Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Democratic Party Falling Apart

According to the Washington Post, DNC Chair Howard Dean and DCCC Chair Rahm Emanuel don't speak anymore. Emanuel, Nancy Pelosi, and the Congressional wing of the Democratic party seem to think that Dean is an idiot, and that he's wasting money on the 'Fifty State Strategy.' They're increasingly frustrated that Dean is redirecting money that has traditionally gone to Get Out the Vote efforts - money which they need to make up.

It's clear that the Democrats are suffering across the board from their disorganization and lack of unity. They do not agree on Iraq, on election themes and messaging, on impeaching the President, on Murtha vs. Hoyer for 'Majority Leader,' on fiscal policy, on the role of the Netroots and the direction of the party, or on how to win elections. You would think that with the greatest opportunity in 14 years to enhance their position in Washington, they could bury their differences and work together to win. But you would be wrong.

If Democrats fail to win at least a House majority this year, the bloodletting after Election Day will be fierce. There are so many lingering brushfires that even victory can only help contain them. If Democrats head down to defeat again, Dean, Emanuel, Pelosi, Murtha, Schumer, Reid, and many others will all be called to account. The only question is whether they will wait until election day, or whether some heads will start to roll before.

Democrats Scrambling To Organize Voter Turnout
By Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 2, 2006; A01

Top Democrats are increasingly concerned that they lack an effective plan to turn out voters this fall, creating tension among party leaders and prompting House Democrats to launch a fundraising campaign aimed exclusively at mobilizing Democratic partisans.

At a meeting last week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) criticized Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean for not spending enough party resources on get-out-the-vote efforts in the most competitive House and Senate races, according to congressional aides who were briefed on the exchange. Pelosi -- echoing a complaint common among Democratic lawmakers and operatives -- has warned privately that Democrats are at risk of going into the November midterm elections with a voter-mobilization plan that is underfunded and inferior to the proven turnout machine run by national Republicans.

The Senate and House campaign committees are creating their own get-out-the-vote operations instead, using money that otherwise would fund television advertising and other election-year efforts. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) -- who no longer speaks to Dean because of their strategic differences -- is planning to ask lawmakers and donors to help fund a new turnout program run by House Democrats. He has recruited Michael Whouley, a specialist in Democratic turnout, to help oversee it.

"I am not waiting for anyone anymore who said they were going to" build a turnout operation, Emanuel said. "It has got to be done."

Many Democrats said that despite a favorable political climate and record-setting fundraising, the campaign to recapture the House and Senate could fall short if the organizational problems persist. "What the party really needs is to get serious about local, volunteer-based" operations, said Jack Corrigan, a longtime Democratic operative. "The last-minute, throw-money-at-it approach . . . does not really solve the fundamental failure to organize that is there. The DNC is moving in the right direction, but needs to do more, fast," he said.

Democrats consider the 2006 elections their best chance in a decade to recapture the House, with widespread unease over Iraq and with Republicans lagging in polls. Rep. Charles B. Rangel (N.Y.), who would become chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee if Democrats picked up the 15 seats needed to regain the majority, said in an interview yesterday that he will quit Congress if the party does not capitalize on an unparalleled opportunity.

Democrats' organizing has been slowed by a philosophical dispute between Dean, who argues that the party needs to rebuild its long-term infrastructure nationwide while trying to win back the House and Senate, and congressional Democrats, who want to use party resources for an all-out push this fall.

Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, is less concerned about the Dean approach than House leaders are. "We are obviously concerned," a senior Senate Democratic strategist said, but Schumer moved ahead two months ago with a plan to fortify get-out-the-vote operations in 15 states, including targeting disgruntled Republicans. Democrats sympathetic to Dean said that Emanuel and Pelosi are trying to blame the DNC chairman in case they do not win back the House.

Republicans are far more united in their approach, building on what both sides said worked well in 2002 and 2004. They are routing all turnout efforts through the Republican National Committee, which had $45 million in the bank -- four times as much as the DNC -- as of June 30.

The RNC runs a strategy known in political circles as the 72-hour program. It focuses on using phone calls, polling data and personal visits to identify would-be GOP voters and their top issues early in the cycle. The information is then fed into a database, allowing party leaders to flood them with pro-Republican messages through e-mail, regular mail and local volunteers. On Election Day, they receive a phone call or a visit to remind them to vote.

A GOP strategist involved in the effort said the RNC did a post-election review of every person it contacted, looking at how many times they were reached, which issues were discussed and whether they voted. This information was supplied to about 30 targeted states earlier this year, and RNC officials track the states to see whether they are reaching goals for adding new names and contacting old ones.

Both parties credit this program with putting Bush over the top in Ohio in 2004 by exceeding GOP turnout projections in key parts of the state. "I think the best 21st-century turnout operation was Bush-Cheney '04," said Thomas M. Reynolds (N.Y.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. But the political landscape has changed dramatically. Conservatives are less enthused about GOP lawmakers, polls show, and therefore may be less likely to vote in high numbers.

...Compounding concerns, liberal donors such as financier George Soros, who helped fund a $100 million for a get-out-vote program in 2004, have soured on what they regard as short-term fixes offered by party leaders, several major donors said. They refused to fund efforts similar to one by Americans Coming Together, which spent more than $100 million to identify and turn out voters in 2004. ACT helped increase turnout significantly in key states, including Ohio, but donors thought most of their money was wasted because the Bush-Cheney operation did better...

It's really amazing to think that they have let things get this bad.

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