August 12, 2005

Howard Dean's 50 State Strategy Will Fail

Patrick Haynes has an interesting column in the New Hampshire Union-Leader on why Howard Dean's 50-State Strategy will fail:

There is a reason Democrats haven't spent a great deal of time, energy and resources in states like Mississippi and Utah in recent elections, just as Republicans have largely ignored, say, Vermont. Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman would love to make next year's Vermont open seat Senate race competitive by dumping hundreds of operatives and millions of dollars up there. But not only would such an effort be for naught, it would also rob genuinely competitive races of those resources. Same for Dean's Democratic National Committee. Imagine all the DNC's resources for 2006 are a pie. Dean could cut that pie into 20 pieces and give healthy portions to the truly competitive states. Or he could cut the pie into 50 smaller portions and give every state a little piece. By choosing to distribute small pieces to more states, Dean might starve the candidates that can make the best use of resources. And the DNC's pie is rather small to start with. While the Republicans have raised over $62 million through July of this year, Dean's DNC has raised just over $31 million. And whereas the Republicans have over $34 million in cash on hand, Dean's DNC has only $9.6 million. The RNC has more money on hand than Dean has raised all year. Now more than ever the DNC needs to target its resources to achieve maximum impact, not spread them thin.

There is another practical problem with Dean's "50-State Strategy." There aren't competitive federal races in 50 states next year. Only five states will have competitive U.S. Senate races. And as few as 10 additional states, perhaps as many as 20, will have competitive House races. Will Dean really exhaust a small pot of resources on states without races?

Dean's strategy also misses a bigger problem. There is a lot of talk about the nation being divided down the middle politically. This is true. But it's true because the Democrat Party is bleeding members. In 1987, 51 percent of all voters were registered Democrats, while only 33 percent were registered Republicans. Today, the parties are dead even at 37 percent to 37 percent (with 26 percent unaffiliated). So what does Chairman Dean do? We all know the lines: "I hate Republicans and everything they stand for," "a lot of them have never made an honest living in their lives," "they're basically a white, Christian party." Dean doesn't consider these gaffes. In a recent interview with the liberal magazine The American Prospect, Dean said, "You know, I speak probably a little more, with some hyperbole, which most people in politics do. But I'm not going to back down because what I'm saying is true. So, sure, I can choose my words more carefully, but believe me, I'm going to be as blunt and in-your-face as I need to be."

Now consider those Democrat officeholders and office-seekers in Republican states. They can't win on a message of unrestrained belligerence. After first thinning their resources, Dean has yoked them with rhetorical baggage that damages their electability even further. To many red-state elected Democrats, Dean is about as welcome as a Wal-Mart Superstore. On a recent trip to Georgia, not one of the six Democrat state officeholders appeared with Dean. Democrat governors in predominantly Republican states such as Tennessee, Kansas and South Carolina all pleaded "scheduling conflicts" when Dean headlined events in their backyards. What does it say about Chairman Dean's vision and strategy if this is how successful Democrats in Republican states receive him?

This is an outstanding, thought-provoking column on political strategy.
It is troubling that there are Democratic politicians who do not want to be seen publicly with the chairman of their own party. However, it is certainly understandable. Howard Dean means controversy. He is not well liked by the general public and his foot-in-mouth syndrome can lead to some embarrassing moments(and, of course, campaign opposition ads!).
I have questioned the selection of Howard Dean as the head of the DNC since it was first announced that he was under consideration. While Howard Dean's heated brand of politics may excite the far left of the Democratic base, it does nothing for the moderates in the party. Until the Democrats remember that there are moderates in its party count, the Democrats are going to continue having problems solidifying and expanding their base.
| |

<< Home