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The Democratic Party, What They Said, Who Was Naughty, Who Was Nice
November 14, 2006 11:16 AM   Subscribe

Tim Tagaris, a "netroots blogger", and David Sirota, a DC policy wonk turned blogger, both went to work for the Ned Lamont for Senate campign. Now they give their explanations for why Lamont lost. Regardless of your feelings about Lamont and Joementum, these fascinating inside stories provide insight into the internecine struggle for the future of the Democratic Party.
posted by orthogonality (45 comments total)

 
I read the Tim Tagaris entry. Haven't read the others yet. Can't stand Lieberman. But the line-by-line call-out of who didn't give them enough support? Bogus. Whiney. Not classy at all.

And, it turns out, the folks who didn't support Lamont were right.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 11:27 AM on November 14, 2006


These Premises Are Alarmed writes "But the line-by-line call-out of who didn't give them enough support? Bogus. Whiney. Not classy at all."

It's unusual to make it so public, but this "inside dish" is exactly what staffers on a losing campaign talk about in private. (Oh, the inside baseball I heard about DFA when working for Kerry/Edwards '04., and in turn the bitching I could do about Kerry...)

"Victory has a thousand fathers" and all that, and every staffer will have different explanations for a defeat, much like the blind savants and the elephant: by necessity and reinforced by the hectic pace, every staffer sees a different aspect of the campaign. So take any explanation with a grain of salt.

That's what makes this sort of postmortem even more fascinating.

(Full disclosure: I met Sirota a number of years ago and have mumbled a bit at him over drinks, but I don't know the guy.)
posted by orthogonality at 11:40 AM on November 14, 2006


Blame, blame, blame!

Lieberman was totally beatable by an anti-war Dem. Ned Lamont lost because he is a hopelessly uninspiring orator with zero charisma.

Millions in campaign funds or not, if a candidate comes across as an annoying little dork even when compared to Joe Lieberman, they are screwed.
posted by MaxVonCretin at 11:42 AM on November 14, 2006


orthogonality: You might be right. If this was presented as just gossip I'd probably enjoy it. Maybe I just don't want to know how the sausage is made.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 11:47 AM on November 14, 2006


?
posted by monju_bosatsu at 12:15 PM on November 14, 2006


That's an interesting little WTF there, m_b.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:32 PM on November 14, 2006


Some say that Lamont lost because of the Kos kiss-of-death. What's Kos's record now on campaigns? Something like 0 for 23?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:35 PM on November 14, 2006


Lieberman was totally beatable by an anti-war Dem.

He was in fact beaten by one.

I'm not reading these pieces because I don't need to. Lamont lost because Lieberman, as a well-known incumbent, could easily fracture the support base of his former party, and the GOP had somehow failed to nominate someone capable of holding onto his own base. A Chris Shays candidacy would have left Lamont standing as the winner; a Jodi Rell candidacy might even have handed the seat to the GOP.

And there's no point in blaming Democrats for sensing these trends and buttering up someone they needed to keep in their caucus. If there's anything to be done, it's lobby the CT legislature to pass a sore loser law, then have someone else challenge that asshole in six years.
posted by Epenthesis at 12:47 PM on November 14, 2006


Some say that Lamont lost because of the Kos kiss-of-death. What's Kos's record now on campaigns? Something like 0 for 23?

Kos was an early champion of Tester, Webb, and many of the Dems who won in the House. "Early" as in "when they were long shots and the Senate looked solid for the GOP."
posted by Epenthesis at 12:49 PM on November 14, 2006


Steven C. Den Beste

Seems kind of foolish to be knocking someone whose philosophy is "Put up a candidate in every district" right after the democrats scored huge gains, largely as a result of....putting up a candidate in every district.
posted by slapshot57 at 12:49 PM on November 14, 2006


As a reasonably intelligent, sort of thoughtful, fairly liberal anti-war CT resident, I am quite glad Ned Lamont lost this election thank you - for whatever reason. Have never understood the vitriole that was directed Liebermans way, versus plenty of other moderate Democrats who supported the war and his fairly liberal social positions. He may be a snake, but he's in a snake pit and he's our snake, and now in quite a position to make things happen - liberal things and things for CT. I put the hate down to adherence to dogma, just like the neocon dogma. I still am more anti-Iraq war than he is, but there is more than one issue in the world.

