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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

’50 State Strategy’ Sinks Roots in Red Soil

Kos riffs on US News & World Report’s update on the progress of DNC Chair Howard Dean’s “50-state strategy” and the conflict with the agendas of DCCC’s Rahm Emanuel and DSCC’s Chuck Schumer. Explains Kos:

Folks at the DSCC and DCCC have to think short-term. That’s their job. That’s why we have a DNC — to work towards building a long-term, healthy, viable national party. That there’s friction is perhaps a feature, not a bug of the system…in the long-term, a healthy national Democratic Party will make the jobs of future heads of the DSCC and DCCC much easier.

In the US News article, author Dan Gilgore reports on the DNC’s promising progress in Mississippi, and gives fair vent to the DCCC’s and DSCC’s concern that ’06 campaign funding is being damaged by the DNC’s long-term focus:

Grousing about insufficient funds from the DNC, Emanuel recently told Roll Call “there is no cavalry financially for us.” Emanuel declined interview requests, but DCCC sources say more money should go to Democratic candidates in tight races, not to field organizers in long-shot red states.

The stakes are high indeed, as Gilgore notes:

A big bet. With the future of the Democratic Party at stake, Republicans are watching closely, too. “Dean could wind up looking like a genius eventually,” says a top GOP strategist. “Or this could be the election that could have been.”
…the 50-State Strategy, for the time being, is focused more on keeping or regaining control of state legislatures, which have taken on more national political value because they draw the lines for U.S. House seats. In Mississippi, Democrats control the Legislature but have lost dozens of seats recently. In Arizona, Republicans are three seats away from veto proof majorities in the state House and Senate. The state Democratic Party there has used its DNC field organizers to do aggressive outreach to American Indians and Hispanics, particularly during the huge immigrant rights protests earlier this year. “The DNC has enabled us to become part of the fabric of these communities,” says Arizona party chair David Waid. “There used to be this sense of coming around only when we wanted your vote.”

It’s a tough call, and the article has a lot more to say about the consequences and choices involved in allocating resources short-term vs. long term.

One comment on “’50 State Strategy’ Sinks Roots in Red Soil

  1. Daniel DiRito on

    Dean’s approach is similar to the one he employed when running for the Democratic presidential nomination. I closely followed his campaign and it certainly appeared that he had a network of supporters throughout the country. Many see the current progressive blogosphere as an extension of Dean’s efforts. Regardless, the 2004 Iowa caucus results, which most political observers believe is all about having people on the ground within the state, seemed to indicate that the Dean model had failed. As I’ve attempted to understand the particulars, my suspicion is that the structure in Iowa, and possibly the fifty state structure, simply doesn’t have the depth that is needed to win voters.
    The fact that Dean was a leader in the use of the internet in the 2004 presidential campaign allowed him to amass like minded individuals and gain a significant funding advantage…but it never translated into a groundswell of voters needed to carry state primaries. Dean frequently cites his fundraising efforts, and while they have been successful, many are concerned that his use of the funds may be questionable.
    I’ve previously written that Karl Rove understands the American voter and in so doing realizes that voters are busy and that they ultimately devote minimal time to elections. The notion that Howard Dean’s efforts are an attempt to emulate the Republican strategy may be a misnomer. To assume that Rove believes in a grassroots strategy is naive and speaks to a superficial analysis. While it often appears that the Republicans have grassroots constituencies, I would argue that they actually have “issue” constituencies that Rove has been able to manipulate. By identifying specific issues, he is quickly able to determine the numbers needed to win an election.
    Once the groups are identified, the strategy is to target messages to those groups in order to win their support. The coalition isn’t the result of a groundswell of voters who guide the Party; rather the coalition is the result of shepherding large voting blocks into the Party with narrow messages delivered by co-opted leaders within those specific groups who receive access to power and influence in exchange for delivering the voters. The distinction is subtle but significant.
    read the full article here:


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