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Sat Jan 28, 2012, 05:41 AM

Do you believe in a 50-State Strategy?

A fifty state strategy is a political strategy which aims for progress in all states of the United States of America, rather than conceding certain states as "unwinnable". In a presidential campaign, it is usually implemented as an appeal to a broad base of the American public in an attempt to win, even if marginally, every state, since even a marginal victory is effectively total victory for electoral purposes. It can also refer to an overall long-term strategy for a political movement such as a political party.

This strategy is very ambitious and, when used for a specific election, is typically abandoned as the election day draws nearer. In the vast majority of cases, winning a state's popular vote for president or senator even by a small margin means the state's entire representation in the election goes to the victor without being divided.[1] A fifty state strategy requires a campaign to spend valuable resources in a rival's strongest states, when those resources could instead be concentrated in swing states that will become a total win or a total loss based on only a small difference in popular votes.

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Howard Dean pursued an explicit Democratic "50-State Strategy" as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, putting resources into building a Democratic Party presence even where Democrats had been thought unlikely to win federal positions, in hopes that getting Democrats elected to local and state positions, and increasing awareness of Democrats in previously conceded areas, will result in growing successes in future elections. Democrats who supported the strategy have said that abandoning red states as lost causes only allowed the Republican Party to grow even stronger in areas where it was unchallenged, resulting in lopsided losses for Democrats in even more races.[2]

During the 2008 United States presidential election, Barack Obama attempted a form of the fifty state strategy to reach into deep red states to try to flip them. This was largely based on Obama's appeal during the primaries in very Republican states, like the Deep South, and the Great Plains states.[3] In September, Obama scaled back his 50-state strategy, abandoning Alaska and North Dakota and reducing staff in Georgia and Montana. John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin made winning Alaska very unlikely, and she also had much support in North Dakota[4] Obama was ultimately able to win Virginia and Indiana, two states that had not voted Democratic since 1964, and North Carolina, last won by a Democrat in 1976.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifty-state_strategy


Do you think a 50-State Strategy is an effective presidential political campaign strategy? Do you think Team Obama will attempt a 50-State Strategy in 2012? Do you think they should attempt a 50-State Strategy, why or why not?

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Reply Do you believe in a 50-State Strategy? (Original post)
ellisonz Jan 2012 OP
dimbear Jan 2012 #1
DCKit Jan 2012 #2
ellisonz Jan 2012 #11
limpyhobbler Jan 2012 #3
DCBob Jan 2012 #4
Cosmocat Jan 2012 #5
ellisonz Jan 2012 #13
Cosmocat Jan 2012 #20
Liberal_Stalwart71 Jan 2012 #24
JNelson6563 Feb 2012 #34
ellisonz Feb 2012 #35
CanonRay Jan 2012 #6
ellisonz Jan 2012 #14
CanonRay Jan 2012 #17
sofa king Jan 2012 #7
Proud Liberal Dem Jan 2012 #9
ellisonz Jan 2012 #12
Liberal_Stalwart71 Jan 2012 #25
ellisonz Jan 2012 #26
3waygeek Feb 2012 #41
ellisonz Feb 2012 #43
3waygeek Feb 2012 #44
ellisonz Feb 2012 #45
Proud Liberal Dem Jan 2012 #8
ellisonz Jan 2012 #15
denem Jan 2012 #10
ellisonz Jan 2012 #16
Drunken Irishman Jan 2012 #18
ellisonz Jan 2012 #19
davidpdx Feb 2012 #38
renie408 Jan 2012 #21
ellisonz Jan 2012 #22
Liberal_Stalwart71 Jan 2012 #23
tallahasseedem Jan 2012 #27
libodem Jan 2012 #28
ellisonz Jan 2012 #29
libodem Jan 2012 #31
quaker bill Jan 2012 #30
bemildred Feb 2012 #32
rocktivity Feb 2012 #33
ellisonz Feb 2012 #36
joshcryer Feb 2012 #37
UCmeNdc Feb 2012 #39
Alexander Feb 2012 #40
Generic Brad Feb 2012 #42

Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Sat Jan 28, 2012, 05:49 AM

1. No, I don't believe in it because it wastes money. Lying and saying you're going to try

it is just as effective.