Lamont lost because most people did not want him elected. Lieberman won in a landslide.

Oh, and what FOB said.
posted by sfts2 at 1:00 PM on November 14, 2006


From the Tagaris article:
The people of Connecticut had all been voting for Joe for 30+ years, and no one wants to believe they have been so wrong about someone for so long.
With such disdain for the voter, I hope they continue to lose. That article did everything *but* take responsibility for the loss, or address what the voters wanted. Everytime I hear an "insider", it makes me almost lose hope for real democracy, when they continue to have zero respect for the people who vote for their candidate. Everything is about some insider crap, and how so-and-so didn't blow us at the right time, but never about why they didn't listen enough or inform the voters enough to actually get popular support.

I don't care for Lieberman, but if that whiny sad excuse is any indication of Lamonts campaign, the voters chose as best they could.
posted by Bovine Love at 1:08 PM on November 14, 2006 [1 favorite]


Interesting articles.

I live in the CT 4th district. People's politics here don't fit the current left/right stereotypes -- lots of Dems vote for Chris Shays and lots of Republicans vote for Joe. It seems like most of my Republican neighbors like Joe -- he's really more of a traditional NE republican than Schlesinger.

I can't stand Joe Lieberman and voted for Lamont. Many of my younger or just better-informed Democratic neighbors did the same. But quite a few echo sfts2, and there's a lot to be said for pragmatism in politics. Joe ran hard on keeping defense and industrial jobs in the state -- whether or not he actually does these things is debatable, but the old folks here eat that shit up. Lots of Republicans, too.

About a month ago, Bill Clinton* called me personally, begging me to turn out to vote on Election Day. He didn't say to vote for Ned Lamont or the Democrats, just to vote. The AFL-CIO, I think, sponsored that call. At that point it was obvious how things were going to turn out.

*Well, actually a recording of Bill's voice, but it's fun to pretend.
posted by Opposite George at 1:11 PM on November 14, 2006


Lieberman won because the Republicans in CT voted for him. It'll be interesting once they realize what they did -- he's not very Republican.
posted by smackfu at 1:13 PM on November 14, 2006


I guess if you reject labels, actually think about candidate's positions in toto, make your own CT Yankee decisions based upon your values and as many facts as can be had in the limited time you have, you are 'less informed.' One thing you are right about, there is a lot ot be said for pragmatism in politics.

As far as your 'better informed' friends go, maybe one or two of them could explain to me what concrete proposals Lamont made about anything. Even the Iraq war, other than 'Get out now' which pretty much anyone who has a clue has rejected as a practical matter.

Here is his platform from his website. I have taken a few things out, but not much that is relevant. Nary a policy statement in the bunch. Worthless pap.

"That the war in Iraq has diverted far too many of our dollars, and too much of our attention, from our needs back home. The crisis in health care, lack of progress towards energy independence, and struggling public schools are examples of how our government is not leading, but allowing lobbyists and special interests to write the rules.
Washington needs creative solutions to old problems. ....I am running with the support of Connecticut citizens, not corporate or special interests – and I bring real business experience that government needs.

Government has a role in ensuring fundamental rights and equal opportunity for all Americans....Rather than replacing the hard-earned social safety net with partially funded savings accounts, Democrats should be ready again to defend and build upon all that we have accomplished—equal rights and equal opportunity for all.


He would have accomplished nothing.
posted by sfts2 at 1:26 PM on November 14, 2006


Lieberman won because the Republicans in CT voted for him. It'll be interesting once they realize what they did -- he's not very Republican.

Lieberman's been a Senator since 1988 -- I think the people of Connecticut know who he is. In fact, the Republicans in CT who voted for him "realize" exactly what they did -- they knew the Republican candidate wouldn't win, and preferred Lieberman to Lamont. It's not rocket science.
posted by pardonyou? at 1:27 PM on November 14, 2006


I'm pretty sure in this case the Republicans in CT knew what they were doing.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 1:30 PM on November 14, 2006


People's politics here don't fit the current left/right stereotypes

Whose do? I realize I don't run in typical circles but I can count on one hand the number of people I know who fall comfortably into one camp without at least one major policy point divergence.
posted by phearlez at 1:30 PM on November 14, 2006


Some say that Lamont lost because of the Kos kiss-of-death. What's Kos's record now on campaigns? Something like 0 for 23?

