I don’t know who leaked the fact that Harry Reid contacted Rod Blagojevich to oppose a roster of African American candidates because he considered them "unelectable," but Blago’s office confirmed it and it makes Reid look just plain awful.
I don’t like "electability" arguments to begin with because they are usually employed to enable the privileged (like Caroline Kennedy, who Reid also supports) and marginalize non-establishment candidates. But in this case, it was just a complete load of bollocks.
As Nate Silver demonstrates, a Rasmussen poll from December 4 put Jesse Jackson Jr. in essentially a three-way tie with Lisa Madigan and Tammy Duckworth within Illinois. But there’s more to running a race than name recognition, and as Howie Klein notes, Duckworth was a truly terrible candidate:
What makes Tammy Duckworth, who has never won an election to anything, "electable" and Jesse Jackson, Jr., for example, not electable? Nevada voters have never elected an African-American to any statewide offices but Illinois voters certainly have. In November Jackson won re-election with 89% of the vote, the highest percentage of any Illinois incumbent from either party. IL-02 is about 60% African-American so apparently he has some appeal to non-African-American voters as well. As for Duckworth… what is she aside from a creature of Rahm Emanuel who– like Emanuel himself– was used to derail a progressive candidate? (They both won bitter primaries with bundles of cash.)
Unlike Emanuel, though, Duckworth lost her general election race, despite outspending her Republican opponent $4,556,495 to $3,302,702, virtually all of that coming through the good graces of Emanuel, who sacrificed at least 3 viable Democrats around the country so he could funnel DCCC money to Duckworth’s useless campaign. But Harry Reid has decided she is viable? Because she’s white? A pro-war Emanuel puppet? What the hell is this all about? Has Reid lost his marbles?
Matt Renner’s special report for Truthout details what happened in 2006 when Rahm Emanuel, as head of the DCCC, didn’t like anti-war candidate Christine Cegelis running in IL-06 so he recruited Duckworth (who didn’t live in the district) to run against her. I believe the word "unelectable" was used about Cegelis at the time, too.
Rahm poured tons of money into the race and the Democratic establishment did everything they could to sabotage Cegelis. She still held her own against Duckworth, ultimately losing 40-44. (It would take Ned Lamont’s defeat of Joe Lieberman in the CT primary to prove just how wrong Rahm et. al. were about the "unelectability" of anti-war candidates in 2006, thus freeing up Democrats across the country to run successfully against the war and their Republican opponents. But that came too late to help Cegelis.)
As Howie notes, Duckworth ultimately lost the seat to her Republican opponent despite a huge cash advantage (courtesy of the DCCC) largely because people didn’t like the fact that she was from out of the district. As Nate says, "The fact of the matter is that Illinoisans have gotten to see an awful lot of Tammy Duckworth, and they simply don’t like her all that much."
Tammy Duckworth is the very definition of "unelectable" — i.e., she couldn’t get elected, even with Democratic leadership determined to fill her coffers with cash and jam her into office. Well, you can say one thing for them, they never give up.
In light of Reid’s contention that Duckworth was "electable" while Jesse Jackson Jr. wasn’t, blogs like Jack & Jill Politics, JammieWearingFool, Blackfive, Open Left, and Field Negro are raising valid questions.
As Markos says, "It’s not as if Illinois doesn’t have a history of electing African Americans to the Senate."