Watch for that strategy.

On both sides.

Hey, it's politics.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Sat Jan 28, 2012, 05:53 AM

2. +1 I believe in Dr. Dean too.

 

I guess it's magical thinking.

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Response to DCKit (Reply #2)

Sat Jan 28, 2012, 12:21 PM

11. I don't think...

...there's anything magical about thinking we should be attacking on all fronts rather than just swamping a few swing states.

I fear they're going to abandon large swaths of the country entirely.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Sat Jan 28, 2012, 06:05 AM

3. yes

we ought not abandon whole states. Campaign season is not just about one election, it also builds the community of people in the grassroots of the party.

That said though, the presidential candidates and their money are always going to make their own decision.

But the party and its money should not abandon any state totally.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Sat Jan 28, 2012, 07:28 AM

4. Yes, but it needs to be targeted and prioritized.

Clearly some states are hopeless but it still is useful to have some activities there just to keep them honest.

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Response to DCBob (Reply #4)

Sat Jan 28, 2012, 08:24 AM

5. That is right, what had happened by 2006

was that the democrats had allowed the republicans to box them into a situation where there were only about 18-20 states where they were competitive overall - it left a VERY small window for a EV presidential win, and left too many toss up congressional districts and senate seats unsupported.

You have to be practical and not throw good money after bad, but you DO have to compete in the toss up areas.

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Response to Cosmocat (Reply #5)

Sat Jan 28, 2012, 02:54 PM

13. I happen to think...

...that local organizations can be built on a shoe-string budget and made to be self-sustaining. But if we don't build up local Democratic parties, we will only have weak state parties. I don't expect them to throw good money after bad, but I expect them to throw a bone to all Democrats, even in Wyoming.

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Response to ellisonz (Reply #13)

Mon Jan 30, 2012, 07:43 AM

20. absolutely

elections cycle. Some years the winds are blowing with you, some years they are blowing against you.

You have to have the framework in place to withstand the tough years as best as possible, and be able to max out the good years.

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Response to ellisonz (Reply #13)

Mon Jan 30, 2012, 03:43 PM

24. The smartest post in this thread!!

 

That's exactly right!!!

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Response to ellisonz (Reply #13)

Wed Feb 1, 2012, 02:25 PM

34. It certainly can be done

But there has to be at least a core group in every county, willing to be boots on the ground. Every state is different, as is every county. Some have never really had much of an organization and need to be shown how to build one.

But, you can give an organization all the necessary tools and if there isn't anyone willing to make use of them, it won't make a difference.

Julie

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Response to JNelson6563 (Reply #34)

Wed Feb 1, 2012, 08:43 PM

35. Agreed.

The key thing is trained organizers to involve the local community in a lateral, and not top-down fashion.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Sat Jan 28, 2012, 08:44 AM

6. There should be a 4000 county strategy.

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Response to CanonRay (Reply #6)

Sat Jan 28, 2012, 02:55 PM

14. That's a brilliant way of phrasing it.

Big on that idea.

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Response to ellisonz (Reply #14)

Sat Jan 28, 2012, 04:13 PM

17. I used it in a speech

to the Colorado State convention in 2008. Thanks.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Sat Jan 28, 2012, 08:47 AM

7. Yes, especially this year.

The President's own reelection has been in the bag for over a year now, by keeping a vote on a tax-cut extension out of reach until 2013. His approval rating will continue to climb all year, particularly after his disgusting opponent is finally selected. I'm sticking with my prediction of 409 electoral votes. (Edit: Yes, I have downgraded it from "500-plus," though I still hope to see that.)

What the President needs, so that he can get something done in his second term, is a Democratic House and a filibuster-proof supermajority in the Senate.

Screwing down the Senate ain't gonna happen this time. Democrats did so well in 2006 that this year's Senate reelection class is 23 D to only 10 R, and about half of those Rs are pretty solid, all of them with infinite money to spend. The President seems to be taking a long-view approach toward securing a supermajority for the last two years of his second term. Five pickups in each of the next two elections could do it.

