By Dave Anderson:
The Daily Kos morning election round-up has a piece up on PA-4, currently represented by Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Douchebag). And it is an analysis that portrays the difference between a party cheerleader and an ideological/policy orientated perspective:
Two environmental advocacy groups, the League of Conservation Voters and the National Resource Defense Council, are out with a pretty substantial ad buy against Democratic Rep. Jason Altmire ($350K). I've gotta wonder, though, whether it's a good investment dropping major cash on a Blue Dog in a smokestack-industry district where the charges aren't likely to resonate with his constituents, when there are faux-environmentalist Republicans in districts that are very receptive to environmental appeals who need softening up (cough, cough, Dave Reichert, cough...).
Altmire is a douchebag, there is minimal dispute there. If there is a barely contentious issue that polarizes on partisan lines, expect him to vote with 98% of the Republicans. It is what he has always done. The only area where is he is not a reactionary is on labor and pensions, and there he is a gettable vote.
A Party cheerleader will say that the value of Altmire is a single vote for the Speaker, and everything else is gravy. And there is validity from a specific policy implementation viewpoint as control of the Speakership means control of the agenda and a Democratic Speakership and thus majority would get a decent chunk of the super special counter-productive off the agenda.
However, an organization that has policy goals has a different objective. Their objective is to get policy passed and/or fundraise off their inability to get an agenda passed due to a boogeyman of the month. Control of the agenda and thus the single partisan vote criteria mentioned above is important, but fear is also important.
The NRA is extraordinarily effective at achieving its policy goals because all Republicans and a good chunk of Democrats fear them. They know that if the NRA wants to make an example out of a "bad" vote, there is a at the minimum a very nasty, expensive, and exhausting electoral win, and a decent chance of an electoral defeat. And more importantly, the NRA will claim the scalp. Politicians will not cross the NRA unless they are coming from a D+10 or better district where a pro-gun candidate is not a viable primary or general election threat. And thus, the only gun debate in this country is what laws should be repealed.
Knocking out a theoretically partisan friend who has consistently voted against your desired policy outcomes induces fear and increases compliance with a policy agenda, and thus a $350K drop by nominally Democratic leaning group against a Democratic incumbent makes a good deal of sense.