Where's the Plan, Democrats?
Dean believes such criticism is much ado about nothing. "We're going to put a lot of money into House and Senate races," Dean said at a recent fundraiser. "More than has ever been put into a nonpresidential year." On the morning of Busby's election in California, Dean was meeting to decide which House and Senate races to invest in. The DNC typically looks to pour money into contests where they can get the most bang for the buck. As of late June, the list was still being finalized.
No matter what the party does, left-leaning groups aligned with the Democrats seem equipped to pick up some of the slack. Even with the loss of ACT, the progressive groups remain active--and they're preparing for '06. Labor plans to spend more money than in any off-year election, targeting millions of its members at the door, on the phone and at work in key battleground states. EMILY's List will add $45 million, courting 2.5 million prochoice women in eight swing states. MoveOn.org's 3 million members will make GOTV phone calls in fifteen to twenty competitive House districts. The Sierra Club is courting environmentally conscious voters in the exurbs of key swing cities like Philadelphia, Columbus and Cincinnati. And the coalition that holds roughly thirty of these groups together, America Votes, has grown from a staff of five to eighty and from a budget of $2 million to $13 million, with offices in nine battleground states.
An organized progressive movement, however, is no substitute for a strong Democratic Party. "People in DC need to understand that the ground game has to be a permanent game," Dean says. "That's why the Republicans are so good at it." A centralized, top-down Republican Party in 2004 out-organized a Democratic operation with many moving parts. Officials at the DNC talk about stealing the Republican playbook. But in reality Dean is performing a difficult juggling act, devolving power to the states while trying to win respect for his long-term vision inside the Beltway. "The number-one sport in Washington is to take shots at the DNC chair," the Democratic operative jokes.
Dean's 50 State Strategy could be the blueprint for his party's revival. But winning elections--particularly this November--would help, too.