By securing his own reelection twenty-two months in advance, the President's campaign will be able to focus on using his coattails to support Democratic candidates for Congress. He's angling to make this a mandate election on income inequality--in part, I think, to build a base of support so far beyond the margin of error that it can't be stolen--and since it has every chance of motivating a huge base of overwhelming support, it has an excellent chance of flipping the House. Especially if the President runs a 50-state strategy--not for himself, but to run his opposition in Congress out of town.

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Response to sofa king (Reply #7)

Sat Jan 28, 2012, 09:50 AM

9. Agree

We definitely need to help him hold a Senate majority and win back the House. There will still be some issues in the Senate however since a supermajority won't be possible again anytime soon but what he/we can do is ensure that the rules in the Senate are changed somewhat to ensure that the filibuster can't be so horribly abused and, more importantly, make such rampant obstructionism so toxic that people might be discouraged from engaging in it in the first place.

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Response to Proud Liberal Dem (Reply #9)

Sat Jan 28, 2012, 01:03 PM

12. I think it's especially important...

...for taking back the House. If we can make them play defense in districts they didn't think they had too, we could catch them sleeping.

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Response to ellisonz (Reply #12)

Mon Jan 30, 2012, 03:46 PM

25. The only impediment to that is redistricting schemes that the Repukes have

 

put in place. Pitting Yellow Dog against Blue Dog Democrats, especially where the Blue Dog may be a puppet of corporations will be difficult. But it's doable.

Here in Maryland, we finally got rid of Al Wynn, a Blue Dog who was destroyed by Donna Edwards! She lost the prior contest the first time around but only marginally. Two years later, she beat him into the ground.

Nothing is impossible. We may lose a few along the way, but we have to keep at it on the local level.

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Response to Liberal_Stalwart71 (Reply #25)

Mon Jan 30, 2012, 03:54 PM

26. The Republican Party is full of tricks.

We're seeing that strategy in Ohio with the Kucinich-Kaptur match.

Yes We Can

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Response to ellisonz (Reply #26)

Sun Feb 5, 2012, 11:00 AM

41. Re: The Republican Party is full of tricks

That word is usually spelled with a 'p'.

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Response to 3waygeek (Reply #41)

Sun Feb 5, 2012, 02:07 PM

43. If you're suggesting "Party" isn't capitalized...

...you would be grammatically incorrect as "Party" is part of the name.

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Response to ellisonz (Reply #43)

Sun Feb 5, 2012, 02:40 PM

44. Actually, I was referring to the last word n/t

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Response to 3waygeek (Reply #44)

Sun Feb 5, 2012, 02:48 PM

45. lol. Pre-coffee confusion.

I see so many people failing to capitalize "party."

My bad.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Sat Jan 28, 2012, 09:45 AM

8. Yes

No stone should be left unturned IMHO. There is no other way to build the kind of infrastructure necessary to produce the progressive victories we say we want at the local, state, and federal levels. Plus it's the only way AFAIK for "red" states to go "blue" (or at least purple). The only real drawback is that we will wind up with a few "blue dogs"- but, frankly, I think it's worth it when we can set the agenda.

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Response to Proud Liberal Dem (Reply #8)

Sat Jan 28, 2012, 02:57 PM

15. I like purple states.

A military commander would describe this as "expanding the battlefield."

We've got to start at the town dog-catcher and work our way on up. The Democratic Party should be a bottom-up organization, not top-down. Such an approach breeds resentment and disillusionment among the party activists that are the spearhead of that effort to turn states purple.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Sat Jan 28, 2012, 10:52 AM

10. I believe in a 60 Senator strategy

 

n/t

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Response to denem (Reply #10)

Sat Jan 28, 2012, 02:58 PM

16. Maybe in 2014...



I agree with the poster above, to get to a 60 Senator strategy we need a 4000 county strategy.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Sat Jan 28, 2012, 05:51 PM

18. A 50-state strategy is a misnomer...

Because Obama didn't use a 50-state strategy in 2008. The article even suggests this, as Obama scaled back major operations in September '08. He also didn't campaign or have much organization (outside the traditional stuff you see for any presidential candidate) in states like Utah, Idaho, Oklahoma and other conservative states.

