Former Congressman to Head Efforts to Bring Liberals to the Polls

Former congressman Martin Frost of Texas will take the reins at America Votes, which coordinates liberal groups' voter-turnout efforts. (By Jon Freilich -- Associated Press)
By Chris Cillizza And Shailagh Murray
Sunday, June 3, 2007

America Votes, the lone progressive soft-money organization to survive beyond the 2004 election, will name former congressman Martin Frost (D-Tex.) as its new president tomorrow -- the first step in coordinating a massive voter-turnout operation heading into the 2008 election.

"Encouraging people to vote, being part of a large turnout for the 2008 election is something that appeals to me," Frost said in an interview last week.

Frost will replace Maggie Fox, who stepped down last Friday. (Fox's husband, Democratic Rep. Mark Udall, is running for Senate in Colorado in 2008.)

Though he was defeated in 2004 in a redistricting-forced race against Rep. Pete Sessions (R), Frost is considered one of the leading political minds in his party; he chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the 1996 and 1998 election cycles and served as Democratic Caucus chairman from 1999 to 2003. He also spearheaded Democrats' national redistricting strategy after the 2000 census.

The hiring of Frost virtually ensures that America Votes will be a factor in the 2008 campaign, thanks to his fundraising cachet as a former member of Congress and his talent as a political strategist.

America Votes was formed in the run-up to the 2004 election as a coordination tool to ensure that its two larger soft-money siblings -- America Coming Together and the Media Fund -- didn't duplicate efforts, and it has endured while the other two have not, largely as a result of a series of complicated campaign finance rulings.

In 2008, America Votes will again seek to manage and coordinate the voter-identification and turnout efforts of the various interest groups of the left, such as the AFL-CIO, the NAACP and the League of Conservation Voters. All told, nearly 40 national groups have partnered with America Votes to be part of the turnout program.

Frost believes that the 2008 race is "unusual" because of the high level of interest it has already generated with the American public; he ascribed much of the attention to "concern over the war" coupled with the fact that both parties lack a presumptive nominee.

When the Senate voted two weeks ago to fund the Iraq war through September, three out of four Democratic presidential candidates in the chamber sided with antiwar groups and opposed the bill: Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), Barack Obama (Ill.) and Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.).

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.) took the riskier course for a Democratic primary candidate by voting yes, but it has yielded surprising dividends for the Foreign Relations Committee chairman and 2008 long shot.

In the liberal blogosphere, the response was mostly predictable. "Joe Biden: RIP," one DailyKos post declared. "Senator Biden eliminated from contention for president," another asserted.

But a few bloggers rose to his defense. "People aren't dealing with the full story, the full arguments that Democrats like Biden have been making about these votes," wrote one DailyKos regular.

Biden also scored positive coverage in Iowa, where antiwar sentiment runs high, and where he made numerous campaign appearances last week. "Biden opposes war, voted funding to protect troops," a Fort Dodge Messenger headline read. The Quad-City Times quoted the senator at length as he defended his vote as supporting U.S. troops. But the piece de resistance was a Des Moines Register column by David Yepsen, the dean of the Iowa political press corps, that deemed Biden's vote a "profile in courage."

"His vote could cost him dearly with some on caucus night," Yepsen noted. But he added: "Let's not be too dismissive of any contenders right now, especially one as experienced, smart -- and courageous -- as Biden."

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