06/16/2006 01:48 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Why Did Francine Busby Lose? Progressives Need to Know

Ten days ago, Francine Busby lost the race for CD 50, where she ran against a lobbyist for an open seat held by Duke Cunningham, who is serving time for bribery from, well, lobbyists. Yes, CD 50 in northern San Diego County is fifteen percentage points or so more Republican in registration than Democrat. But lots of establishment folks -- including members of Congress -- asked me to raise money for Busby. "She can win. It's our year." I would have done it anyway. It made sense. Hers was a potential knock out punch. If we could have replaced Duke with Francine, the House could be ours.

But she lost.

So what now? We can whine and speculate and optimize. We can say, as I did last week on this site, that Francine ran well and forced the Republicans to spend big bucks in a formerly "safe" district. Or we could say what Arianna wrote, that had Francine been stronger on the war, she would have won. Or we could have said what Markos said, that had the national party apparatus focused on turning out the base, she could have won. Or we could have said what Matt Stoller said on MyDD, that the consultant-driven campaign inevitably brings about a Kerry moment in the Grand Canyon because the candidates are not allowed to be themselves.

Or maybe Rahm Emanuel and company got it 100% right and simply did the best they could with the money they were willing to spend, got the Republicans to spend a lot in the district and now will move on to easier pastures and win big in the Fall.

I have my opinions, but for once, I'll hold my tongue and fingers.

So the Courage Campaign, which I founded last year to further progressive values in California, has teamed up with MyDD to find out. We are going to hire a professional, highly regarded polling firm to help us understand what happened. We are first asking our communities to do two things:

1. Tell us what you think we should ask. What are the key questions? What would you want to know if you were constructing the poll?

2. Help us fund the poll. We need about $20,000 and we need it fast. We want to get in the field next week so that we can do the research before too much time passes. A close friend who has given generously to many campaigns, including Francine's, has put up $5,000 contingent upon our raising the rest. And Chris Bowers at MyDD has started the ball rolling with another $500.

We'll help design the poll, but we'll get the best advice possible from professionals who will execute the research. And then you'll see the results. We are all asked to fund, write about and vote in elections. Democracy belongs to us, not to consultants and insider strategists. So let's get the data, learn and then act accordingly. Let's not rely on "them" to tell us what happened or what to do. We are the campaign. With the proper information, we will win.