I am a liberal, a progressive and a Democrat. The vast majority of the time, my interests are better served by a Democrat winning than a Republican or a third party candidate winning. The few exceptions are in SW PA races where the Dem is either under indictment or there are very, very, very strong rumors of indictment or massive general incompetence needs to be scared out of the system by an upset win. However, I also recognize that my interests diverge from the interests of other Democrats, and that the Democratic Party is a coalition party with significant centripetal forces. So shutting up and taking it in bad years is part of the price of being a liberal Democrat, and screaming in frustration and running the numbers during good years on the mistaken DCCC recruiting strategy is part of the responsibility.
My preference order is smart, competent, honest Democrat>progressive Democrat> pressure sensitive progressive Dem>Blue Dog/DLC Dem> GOP unreliable defector> anyone else. The same basic order applies to the presidency. I want the Democrats to nominate as progressively/liberally as they can with a high probability of winning. Any of the candidates polling above 5% nationally should be able to win excluding extraordinary circumstances.
Recent electoral analysis by Crystal Ball, and Open Left looking at state by state polling show that the Democrats have a massive and significant early state by state structural advantage. The entire Democratic base states are secure, and the Dems are dominating within the swing AND making margin of error contests in deep Republican states. Yes, I know that polling this far out it unreliable, and that once the nominations occur, base voters and reliable 'independents'/unaffiliated voters will migrate back to the party, but these maps set the structure of the 2008 campaign.
The Democrats are going into 2008 with a significant advantage. We should think about using it to win as progressive as possible. I am not advocating a strategy of seeking 274 or 276 electoral votes as the margin of error there is too small; instead an electoral vote aspiration goal of 330 to 350 should be sought instead of 400 or more. The larger the coalition, the easier it is to make your base the chump.
So what is the electoral, progressive opportunity cost in 2008 under the current structural underpinnings of the campaign?