Despite these caveats, always contest the district ... and with a re-electable candidate if at all possible.
Every so often, lightning strikes ... and you have to be there to take advantage.
A former Governor blows a stop sign and wipes out a motorcyclist. A Ways and Means chairman gives away a few too many congressional ashtrays, and a no-name wins his seat.
In the average cycle, lightning will strike in one or two of nearly 200 "safe" GOP districts. You have to be there to take advantage.
Not every cycle is an average cycle. Sometimes a tsunami uproots fixtures that "everybody knows" are safely above the tide line. Somebody gives away too many ashtrays, and his party's sitting Speaker of the House gets swept out of office along with 50 other incumbents.
You can't engineer a tsunami ... you can't plan on it ... you can't predict it ... you can't necessarily see it coming 24 hours ahead of time ... but you have to be there to take advantage.
2004 might be a tsunami year. November might arrive with an employment crisis, a hot war, preparations for a military draft and presidential aides frog-marched out of the White House. You just don't know.
The GOP is sitting on a slagheap of creeping corruption, failed leadership, bungled legislation, bad ideas and bad results ... a miserable failure. You never know exactly when The People will catch on. When the mood takes them, anything can happen. Anything. You have to be there to take advantage.
The web should be our friend, making it easier to support "placeholder" candidates with prefab templates. Give our long-shots decent visibility without running them ragged or running them into debt.
Keep them in position without bleeding our funding reservoirs. Give local Dem's something to meet up about. Let them ring a few doorbells and convert a few votes that may come in handy next cycle or the one after that.
Be there to "catch the wave" -- if it comes -- with a few weeks left in the cycle, and pump in money, media and phone solicitation to make it a real contest.
When people are happy where they bank, you can't pay 'em enough to cross the street. When people are angry where they bank, you can't stop 'em from crossing the street ... but you have to be there to take advantage.