Friday, January 23, 2009

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due: Obama, Dean, and the 50 State Strategy

The 2007 Harkin Steak Fry was the day that Iowa's Democratic Base realized that Barack Obama was ready. It was that moment that the organization the Obama campaign had built up throughout the summer became visible.

The supporters of all the candidates had arrived to stake out their spots to watch the speakers. Obama held a rally across the street from the Steak Fry and then the crowd, led by the thumping drums of the Des Moines Isiserettes, paraded down the road and into the venue.

The sight turned the heads of every person who was there supporting another candidate. I am sure a great majority of them they had to second guess the candidate of their choice at that moment. Throughout the rest of the campaign leading up to the caucuses and the general election the organization from the Obama campaign was amazing.

However, Howard Dean deserves some credit for the gains nationwide for the Democratic Party the past few years he served as chair. Dean established the 50 state strategy that helped Democrats win in reddest of red places like Idaho and Utah.

Now that Tim Kaine has taken over the DNC there are some questions if the 50 state strategy is going to continue.

Howard Dean was a rare political creature -- a person who embraced decentralization. The new crew in power is far more conventional, resorting to an old-school centralized power structure. Democrats have the White House, and perhaps it's understandable that they want to take a proven model (the Obama campaign) and begin building what will eventually morph into Obama's reelection campaign. But given the size of Obama's list and his fundraising prowess, it shouldn't have to be an either-or proposition.
John Deeth says that even though Dean is gone, it doesn't mean the idea behind the 50 state strategy is...
The 50 state MINDSET certainly won't be abandoned. Obama, Plouffe, Axelrod, et al. know how they won. There'll be a 50 state strategy of some sort, but it just might not be as much under the auspices and funding of the DNC. Where there's gaps, the locals will probably have to carry more of the load.

The main question is resources. Organizing needs organizers and organizers need to get paid. Not much, but enough to survive certainly, and even a pittance adds up when you multiply it by hundreds or thousands. (And Democratic Party political correctness being what it is, a health care package is de riguer.)

As for Dean himself, his election in early 2005 was a watershed moment for the netroots, a break from the Terry McAuliffe era of 18 states and high-dollar donors. It's fair to say Obama won in 2008 by running Dean's 2004 campaign: grassroots, people intensive, and funded by small donors.

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