During last year's campaign, two big new groups -- America Coming Together and the Media Fund -- captured the imagination of such mega-donors as international financier George Soros and insurance magnate Peter Lewis. Exclusive Hollywood fundraisers drew movie stars and producers.
In the aftermath of defeat, however, many of these deep-pocketed donors have picked up their marbles and gone home. ACT and the Media Fund, which were originally billed as long-term projects, are in hibernation with uncertain futures after their billionaire benefactors stopped writing checks.
Last week a new organization was launched, aiming to build the liberal cause with supporters who have thinner wallets but longer attention spans. The New Progressive Coalition said it will try to create a "marketplace of ideas" in which donors of all sizes can be connected with "progressive innovators and organizations" crafting long-term ideas to rebuild the left.
The group got going with a grant of nearly $1 million from Andrew and Deborah Rappaport, a Silicon Valley couple who in the 2003-2004 election cycle gave at least $4.7 million to liberal causes.
The group lamented on its Web site, www.newprogressivecoalition.com, that the right has been better at funding a movement rather than merely focusing on individual campaigns: "The so-called 'vast right-wing conspiracy' is a powerful $300 million network of conservative policy think tanks, grassroots organizations, advocacy groups and media entities that took decades to build. For too long, progressives have failed to develop our own infrastructure and make these investments in our future."
Executive Director Kirsten M. Falk and a staff of seven at the Redwood City, Calif., offices are setting up a Web site where prospective donors can examine proposals from various liberal activists or organizations. Groups seeking donations will pay to sign up on the NPC site, using a sliding scale from $100 to $5,000, depending on the size of their budget.
In a statement, Deborah Rappaport, the group's president, said, "It's time to look beyond next election . . . and invest in people and ideas."
An organization with similar long-term goals, the Democracy Alliance, was started earlier this year, geared primarily to major donors who commit to giving $1 million over five years.
RNC Turns Up Heat for Kilgore Turnout
With just 16 days before Virginia voters choose a new governor, the Republican National Committee is cranking up its vaunted turnout machine on behalf of GOP nominee Jerry W. Kilgore.
In an e-mail appeal sent out nationwide last week, RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman asks for volunteers to "adopt a precinct" for Kilgore. Sign up and the RNC will e-mail you a list of 25 Virginians to call seeking votes for Kilgore on Nov. 8. Then, with one week before the election, the RNC will re-send the list and you'll do it again. Sounds like fun, no?
The "adopt a precinct" initiative comes on the heels of a Sept. 24 RNC-organized phone-athon during which Republicans from across the country made more than 9,000 calls to Virginians, urging a vote for Kilgore. Both tactics were widely used during President Bush's 2004 reelection race.
President Warner, President Daschle
Speaking of Virginia, Democratic Gov. Mark R. Warner's fly-around the Old Dominion last week on behalf of would-be successor Timothy M. Kaine was trailed by speculation about his own ambitions.
"Warner '08!" shouted a bystander at Java J's coffee shop in Bristol; a man at a Martinsville Chamber of Commerce meeting told Warner matter-of-factly, "Good luck with the presidential" -- taking it as a given that Warner will seek the White House in 2008.
Most Washington operatives assume the same thing. But separate interviews with Warner and former senator Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) highlighted different approaches to a familiar political ritual: Would-be candidates profess that it is much too early to be thinking about a presidential campaign while simultaneously dropping hints about a possible bid to keep the interest of donors, party operatives and the media.
Both men denied they had any plans at the moment to run for the Democratic presidential nomination while noting (insert wink here; nod optional) that predicting the future is impossible.
Daschle, who lost his bid for a fourth term at the hands of Republican John Thune last November, was the more direct of the two. The "honest answer is 'I don't know,' " he said when asked Friday whether a presidential race was in his future. "It interests me."
In late 2002, Daschle was so close to joining the 2004 race rather than seek reelection that his hometown newspaper ran a banner headline, "He's Running." Daschle will travel to Des Moines on Nov. 5 to address the Iowa Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner -- a coveted spot for a candidate seeking exposure to the state's influential voters. Two days earlier Daschle will be at Northwestern University to deliver a foreign policy speech.
Warner, by contrast, said in an interview Thursday that he is a "long way from making any kind of decision."
Okay, but then why has he already set up a political action committee, Forward Together, and hired experienced national political operative Monica Dixon to run it? "If you want to have a voice about where the party and the nation heads, the rules are you set up a PAC," Warner said.
"And, obviously, they will address the questions that the senators have in the questionnaire as a result of the answers to the questions in the questionnaire."
-- President Bush last week, responding to concerns from senators that Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers's written answers to their questions were inadequate.
Cillizza is a staff writer for washingtonpost.com. The Fix, his
online column, appears daily at www.washingtonpost.com/thefix.