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Assessing Howard Dean's Fifty State Strategy and the 2006 Midterm Elections

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Abstract

Throughout the 2006 midterm elections, the press wrote about the conflict over campaign strategy between Howard Dean, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and his counterparts in Congress, Chuck Schumer and Rahm Emmanuel, the heads of the Senate and House campaigns, respectively. Schumer and Emmanuel, as well as other Beltway strategists, disagreed with Dean's "fifty state strategy" to build the party across the nation, arguing that DNC funds should focus on the races targeted by the congressional parties. This essay explains, in part, why Dean's popularity suffers in Washington - even after decisive Democratic victories - and why he continues to have support outside the Beltway. It also provides preliminary evidence that Dean's fifty-state strategy paid off in terms of increasing the Democratic vote share beyond the bounce of a national tide favoring Democrats.

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... (Sullivan, 2005) Echoing Sullivan's words, the netroots organized a nationwide campaign to name Howard Dean as the new chair of the Democratic National Committee, an effort premised on Dean's controversial "50 State Strategy" which massively reallocated resources through the state party affiliate system. (Kamarck 2006) Two years later, one of the largest campaign consulting firms behind the wave of Henke has similarlly noted that one major difference between the progressive and conservative netroots today is that many progressive bloggers hold the position full-time, as opposed to top conservative bloggers who are also political consultants, media figures, or lawyers 13 Whether these specific efforts prove successful or not, the parallels to the netroots activity in 2004 are illustrative. Along with the advantages that accrue to interest groups when mobilizing opposition, and the stochastic increase in opportunities for innovative campaign strategies among high-profile "darkhorse" campaigns, the longer a party coalition endures electoral defeat, the greater the calls for "firing the coaches." ...
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