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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Dems Should Modify ’55 Percent Rule’

In the wake of Paul Hackett’s near upset in the Ohio 2nd district congressional race, Ron Brownstein’s latest LA Times column, “Campaign Battlefield May Grow,” features an interesting discusssion about Democratic strategy in upcoming congressional campaigns. Brownstein’s column centers on the debate between internet activists and Democratic Party leaders over how much money should be invested in races in GOP stronghold districts, which Hackett’s campaign suggests may not be so far out of reach for aggressive Dem candidates.
Both sides offer compelling arguments, which are well-presented by Brownstein. But Hackett’s near win does indicate that the “55 percent rule,” in which the Democratic Party withholds significant cash from races for districts the GOP won in the previous election with 55 percent of the vote, should be modified. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) seems to be open to a compromise. As Brownstein notes:

He said he had rejected the traditional milepost of only contesting seats where the GOP incumbent polled 55% of the vote or less. He said the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee would try to recruit and fund challengers in “every open seat, every seat where an individual Republican incumbent has an [ethics] issue,” and in districts where Bush’s performance fell short of expectations in 2004.
“We’ve got to get to 50 [challengers],” Emanuel said. “That’s my magic number. But I can’t say, ‘Go to Texas and take on a guy who has 80% [support] in a district where Bush got 78%.’ I am only going to have ‘X’ dollars.”

Meanwhile, The internet activists, led by Swing State and Kos won’t be sitting around waiting for the Party to embrace their broader vision of electoral victory. Instead, they will be raising serious dough for more dark horse candidates in the months ahead — one more reason why 2006 is shaping up as one of the more interesting congressional campaigns in a long time.