Troll +1

Here's the list of official netroots candidates. Some won. Some lost. But why give money to somebody in a safe district?

Lieberman won because Republicans voted for him. Republicans voted for him because the Republican party made sure it had a non-credible candidate. I find this mind-boggling but there is no other interpretation. They had every opportunity (just like with Foley!) to ask him to get the hell off the ticket so they could put somebody with a credible record in the slot. Instead they talk him down, leak non-story after non-story about him, then ... nothing. They deliberately ratfucked their own candidate.

Of course, I've been apalled by Joe ever since he ran to the right of Lowell Weicker on abortion and gun control, and won. At the time it seemed like such an outlier.

The irony is that the Democratic party also pretty much ratfucked Lamont, with a few exceptions Tagaris was happy to point out. I don't blame CT voters for sticking with what they know (but what a sorry excuse for incumbency-for-life that is). I'm not entirely sure I blame individual Senators for sticking with the guy they've caucused with -- or at least not going against him.

And so what if Tagaris isn't posting a mea culpa to "the people". Whoever said that was his job? Lamont will, or maybe already has, give an interview in which he says stuff like that. The inside baseball guy is going to talk inside baseball. If there were somebody whose job it was to listen to the voters, they should speak up about that part. It's just possible there wasn't anybody with that job ... I dunno. But I'm not going to require that it be retroactively assumed to be somebody else's job.
posted by dhartung at 1:35 PM on November 14, 2006


This is probably the best insight from the Sirota piece:

Thus, Lieberman won the election not by defending the Iraq War, but by successfully convincing a key segment of voters that he was anti-war. That is, he won not by embracing faux “centrism” but by pretending to be a progressive.

For its part, the Lamont campaign worked overtime to try to debunk Lieberman’s confusion campaign. Our internal polling showed that somewhere between 12 and 15 percent of the population said they simultaneously opposed the war and supported Lieberman’s position on the war—a signal that Lieberman’s confusion campaign was working.


Interesting findings from the CNN exit poll in Connecticut:

*27% of self-described liberals voted for Lieberman
*Jews were 6% of the electorate in CT, and 66% of them voted for Lieberman. This definitely hurt Lamont in a year when over 80% of Jews were voting for the Democrats.
*31% of voters who wanted the Democrats to control the Senate still voted for Lieberman.
*Lieberman received 13% of the vote from voters who believed that Lieberman agrees with Bush too often.
*74% of all voters who thought Lamont didn't have enough experience voted for Lieberman
*31% of all voters who "strongly disapproved" of Bush still voted for Lieberman
*38% of voters who disapproved of the war in Iraq still voted for Lieberman
*29% of voters who supported the withdrawal of all troops from Iraq still voted for Lieberman

In addition, the electorate was hardly giving a ringing endorsement of Bush or the War in Iraq by voting for Lieberman:

*44% of the electorate thought Lieberman agrees with Bush too often
*66% of the electorate disapproved of the job George W. Bush was doing
*66% of the electorate disapproved of the War in Iraq
*63% of the electorate believes that the U.S. should with withdraw some or all of its troops from Iraq

The bottom is line that experience matters. A voter's assessment of Ned Lamont's experience was one of the most accurate predictors of his or her vote. As the election of Democratic machine pols in 2006 attests (Menendez in NJ, Cardin in MD), voters were not anti-experience or anti-incumbent in 2006. Instead, they were more anti-war, anti-Bush, or anti-Republican than anti-incumbent. Unfortunately for Lamont, Lieberman convinced the CT electorate that he did a better job as a non-Republican than Lamont. I view Lieberman as quasi-Republican myself, but that's hardly an article of faith among most Connecticut Democrats, let alone most Independents.

Anyway, I think Lamont probably had a "what the hell do we do now?" moment when he won the primary, just like Robert Redford in the Candidate. I mean, Lamont went on vacation after the primary. What were they thinking?
posted by jonp72 at 1:37 PM on November 14, 2006


Whose do?

