% to 44%. Amazing.

Murphy had an interview today on WTIC AM. Talked about his grassroots and positive style.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:53, I agree with your comments. But at this point I would suggest Murphy himself will have little impact short term. I am sure he is already thinking 6 years down the road, and his next step up his ladder.

However for right now I will hold out hope that maybe along the way he will come to at least start to understand exactly what you so well said in your comments.

He simply ain't going away, we need to accept that. So we are left with one choice, the 5th district needs to help reshape his thinking a bit. He promised change. He never promised positive change. It is up to us to be sure that is what we get from electing him.

Anonymous said...

Before you canonize Murphy, remember the relentlesss MoveOn.org attacks on Johnson early in the campaign. That was the key to his election. It was easy for Murphy to talk about hope and change while a hired gun assassinated his opponent.

Anonymous said...

"You have your primaries, then you are supposed to fall in line."

What happens when the party is driving itself off a cliff?

Stay onboard and die?

Joe was abandoned by the national dem party, something to think about.

Anonymous said...

Chris murphy is the top political rising star in the country in my opinion outside of Barack Obama. I hope Chris Murphy follows in the footsteps of Ned Lamont and takes Joe Lieberman's senate seat in six years. I know that people everywhere will surely want him to run.

It was sad to see Ned lose, but because of him runing on the coatails of Jack Murtha for the last ten months. The monumental night by the dems in my opinion was because of these two important men. There is no doubt Joe Courtney and Chris Murphy won because of how Ned re-energized the grassroots/netroots.

Anonymous said...

first he has to actually roll up his sleeves(versus sling that suitcoat over his shoulder) and do work. Start by reading legislation, doing your homework -
listen to both sides of an issue research and then take a position. for actual experience i can tell you too often murphy's MO is to take a position depending on who's pushing an issue -aka does it appear to be a populist position - and back into it - being a congressman is a lot harder than being a rank and file senator ...good luck chris think BIG take time to really know your material and remeber you represent all the people of the fifth not just the union boys ....

Anonymous said...

Chris Murphy as a rising star? yes, he won a HUGE upset.

Chris Murphy as Barak Obama? Lets wait for him to pick his office before we elect him President.

Anonymous said...

No question Chris Murphy has gotten very far while keeping his head mostly under the radar screen in Hartford.

The first few steps for most of us as we climb our career ladders are relatively easy for those of us who want to climb. But as we start to make progress up that ladder each new step requires more and more actual results to stand on.

I suspect Murphy probably already knows what got him to Washington isn't nearly enough to keep him there. That however is the easy part. Actually getting more accomplished there is a totally different matter. I hope that means he comes more to the center than I think he current is.

Anonymous said...

I want to echo Paul Vance's plea for money (and jobs) for Waterbury, but I'm afraid Jarjura has probably screwed that up.

I worked the last 3 days of the Murphy campaign. Although there were a lot of volunteers like me, the DCCC had targeted this race and sent busloads of people in from Washington for the final GOTV. In the final days, this election was won on the ground.

Anonymous said...

I do respecfully disagree the 5th district election was not won on the ground by Murphy's team. It was lost in the air by Johnson's team. The TV air that is.

Nancy Johnson's campaign was a disgrace. If CT voters cared on bit about high taxes we wouldn't have a Democratic super majority in the General Assembly today. So stike one.

Her disgracefully negative campaign and total lack of presenting any meaninful reason to re elect her was strike two

I'll give Murphy and his team credit for running a great campaign. I'll give Johnson and her team credit for do their best to hand him the election. And that's strike three, and she's out.