Mike Rogers: Not Safe Yet
Yet even though, 2006 might be Alabama Democrats last, best chance to take out Rogers before he is totally ensconced in the 3rd District, no Democrats have as much as sniffed at the race.
Let me run down the arguments why Democrats shouldn't let Rogers get a free pass:
The 3rd District was drawn by the Democratic legislature to favor a Democrat. Its base of 32% black population gives it the most minority presence aside from the majority-minority 7th district. The 3rd also gave John Kerry his second highest % (42%) of any in the state in 2004. The 3rd even gave Al Gore 47% in 2000 before it was tweaked to become even more Democratic in the post census remap. Those facts and figures don't mean much by themselves, but they do show that the 3rd has a strong Democratic base and the right Democrat can compete and possibly win.
Rogers is only in his second term. Historically the longer a congressman serves the more secure he becomes. There are of course many exceptions, but generally if a congressman can be elected and then re-elected a couple of times, he'll have a pretty safe seat. Rogers beat Joe Turnham by a scant 2% in 2002, but clobbered Bill Fuller by over 20% in 2004.
The 2004 results have understandably dispirited Alabama Democrats, but there is some reason for optimism as well. In 2006 the Democratic candidate won't have to fight the Bush tidal wave at the top of the ticket. In fact, many pundits expect 2006 to be a good environment for Democrats. The various problems (ethical and otherwise) of the Bush White House and Congressional Republicans could lead to an anti-incumbent wave that could endanger many GOPers throughout the country. 2006 could be the best year for Democrats on the national level since the 1994 Republican takeover.
Of course whether or not a Democratic surge would extend to Alabama or whether Rogers would be affected is debatable, but 2006 may well be the best chance Democrats have to oust Rogers until at least the 2012 remap.
Mike Rogers has proved to be a very able politician. Not only was he able to succeed in a district drawn by Democrats for Democrats, but his 2004 win has left Democrats (both local and national) grasping for answers. Rogers has used conservative Republican politics along with occasional doses of populism to craft an appealing image. His close ties and loyalty to national Republican leaders have been rewarded with good committee slots (Agriculture, Homeland Security) and a steady stream of campaign cash.
However, if the national dissatisfaction with the Republican party reaches into Alabama, Rogers will be a prime candidate to feel the heat. For their part, Democrats not only do not have an announced candidate, but also have no candidate (I'm aware of) who has even showed a minimal amount of public interest.
Tomorrow, I'll tackle this problem for the Democrats and provide them with a list of the candidates they should be trying to talk into the race against Rogers.