Obama's strategy in '12 is not going to be much different than '08. He, like Clinton, will be able to put a few Republican-leaning states into play and that will be enough to stretch the battle field. It won't be a 50-state strategy, but definitely a far bigger playing field than what Kerry worked with in 2004.

In fact, Kerry's path to victory was very narrow and relied heavily on either Florida or Ohio, with either a must-win for the campaign. Obama could have lost both in '08 and still would have won the election over McCain comfortably.

That's because he's competitive and viable in Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Arizona, Indiana, Missouri and, believe it or not, South Carolina. The Republican candidate will have to carry ALL those states, plus Ohio & Florida, to win. It can be done (Bush proved it in '04), but it's tough. It puts them on the defensive.

So, no, Obama should not attempt a 50-state strategy because there are states, no matter how much money he invests, that won't vote for him regardless. Utah is not going to Obama. Idaho is not going to Obama.

Now a regional race is more like it. In '04, Kerry essentially wrote off the south, conceding it was unlikely he would win a state there. Even with Edwards on the ticket (who failed to even make North Carolina competitive), the Democrats were already at a disadvantage. While they could still technically win the election without a single southern vote, it made it very hard and forced them to thread the needle just perfectly to win 270 electoral votes. Kerry couldn't do it and dropped Ohio, which he had to win, as well as Florida.

Obama has put an emphasis on the New South, which is the region he did well in four years ago and will do well in again this year. He doesn't need to win both North Carolina & Virginia - he just needs one. If he can become more competitive in Georgia, forcing the Republicans to be on the defensive there, he benefits from that, as well. That's without even getting into Florida, which, at the moment, Romney leads by less than an overall point in an average of polls from that state, so, the playing field is expanded without a true 50-state strategy.

What Obama's campaign will do is focus on regions. The West (where Obama will most likely win the electoral votes of Colorado and New Mexico - while Arizona & Nevada will be up for grabs) the Midwest (Iowa is almost a near-lock for Obama at this point and so are Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, possibly Indiana and even Michigan - Romney's home state. In Ohio, believe it or not, Obama is doing about as well has he did in polls there at the end of the '08 campaign, averaging a lead of 3.25 points) the Northeast (Pennsylvania will be the lone really important state up for grabs from this region) and the South (he's competitive in every state he won in '08 in this region).

It's not quite 50-states, but it's a plan that won't require threading the needle like Al Gore and John Kerry had to do in their campaigns.

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Response to Drunken Irishman (Reply #18)

Sat Jan 28, 2012, 09:45 PM

19. That's a reasonable analysis.

I would really hate to see the Obama campaign not at least encourage DNC party resources being directed towards making Congressional seats competitive. That's another way to hybridize a 50-state approach.

I really just loathe the thread the needle approach. I think a certain point, advertising is over-done and ground game becomes essential.

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Response to Drunken Irishman (Reply #18)

Sun Feb 5, 2012, 10:04 AM

38. I agree, there are going to be obvious states Obama won't have a chance in

Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, North and South Dakota, Oklahoma, Nebraska (yes, he did win one electoral vote in 2008, but the chances of it happening again are slim), Kansas and Kentucky are just a handful. We really need to fight for North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Ohio and Missouri.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Mon Jan 30, 2012, 08:03 AM

21. I don't have any answers; just questions....

I honestly don't know enough about large scale political campaigning to have a reliable opinion on the subject, so I guess that means I should ask some questions and learn something.

I like the sound of the '4000 county approach'; but I can also understand the pragmatic approach of using limited resources surgically to maximize benefit. Which leads me to my first question: Doesn't your relative campaign budget point you in one direction or the other? If your budget is large and consistent with that of your opponent, you go for the broad approach. If your opponent has more money than you, you have to get more creative and more precise. So, the DNC approach this year would seem to be predicated on the RNC ability to fund raise, right?