You're right, probably very few. It's just the successful GOP candidates seem to diverge more from the party's national agenda than I've noticed in other parts of the country where I've spent a lot of time (the Southeast, Florida, Texas.)
posted by Opposite George at 1:44 PM on November 14, 2006


jobp72 quoting Sirota: "Thus, Lieberman won the election not by defending the Iraq War, but by successfully convincing a key segment of voters that he was anti-war. That is, he won not by embracing faux “centrism” but by pretending to be a progressive. "

and

*38% of voters who disapproved of the war in Iraq still voted for Lieberman"


I don't know, what I was going to say is there's no way anyone in CT wouldn't know where Lieberman stands, after 18 years and a VP run, but maybe the data disprove that. I have thought ever since his 2002 VP attempt that he's a crypto-republican, but really, the numbers above make me lay the blame evern more at Lamont's feet. He must've been a very unconvincing candidate if those exit poll data are correct.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 1:56 PM on November 14, 2006


And it doesn't make any sense to me that Lieberman's victory was someone engineered by the Republicans. I think they really couldn't scare up a better candidate. CT isn't really their territory.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 1:59 PM on November 14, 2006


"Thus, Lieberman won the election not by defending the Iraq War, but by successfully convincing a key segment of voters that he was anti-war. That is, he won not by embracing faux “centrism” but by pretending to be a progressive. "

Sirota's full of it. He didn't pretend to be progressive, or change his position on the war, at least in commercials and news clips that I saw during the post primary campaign. Thats complete bullshit.

I always thougt he was pretty thoughtful and measured about what was happening in Iraq, and under no stretch of the imagination did he espouse pro-war views, he just seemed to be practical, and forward looking. But, regardsless, I'm not here to carry Joe's water...really.

As far as the central premise of the original post goes, who cares about the future of the Democratic Party? Thats the same kind of thinking that the Republicans fell into - putting party above issues. That led to much of the dissatisfaction amongst the voters, seems to me.

These two are part of the problem.
posted by sfts2 at 2:00 PM on November 14, 2006


dhartung:
And so what if Tagaris isn't posting a mea culpa to "the people". Whoever said that was his job? Lamont will, or maybe already has, give an interview in which he says stuff like that. The inside baseball guy is going to talk inside baseball.


I am not talking about some kind of new age, lovey-dovey crap about "the people". Fact is, Lamont lost because the voters (not "the people", the voters) didn't vote for him. If he wants to talk about the cause Lamon failed, it is because he, and his team, failed to appeal to the voters. What went wrong was a misunderstanding of the voters, or poor comminication to them. All the "inside talk" is gossip and whining, and a failure to acutally analyze the core cause. The fact that the entire "analysis" ignores the voters tells me exactly why they lost: It doesn't matter who supports you or does not support you internally, if you can't get the voters, you lose. Clearly they lost the basics somewhere along the way.
posted by Bovine Love at 2:07 PM on November 14, 2006


If the antiwar guy can't win in Connecticut, where can he win?
posted by jfuller at 2:13 PM on November 14, 2006


WTF? We don't need analysis for this one. As others have pointed out, sans a Republican candidate with any chance, Lieberman siphoned off enough Republican votes to win. If they ran the Democratic primary again today, Lamont would win again. People didn't change their minds between the primary and the general election.

As a side note, a day after the Democratic primary, Ken Mellman was on CNBC and Chris Matthews asked him if he would endorse the Republican candidate for CT. Not a peep came out of Mellman. Yes, the head of the RNC would not publicly endorse his party's candidate. Do we need CNN polls to do that math?
posted by a_day_late at 2:21 PM on November 14, 2006


If the antiwar guy can't win in Connecticut, where can he win?

jfuller: huh? are you thinking of connecticut as some bastion of liberalism here (because it certainly isn't) or are you being ironic? as others have noted above, conneticut is economically all about the defense industry--and the pharmaceutical industry, I'd add--which makes the interests of the average voter in connecticut align nicely with whichever party is offering to create the most demand for weapons and medicine.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:25 PM on November 14, 2006


Wow, Steven C. Den Beste knocking another blogger's credibility. Pricless. Shouldn't you be posting some catgirl pron or something?

