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‘Blue Dog’ Democrats fighting to avoid extinction

Blue Dogs campaign hard to avoid endangered species status

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Whalen’s job has been to recruit potential Blue Dogs to run in attractive races, which so far have been seats coalition members lost in 2010 or new districts without an incumbent. He also has vetted candidates for a possible PAC endorsement, something Matheson takes quite seriously.

"I’ve taken a more active role in trying to make sure we are endorsing good quality candidates," Matheson said. "I think historically there have been times when the Blue Dogs have endorsed anybody in a close race and I don’t think that is the right criteria. I think they ought to be a Blue Dog."

At a glance

Blue Dogs by the numbers

A look inside the political action committee of this group of moderate and conservative Democrats

$1.7 million » Amount of cash in the Blue Dog PAC as of April 30

$10,000 » Maximum contribution the Blue Dog PAC can give to a candidate

54 » Number of Blue Dogs before the 2010 election

25 » Number of current House members in the Blue Dog Coalition

11 » Number of candidates the Blue Dog PAC has endorsed.

0 » Number of endorsed candidates who are front-runners in their races.

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And when they found the right fiscally conservative Democrats, he wanted to do more than just send them a $10,000 contribution and hold a fundraiser or two. He asked Whalen to get involved in the day-to-day campaigns.

"It is easy for incumbent members to forget what it is like when you run the first time. It is nice to have some support and some strategic advice," Matheson said.

Whalen has provided significant help to Hayden Rogers, Shuler’s former chief of staff, who is running in his home state of North Carolina, including setting up his campaign website. He is offered assistance to the candidates running in states from Florida to Ohio, though his involvement is tailored to each campaign.

"We don’t want to be a hindrance to them or in any way overshadow what they are doing," Whalen said. "We want to be there for all of them in any role they need."

In Michigan, that has meant nothing more than providing an endorsement and campaign contribution to Gary McDowell. But in South Carolina, Whalen has been involved in many of the big decisions in Ted Vick’s campaign, likewise for Pam Gulleson, who is running in North Dakota.

"The Blue Dogs have been a big help to us in many different ways. They are a valuable member of our team, and I’m proud to have their support," said Vick, a state representative running in a newly created district.

Matheson has also asked him to grow the Blue Dog brand nationwide. Until recently, the Blue Dog PAC had no online presence.

"It is a longer term effort to try to create a national dialogue about some more centrist principles," Matheson said. "In a world where both parties seem to be running off to their extremes, I thought it would be important to have another voice out there that reflected these principles."

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mcanham@sltrib.comTwitter: @mattcanham

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