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50 States, One Bad Idea

PoliticsThe Hotline On Call has an interesting take on the Dean/DNC 50-state strategy.

[Dean’s] argument was this: While the DSCC and DCCC’s role is rightfully incumbent protection, Dean, on the other hand, was elected chair to tend to overall health of the party. And that includes his responsibility to hundreds of non-federal candidates as well. His investment in state parties, Dean promised Reid and House Min. Leader Nancy Pelosi, would pay off and the benefits would accrue to Democrats at all levels.

Though the DNC has raised a record amount of hard money for an off-year cycle, it trails the RNC by several car lengths. Overall, the GOP will have more to spend on its races in the fall as the DNC has sent much of its money to state counterparts. (It’s not as if the money is going into a hole (emphasis mine). The DNC organizers are using it to find new voters and to update voter files and prepare coordinated campaigns for 2006.)

Actually, it’s exactly as if it’s going into a hole.

You see, the Dean strategy of sending all of his limited federal funds to states (who can still use non-federal funds to help those “non-federal candidates”) means they have very few federal dollars left to help the federal candidates.

Deans notion of what the DNC should be doing was exactly right in a pre-BCRA world. Post-BCRA, however, it’s a monumentally stupid thing to do. You have limited federal funds to spend on federal candidates, and you’re sending them all to Topeka, Kansas for party building. There are a couple of problems with that.

1. You’ll never have enough resources to counter the prevailing mood of Kansas and elect Democrats in a state that red.

2. Now that you’ve blown all of your money in Topeka, when the GOP nominees, the NRSC, the NRCC, and the RNC begin beating the hell out of your candidates in Ohio and Florida, you’ve got nothing to counter that attack. Your field operative in Topeka, with his shiny new voter file and additional voters is going to do you precious little good against an air-war in a swing state.

Reid is right to be worried about the midterms for that reason. Joe Trippi was right when he told Dean a 50-state strategy is a really bad idea. Unfortunately, Dean didn’t want to hear it then, and still isn’t listening now.

Written by Michael Turk