Election 2008

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Alex Brandon/AP
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., left, talks with Howard Dean,
the head of the Democratic National Committee.

Democrats Seek to Challenge McCain in Every State

June 24, 2008 09:02 AM
by Christopher Coats
A new campaign strategy gamble by the Democrats seeks to redefine how national elections are run and possibly won.

30-Second Summary

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Spreading its resources across every state instead of focusing on only those that would deliver a large number of electoral votes, the Democratic Party is implementing what has been called the 50-state strategy.

Leaving behind the notion of focusing only on the states necessary to win a slim majority of voters in November—a strategy the party has followed for most of the last 30 years—the Party have expanded their reach, sending staff to every state, including those that have traditionally leaned heavily Republican.

This approach, funded by a lucrative Internet fundraising effort by the Obama campaign, allows the Democratic Party to run ads and compete in areas that will “force Republicans to compete in states they have not had to defend in decades.”

While Democrats admit that there is little hope they will win in “red” states such as Texas and McCain’s home state of Arizona, the Party is hoping that its efforts will force Republicans to divert valuable resources away from swing states such as Pennsylvania.

Emerging from the Howard Dean campaign of 2004, the strategy was implemented as a part of Dean’s platform when he took over the Democratic National Committee in 2005. Following Obama's primary win, the strategy became a joint effort between the Party and the campaign.

Initially criticized by those party leaders who felt sending resources to Republican strongholds would diminish the Party’s chances in battle-ground states, the community approach was first seen to succeed in the party’s winning of a congressional majority in 2006.

However, this is the first time it has been tested on a national level.

Meanwhile, critics outside the party have dismissed the plan as good PR, but unlikely to be effective in November.

Headline Links: The 50-state strategy

Background: Howard Dean’s approach

Reactions: Plan greeted by skepticism

After announcing his new approach, Dean was the subject of criticism from members of his own party including James Carville and former Clinton-advisor Paul Begala, who noted that party money could be better spent. “What he has spent it on, apparently, is just hiring a bunch of staff people to wander around Utah and Mississippi and pick their nose.” Begala has since warmed to the idea.

Opinion & Analysis: Charlie Cook, Neil Foote and Roger Simon

Reference: The polls

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