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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Washington Post -- Above the Fold -- Story on Ellen Tauscher

Juliet Eilperin and Michael Grunwald have the featured front-page Washington Post story on Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher:

The Woman in the Middle
Moderate Democrat Is New Target of Liberal Bloggers

The Democratic majority was only three weeks old, but by Jan. 26, the grass-roots and Net-roots activists of the party's left wing had already settled on their new enemy: Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher (D-Calif.), the outspoken chair of the centrist New Democrat Coalition.

Progressive blogs -- including two new ones, Ellen Tauscher Weekly and Dump Ellen Tauscher -- were bashing her as a traitor to her party. A new liberal political action committee had just named her its "Worst Offender." And in Tauscher's East Bay district office that day in January, eight activists were accusing her of helping President Bush send more troops to Iraq.

Yes, I've been part of the coalition seeking to hold the Democratic Caucus together by holding Congresswoman Tauscher accountable.

Why are they going after Ellen Tauscher?

She has annoyed the left by supporting legislation to scale back the estate tax, tighten bankruptcy rules and promote free-trade agreements. She served as vice chair of the pro-business Democratic Leadership Council, which many liberal activists dismiss as a quasi-Republican K Street front group. And she voted to authorize the Iraq war, although she did so with caveats, and she was quick to express her displeasure with its execution.

But liberal groups such as the Children's Defense Fund and the League of Conservation Voters give Tauscher impeccable report cards, while the National Rifle Association gives her straight F's.

"It's not just about her voting record," said Bob Brigham of San Francisco, an activist who recently started the Ellen Tauscher Weekly.

The latest blog wars began simmering in December after Tauscher led a New Democrat delegation to meet with Bush about bipartisan cooperation, irritating the Net roots. They boiled after her former chief of staff, Katie Merrill, posted a scathing piece on a California Web site attacking the Net roots for attacking Tauscher. Outraged activists immediately began mobilizing for a fight in 2008. "I didn't even know who Tauscher was 5 mins ago, but now I support a primary challenge against her," one typical commenter replied.

Brigham says it's never wise to tell the Net roots not to do something: "That's the worst move you can possibly make."

So where do we go from here? The ball is clearly in her court and she can either follow the Jane Harman path or the Joe Lieberman path.

But Kos points to Harman as a perfect example of how the Net roots can keep Democrats in line. He said Harman used to be a constant irritant, a go-to quote for reporters looking for a Democrat to tweak liberals -- until she had to fight off a primary challenge from the left in 2006. "She's been great ever since," he said. Now Harman even writes on the liberal Huffington Post blog.

Kos can imagine a day when Tauscher still holds her seat but is no longer distasteful to the left. "That's what victory would look like -- a more responsive representative," he said. So when Tauscher praises Pelosi as "perfect on substance, perfect on optics," it's hard to know if that's a result of personal evolution, political trends, or blogospheric pressure, but it's music to Kos's ears. It's helpful to Democratic leaders, too.

Said Rosenthal, the Working for Us founder: "We want them to understand what we're doing helps and enhances the majority."


-By Bob Brigham

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