In his lengthy address to supporters last week, Bernie Sanders didn’t make specific demands of Democrats, but he condemned the party for having “turned its back on dozens of states in this country.” The senator insisted, “The Democratic Party needs a 50-state strategy. We may not win in every state tomorrow but we will never win unless we recruit good candidates and develop organizations that can compete effectively in the future.”
Given Sanders’ comments about the South a few months ago, he may not be the ideal messenger for this message, but if the senator is counting on Hillary Clinton’s campaign agreeing with his vision, he should be pleased with the latest Democratic developments. The Huffington Post reported over the weekend:
Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign will maintain staff in all 50 states during the general election with an eye toward overwhelming Republicans in the fall and rebuilding the Democratic Party’s infrastructure thereafter. […]Many states in which Clinton will be employing staff and spending resources will almost assuredly vote against her anyway. She could end up wasting money that is needed to win swing states. But her staffers say the investment is well worth it.
Marlon Marshall, the Clinton team’s director of state campaigns and political engagement, told the Huffington Post, “This is something that needs to happen every presidential cycle. It needs to be sustained. And I think if we continue to do that, we will help build the party long-term.”
That’s always been the challenge with implementing a 50-state strategy: a candidate, eager to succeed, wants to invest limited resources where they’ll produce the largest short-term gains. If you’re a Democratic presidential nominee, and your focus is on winning, do you divert money from Ohio in order to help build the party in Oklahoma? Isn’t it more important to win the race you’re in and work on future cycles in the future?
The problem with that line of thinking, of course, is that there will never be an ideal time to do the hard work in states that aren’t currently competitive. In 2016, Clinton and her team believe they can do both: win the election with staff in literally every state, while laying a stronger foundation for future cycles.
Clinton’s plan is already receiving praise from the Democrat most closely associated with the 50-state strategy: Howard Dean, the former DNC chair and former Vermont governor.
In a piece published yesterday by CNN, Dean wrote, “The plan that Clinton began to execute this week is a 20-year strategy to create a new vision for America. To fulfill it, she is dispatching staff to all 50 states and is working to identify and organize supporters in each one. There are a lot of reasons why adopting a 50-state strategy is both the right thing and the smart thing for Clinton to do.”