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Thursday, July 27, 2006

TNR on Lieberman, Schumer, Clinton, Dean and the Netroots

The New Republic has a couple of interesting items today. First up, is a post by Michael Crowley (who I've spent some time with on the campaign trail and think of as a standup guy). He says the scenario of Joe Lieberman running on the Republican ticket should be scratched off the list because of a quote from NRSC spokesman Brian Nick. While it is an interesting quote, Crowley seems to forget that DC committees don't choose candidates, the states do.

Since Crowley mostly writes on Democratic politics, it is understandable how he might have missed this point, given the fact the DSCC under Chuck Schumer has specialized in annointing candidates (giving Schumer the lowest netroots approval rating of any Democratic leader). But the Connecticut scenario should remain on the table until Jodi Rell says it is off, it is her office that seems to be leading the push to dump Alan Schlesinger (AKA: Alan Gold). As the highest ranking member of Connecticut's GOP, any move for a new candidate will at the very least need her blessing and it is doubtful GOP Chairman George Gallo would make a push without the word coming down from above. So let's not scratch this off the list quite yet, especially considerring that there has been little news of Lieberman's effort to secure signatures and getting 10,000 to 15,000 people to sign something takes a huge effort -- which may be floundering.

The second is an article by Tom Edsell who recently joined the TNR team from the Washington Post. He begins:

During a recent appearance on "The Daily Show," Jon Stewart asked Howard Dean about his controversial "50-state strategy," under which the Democratic National Committee (DNC) is allocating significant resources to parties in red states as well as blue ones. How many states, Stewart wanted to know, do critics of Dean's strategy want the Democrats to focus on? Dean replied, "If they had their choice, probably one--New York."

If that was a shot at Hillary Clinton, consider it retaliation.

It might have been a shot a Clinton, but was probably more of a shot at Senator Chuck Schumer who has lead the attempt to force the DNC to subsidize the DSCC and DCCC. Edsell sees the fifty state strategy as positioning for 2008 -- which it is to the extent 2008 is not 2006 and the entire premise is to stop focusing just on the next election and begin focusing on the long-term health of the Democratic Party.

The rest of the article focuses on the netroots (Dean) vs. the DLC (Clinton) in positioning for 2008. When considerring a longer-term approach, I think it is important to note that the DLC was founded in early 1985 with the goal of gaming the 1988 nomination, something those voices in the netroots who don't want to think about '08 until '06 should keep in mind.

Edsell's article is important because he gets a Clinton strategist to say that the Billary plan is to circumvent (read duplicate) the work of the DNC -- just as the 50 state strategy investment will be paying dividends. In other words, the key thing to realize about Hillary '08 is not that she will raise more money, but that she will be a more expensive candidate because her lack of a team approach will result in wasteful campaign spending.

Edsell downplays the potential for the netroots to unite in 2008:
In the short term, Clinton's strategy of dividing and conquering the blogosphere will be abetted by the nearimpossibility of Web-based Dean loyalists uniting around a single candidate in 2007. Zack Exley--formerly organizing director for, an Internet specialist on the Dean campaign, and director of online organizing and communications for Kerry-Edwards 2004--puts it this way: "I think Hillary is going to surprise everyone with the netroots. Every candidate who is flirting with the idea of running is trying to do it like Dean did it. You could have ten candidates trying to be the insurgent dark horse. All those candidates are going to split the netroots, leaving Hillary to be the standout." The netroots have simply become too large to be the exclusive agent of any one candidate. With her front-runner status, Clinton doesn't need to actually win the blogosphere outright; she just needs to make sure no one else does. And odds are there will be no repeat of 2003, when the liberal blogosphere rallied overwhelmingly to one contender.
If Clinton's strategy for the netroots is not to win, but just not to lose, I think she will lose. The problem of DLC candidates attempting not to lose is a huge problem for the Democratic Party. If Clinton runs to win, Peter Daou might be able to make things interesting. The netroots don't need to unite around a single candidate, but instead make the primaries an effort to weed out the "
triangulators, equivocators, and compromisers" -- which means Clinton, Bayh, Vilsack and Warner. The key for the netroots is not to stop Clinton as a personification of a problem, but to bring attention and focus to the problem itself which will inevitably lead to the conclusion that Clinton is unfit to lead our Party in 2008.

While there has been a great deal of ink (rightly) devoted to the subject of the similarities between Joe Lieberman and Hillary Clinton, I don't think Connecticut's primary is the most telling when it comes to 2008. Rather, I think it was Montana's Senate Primary that included a candidate most similary to Clinton in terms of positioning, name ID, finance, and strategy. That candidate lost -- by 26 pts -- thanks mostly to a redefining of the word 'electability' to focus upon contrast. The old DNC training manuels on message pushed the goal of a campaign being
concise, clear, consistent, and convincing. But the people being trained by DFA's new Night School program are also being asked to focus on a message be 'contrastive' -- which is a major advancement from the DLC days of attempting to blur differences by running as GOP lite.

This has thrown a wrench in Billary's 2008 plans. Their 'electability' focus seemed to rely upon Tim Kaine to Bob Casey, Jr. to Hillary Clinton. But Kaine didn't get the post-election spin necessary to catapult the idea and Casey's bid has been largely over-shadowed by the candidates who are inspiring people.

If the netroots can continue to redefine the definition of electability, then there won't be an initial need to fully unite around a single candidate, because an acceptable candidate will emerge.

Much like the fifty state strategy focus of sustainability instead of crisis manegement each cycle, a redefinition of electability will not just stop Clinton, but will stop the underlying problem of DLC candidates. Just stopping Clinton is as self-defeating as Clinton's plan to win at the expense of the Democratic Party, but a focus upon inspiration and contrast means that not only will Democrats be stronger in 2008, but the Democratic brand will be stronger in the long-run.

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