The point, as I wrote repeatedly on the site, was not to win those contests. It was to contest as many seats as possible that the party was ignoring. I personally helped Stan Matsunaka get in the race against Marylin Musgrave, and Daily Kos readers pumped in nearly $60K into the race. For that investment, Musgrave had to spend $3 million of her own money, and the NRCC had to spend another $2 million, in order to eke out a 51 percent victory.
That district went from being uncontested four months before the election, to costing the GOP $5 million to defend. That's $5 million that couldn't be used in more at-risk seats.
The same with Richard Morrison in his David vs. Goliath battle against Tom DeLay. Instead of fundraising and campaigning for other Republicans, DeLay had to open up his first district-wide reelection campaign ever, spending over $2 million to defend himself versus a dKos investment of $60K. The same happened in various other races targeted by the site's fundraising.
While we hoped for some victories, I never expected to win a single one of those races. We only targeted incumbents and GOP-held open seats, and those stay with the incumbent party over 99 percent of the time. (Without Texas redistricting, only three incumbents in the entire Congress, 531 races, lost.)
The idea was to spread the playing field and force the GOP to play defense in places they least expected it. And in doing so, take pressure off endangered Democratic incumbents and hope lightning would strike at least one or two places. In 2004, all the lightning strikes were in the GOP's favor.
Did our efforts matter? At least eight congressional Republicans campaigned against Daily Kos by name, proof that it was drawing blood. That included the second most powerful Republican in the nation -- Tom DeLay. We helped raise enough money to arrive at financial parity with the GOP. That wouldn't have happened without the Net-roots tactics pioneered by the Dean campaign.
No Democrat organization can claim victories this cycle. Democrats as a party lost big across the board. No one associated with our side can claim much in the way of electoral success. But we can claim success in building an infrastructure for future gains. And we can claim success in expanding the playing field, forcing the GOP to play defense where it didn't expect to play, to hit the elements of their machine (like the successful Sinclair boycott), and to engage and energize a new generation of activists. And we can claim success in exposing the structural weaknesses in the Democratic Party and building a critical case for internal reform (which will come to a head when the DNC choses its new chair).
I didn't consider 2004 a failure. I considered it one more step toward building the infrastructure to counter the Right Wing Conspiracy. The blogs are a tiny part of that (on par with, say, conservative talk radio). We're building a funding infrastructure, think tanks, Air America and other liberal talk radio, training institutes, etc. All of them are necessary to push back against the right-wing machine. And all of the are still at the nascent stages (such as the blogs).
As I told Salon's Farhad Manjoo when we talked post-Dean, blogs are good at two things -- raising money and generating activism. We did that. The rest of the political establishment failed us. Blogs will never win elections. We can help provide the resources for campaigns to match GOP efforts, but we won't win without things such as a "message" and a competent consultant class. To expect more of us is to expect too much.
-- Markos Moulitsas Zuniga