MA-5 has been called, and it’s looking like a narrow 5-point Tsongas win. That’s closer than all the public polls and it showed Ogonowski’s momentum was all upside the entire campaign.
This was always an uphill battle. MA-5 voted by 17 points for John Kerry in 2004. After 2006, I’m not sure there’s a district anywhere in America that Democratic that’s represented by a Republican.
But there is a clear way forward for the Republican Party out of tonight. It’s one that we didn’t have last night. Or last month. Or a year ago.
It’s simple: the change message works. America is anti-Washington, anti-Congress, and anti-corruption. When that’s where Republicans are, they win. Jim Ogonowski showed us that. Maybe not in an overwhelmingly Democratic district like MA-5. But what about in a 7 Democrat district? Or in purple seats?
Nor do we need the usual suspects to deliver this message. You don’t need to recruit a risk-averse State Senator who talks to his consultants and waits for “his time” to run. All you need is a plain-spoken veteran with an extraordinary life story. We need more citizen-candidates like Jim Ogonowski. We need them to pick off Democrats in blue and purple seats. We need them as primary challengers to corrupt incumbents. In “safe” Democrat-held districts, we need to run people who can get 45% of the vote, and then be in a position to finish the job in 2010. In 2006, the average second-time Democratic challenger who won received 43% of the vote their last time out.
When he announced, I don’t remember anyone in Washington being overly excited Jim Ogonowski was running, or thinking this could be a close race. (For me, it was that first SurveyUSA poll that really raised my antennae.) But he turned out to be exactly what the district and the Republican Party needed.
Tonight, we’re confident and playing on the other guy’s turf. That hasn’t happened in a while. There’s a reason the MyDD guys are muttering “Not good” tonight.