Obama, Party Builder

By now it's old news that Obama is making efforts in states traditionally written off by Democrats, advertising and sending field staff to places like ...
by | June 27, 2008
 

Obama_hq_march_27_08 By now it's old news that Obama is making efforts in states traditionally written off by Democrats, advertising and sending field staff to places like Indiana. I think there are Democrats who believe, or hope, that Obama can actually win in such places -- count me as skeptical -- but surely no one believes he has any real shot in the real GOP strongholds like Texas.

Nonetheless, he's putting money into Texas, the Houston Chronicle reports.

Obama's 50-state strategy, [Obama's campaign manager] said, is designed to help the party increase its majority on Capitol Hill and to try to regain control of state legislatures, including Texas, where the Democrats need to pick up just five House seats to control the chamber.

Putting aside the question of whether Obama has a realistic chance of expanding the Democrats' usual Northeast-Pacific Coast-pray for the Upper Midwest electoral map, a couple of things are striking about this.

The first is that all of Obama's moves have been a vindication, of sorts, for DNC Chairman Howard Dean's much-maligned "50-state strategy." Lots of Democrats complained a couple of years ago that Dean's decision to put money into red states meant squandering resources that could be better used in competitive territory. Obama begs to differ, and the lack of criticism for his similar moves speaks to Democratic optimism this year.

The other thing it demonstrates is that Obama intends to be a real party builder, seeking not just an individual victory but a stronger team to work with. (Remember that he became a big media phenomenon post-2004 convention with his combo tour promoting his second book and campaigning for Democrats in 2006.) Political team building might seem like just common sense, but it's not something recent Democrats have been accustomed to.

Bill Clinton's triangulations might have been the only way for a Democrat to win back in the 1990s, but he did almost nothing to help build the party. He tried to reshape it in his own image, but he wasn't a great one for helping out down-ballot colleagues. And certainly plenty of Democrats still blame him for the collapse of the party's 40-year hold on the U.S. House.

On the GOP side, of course, it's the opposite situation. The RNC is in better shape, financially, than John McCain, and McCain is counting on party loyalty, funds and operational strength to help him across the finish line.

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