Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Not-Quite 50-State Strategy

Bowers on changes at the DNC. Some notes:
  • To an extent, the 50-state strategy has already achieved some of its purpose. State and local parties in deep-red territory are energized and have larger donor rolls. More Democrats hold office; those officeholders will have incentive to monitor the effectiveness of their local party infrastructure. Bowers would argue (and I would agree) that these areas deserve more resources in the coming years, but they will unquestionably be better off now than they would have been with 4 years of a status-quo DNC chair from '04-'08.
  • The 50-state strategy cannot take credit for the nationwide shift in the Presidential race. The Presidential race is largely determined by macro-economic factors; Obama appears to be a uniquely charismatic figure while John Kerry was not, press attitudes about the war shifted, etc.
  • In the time between the 2004 election and Barack Obama's nomination, the DNC's attention was fundamentally less divided. They didn't have a Presidential candidate with whose reelection they needed to concern themselves. It's somewhat natural for there to be a shift in priorities now that there's a new President.
  • A lot depends on how many "swing states", and which ones, the DNC emphasizes. If they shift resources out of a deep-red state like Utah or Oklahoma and into a state where Obama outperformed his national average, like Nevada or Pennsylvania or New Hampshire, that's a mistake. If he instead moves those resources to Florida or Indiana or Missouri, that's more defensible.
  • A certain portion of the local work previously performed by the DNC will likely be picked up by the new "Organizing for America" group.
  • The decision to re-centralize much of the DNC's operation seems like a mistake, but it's hard to tell.
  • Much of the 50-state project involved reviving the Democratic Party in the Interior West. In 2008, the Democratic party grew very quickly in much of the West, while it contracted in most of the South. Thus many of the states that received newfound attention under Dean will likely continue to receiven attention under Obama. North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, and Arizona will all be on Obama's red-to-blue map at least until March of 2012.
In general it seems that the Tim Kaine era at the DNC will be less tightly focused on a handful of swing states than the McCauliffe era, but more tightly focused than the Dean era. Personally I prefer the Dean model, but the impact will probably be marginal outside of the deepest-red states.
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