Going into the 2006 midterms, then-chairman of the Democratic National Committee Howard Dean, pushed an ambitious plan that the party establishment strongly disliked. It was called the “50-state strategy.”
The party believed limited DNC resources needed to be invested in key districts and swing states, but Dean envisioned a bottom-up party infrastructure literally everywhere in the country. The idea that the party would spend money on a ground game in non-competitive “red” states was seen as the height of madness, and the 50-state strategy led to some notorious shouting matches between Dean and then-DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel.
In the end, Dean executed his plan, and that year, Democrats won back the House and Senate. Barack Obama largely emulated the 50-state model two years later, en route to the White House.
And six years later, the right is starting to think Dean’s model is worth emulating.
Karl Rove offered some advice to his fellow Republicans about what the party needs to do to prevent last Tuesday’s election from happening again on Sean Hannity’s radio show Monday. On the list: when it comes to engaging voters, be more like former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean.
“I hate to say it, but we need to copy what Howard Dean did,” he told Hannity. “And that is make our ground game in all 50 states.” […]
Rove told Hannity that the lack of GOP ground game made a big difference in other states. “We didn’t have a ground game in a lot of these states with Senate races and so we lost North Dakota by 3,300 votes,” he said. He added the lack of ground game also cost the GOP a chance at winning the Senate seat in Montana. “We need to have a better ground game in all 50 states,” Rove said.
Of course, Rove’s ability to think strategically has come into doubt recently – his spectacular 2012 failures have raised widespread doubts about his basic political competence – so Republicans may pause before acting too quickly on Rove’s advice.
But it’s nevertheless striking to see Howard Dean’s vision become the bipartisan standard six years after a whole lot of folks thought he was foolish for even proposing the 50-state strategy.