That said, the Dems are very much in a six-of-one, half-a-dozen of the other moment. Lamont lost, some have argued, because he didn't stick to his anti-war message after winning the primary. The Schumer/Emanuel crowd says he lost because Americans want moderates like Webb and Lieberman in power.

They're both right, of course, but there's going to be blood between the Dean camp and the more establishment Carville/Shrum/Schumer side (Carville has actually trial-ballooneed a Gore/Zell Miller (yes, that Zell Miller) ticket for 2008).

Fact is, Lamont's campaign got a lot of hard-core lefties and moderates/former Reagan Republicans to get off their asses and realize that this country has been taken hostage by a truly radical, de-stabilizing White House. If Dems are smart, they'll learn that they can appeal to both sides of the political spectrum (much like Dean has decided that Dems should compete in all 50 states, because it's been proven, recently, that Dems can win in all 50 states -- ffs, NH and freakin' MT have blue state governments now), and should spend accordingly. But there are lots of egos on the line, and I expect the Dem money-folks to try and purge people like Dean in time for Hillary to run and lose in 2008.
posted by bardic at 2:30 PM on November 14, 2006


(George W. Bush was born in CT. It's hardly the bluest of states. Plenty of blue blood though.)
posted by bardic at 2:31 PM on November 14, 2006


(George W. Bush was born in CT. It's hardly the bluest of states. Plenty of blue blood though.)

Yes, but he is all Texas. CT is a pretty blue state when compared to the rest of the country. A bible-thumping, pro-life, "pro-family," candidate (of which there are now quite a few that call themselves democrats!) would stand little chance of winning a senate or house seat from CT. A typical CT republican is someone like Chris Shays. CT has many independent voters, and even registered dems and repubs are willing to cross party lines to vote for a candidate they like. And, that backs up my previous point: many Republicans were willing to vote for Lieberman because they saw him as their best option.
posted by a_day_late at 2:47 PM on November 14, 2006


In other news: Wingnut Arrested In Fake Anthrax Terror Scheme
posted by homunculus at 3:16 PM on November 14, 2006


I don't know, what I was going to say is there's no way anyone in CT wouldn't know where Lieberman stands, after 18 years and a VP run, but maybe the data disprove that.

I volunteered for the Webb campaign this year. After having a chat with another volunteer who told me she had to explain to a voter over the phone that it was Allen, not Webb who called a guy a "macaca," there's a lot that would surprise you about what some voters don't know. Many people minimize their effort at finding out political info by responding to the ideological cues provided by party labels (even if they call themselves "independents"). Lieberman did a good job of making sure those signals got crossed, and Lamont had no working counterplan.
posted by jonp72 at 4:40 PM on November 14, 2006


Blame it on the candidate. Blame it on the packaging. Blame it on the voters. Whatever.

The fact that Lieberman received such a warm welcome back and a chairmanship makes me want to throw up, though. He should be treated like the opportunistic rat he has shown himself to be. It's bad enough (IMHO) to be a lousy democrat, but that can be excused by some. But Joe has shown that he has no respect for the voters or the system.

If it were my Senate, he'd be caucusing by his damn self.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:55 PM on November 14, 2006


If it were my Senate, he'd be caucusing by his damn self.

And then the Republicans would still control the Senate! Cool!
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 6:43 PM on November 14, 2006


And then the Republicans would still control the Senate! Cool!

And with "I'm not making any promises, I'm an independent Democrat" Joe, do you think they won't, anyway?

His record surely says otherwise.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:56 PM on November 14, 2006


That's why I say fuck him. Force his hand and make him answer to the public.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:58 PM on November 14, 2006


Benny Andajetz: "And with "I'm not making any promises, I'm an independent Democrat" Joe, do you think they won't, anyway?"

What are you talking about? He said on Oct 31st: "This race as an independent has been liberating, and as I’ve said, I will organize with the Democratic caucus, but I will be a very independent-minded Democrat."

His record shows him always caucusing with the Democrats. He will continue to do so, or whatever passes for a recall will happen in Connecticut.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 7:21 PM on November 14, 2006


"That's why I say fuck him. Force his hand and make him answer to the public."

Politics is more complicated than this. I hate Joe too but it's the only way to go for now. As I understand it, by agreeing to caucus with dems (Jeffords too), the dems control the senate and the committees. That's a major deal.
posted by a_day_late at 7:24 PM on November 14, 2006


His record shows him always caucusing with the Democrats.

by agreeing to caucus with dems (Jeffords too), the dems control the senate and the committees.

I understand, and I agree - I'm just hot. The Dems need him on their side. But there's no reason (since he already made his promises) to play nice - send him to the back of the line seniority wise and give the chairmanship to someone else. He is there as an I, after all.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:49 PM on November 14, 2006


*vomits over the word netroots*
posted by mistermoore at 9:17 PM on November 14, 2006


Bovine, what if the voters are stupid? What if the playing field isn't level? What if you have a great message, but the media never runs it? What if incumbents, whatever the hell your message is, just win 80% of the time? What if a lot of things that really are not provable by virtue of these two articles. One thing that may differentiate your analysis is whether you view a candidate as operating in a petrie dish isolated from all other races, or whether a candidate is part of a party and that party presumably has an interest in the success of individual candidates.

Clearly the suggestion here is that party support -- both at the institutional and individual levels -- was lacking. That's a valid intraparty discussion to have. You're saying the voters of Connecticut are never wrong. Well, more than one third of the voters of Connecticut believed in Ned Lamont. So maybe Connecticut can be wrong 40% of the time. Maybe this was the 40% of the time they're wrong.

But you're 100% wrong if you take a single person's analysis from experience and make it 100% responsible for telling the story about the campaign. That's no way to gain "lessons learned" and you know it.

If the antiwar guy can't win in Connecticut, where can he win?

Candidates just as "anti-war" as Lamont did win elsewhere. One of them won the whole state of Virginia.

The question here is more, if the netroots, house-party, e-mail event connected candidate can't win in Connecticut ... maybe this isn't a technique that scales. It seemed to work well in a few Congressional districts. But sure, there are missteps that were made. Broadly, it may be that this sort of campaign leaves you vulnerable to an attack that exploits what you might call isolated feedback loops. You rely on e-mail events and most people never get the e-mail. Another broad potential lesson is that a primary campaign of this sort doesn't transition seamlessly into a general campaign. You have a whole new world of voters to reach and most of your voters don't have a way to reach the people who aren't already receptive. You're starting all over again and this time you only have two months. On a smaller scale, back to the article's domain, you have political connections and goodwill that you've built in the primary, but maybe in the general you need more of that. An insurgent running against an incumbent from his own party is in a very tricky position. There's very little he has to trade.
posted by dhartung at 9:47 PM on November 14, 2006


Some say that Lamont lost because of the Kos kiss-of-death. What's Kos's record now on campaigns? Something like 0 for 23?

Since half of the ActBlue-backed candidates won, You might be thinking of the 1-21 record of the right-wing RedState-backed candidates, who decided to hide their entire fundraising page as soon as the results came in.

Actually, you're not thinking that at all, because you're clearly just trying to troll and had no idea how much better progressive netroots have done than right-wing ones, because as a trolling fuckwit you clearly didn't bother to do the twenty seconds of Googling it took me to verify you're a lazy liar.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:42 AM on November 15, 2006


As for Lieberman and Lamont, it seems that the polls pretty much show "what happened:" Lamont didn't secure enough of the Democratic base. Lieberman "won in a landslide" because Republicans voted for him along with 30% of Democrats. Lamont took the vast majority of the Democratic vote, as well as the non-white vote.

Lieberman won because of a loophole that allowed him to run a second time and stuff the ballot box with Republicans. Anyone who says he's the choice of Connecticut Democrats is naive or a liar. They proved twice in a row he doesn't speak for their party.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:52 AM on November 15, 2006


Lieberman won because of a loophole that allowed him to run a second time and stuff the ballot box with Republicans. Anyone who says he's the choice of Connecticut Democrats is naive or a liar. They proved twice in a row he doesn't speak for their party.

Case closed! Kudos to you, XQUZYPHYR.
posted by a_day_late at 2:09 PM on November 15, 2006


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