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Response to renie408 (Reply #21)

Mon Jan 30, 2012, 03:35 PM

22. IMHO

Supposing the two campaigns/parties have about relatively equal budgets, which has been the case since about 2000, if you are confident your voters aren't going to flip, you can be much more assured in not over-investing in areas you have secured and go on the offense. I think in this regard the heavily blue areas are a safe bet. Studies consistently show that one of the most effective means of political communication is person-to-person, the traditional canvass, phone-banking, and talks between neighbors. Television and print advertising is expensive and inefficient. People just tune out the campaign ads and throw away mailers.

If the DNC/Obama wanted to put at a minimum 2 organizers for 1 year in 4000 counties at a supposed 100,000 a year including wage and support resources (office etc.) the total cost would only be 64 million. Those two organizers could recruit volunteers and raise funds locally to support those volunteers. Even at a conservative estimate of $100 million, which would allow more organizers in bigger counties and allow for cost overruns. The expense of such approach in a campaign year in which an estimated $500-1 billion is going to be spent on each side is minimal. Such a strategy empowers the grassroots and creates an organizational structure that can survive off-years.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Mon Jan 30, 2012, 03:41 PM

23. Not if we want a more progressive majority. A 50-state stategy means that we will

 

inevitably get Blue Dog Democrats.

If the overall, most intelligent approach is to elect as many Democrats to Congress as possible, regardless of their ideology, then yes, a 50-state strategy works.

But having to hear many people here on DU complain about why it is Obama's policies aren't liberal or progressive enough is tiring. It is precisely due to the 50-state strategy that we got Democrats like Jon Tester, Claire McCaskill and Blanche Lincoln. They are Democrats, but they are Blue Dogs.

The answer is simple: it depends on what outcome we want. If we want more progressives, then a 50-state strategy won't do. We need to target progressive Democrats in each state and groom them for office. The question is: are there enough progressive Democrats running in each of the 50 states to affect the outcome? If not, then a straight 50-state strategy will have to do.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Mon Jan 30, 2012, 03:59 PM

27. Yes.

Nothing can be taken for granted in this election!

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Tue Jan 31, 2012, 02:16 AM

28. Electoral colleges screw everything up

For low count states. We get the why bother.

But, I fell all over myself when Dr. Dean came to Boise. I saw his speech in a public park and attended a find raiser after.

I was thrilled. Shit we'll all show up to the airport for a wave from the plane. We are podunk and a little celebrity goes a long way up here.

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Response to libodem (Reply #28)

Tue Jan 31, 2012, 02:21 AM

29. I remember...

...when Dean went to Boise and a couple hundred people showed up, and everyone was kinda like, in Idaho, really?

http://articles.cnn.com/2003-10-30/politics/mgrind.day.idaho_1_dean-campaign-tricia-enright-boise?_s=PM:ALLPOLITICS

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Response to ellisonz (Reply #29)

Tue Jan 31, 2012, 02:55 PM

31. It was awesome

He is an incredible, compelling speaker. He still speaks for me. I loved the 50 state strategy.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Tue Jan 31, 2012, 06:51 AM

30. absolutely

when the resources are available, it is best to take the battle into their turf. Because of 2008 they will be spending money to defend places they did not have to consider defending in 2004 and earlier. If the economy keeps improving, many places will become viable targets.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Wed Feb 1, 2012, 11:40 AM

32. I believe in a broad strategy, we are the Democratic Party after all.

Not the "clever electoral tricks" party. We should work to ensure that every potential voter has a chance to hear our message and vote for it.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Wed Feb 1, 2012, 12:10 PM

33. I have two words for the 50-state strategy: it works.

Last edited Mon Feb 6, 2012, 03:52 PM - Edit history (7)

Because it works even when it DOESN'T work.

In 2008, McCain won Montana by less than 3 points, and Missouri by less than one. Those states are now in a position to be "flipped" this year because of the groundwork Dean laid in 2006. 50SS doesn't always produce instant results, but the small investments we make in building up blue bases now can certainly pay off in the future.

The only complaining about 50SS that I hear comes from fatcat political consultants who are no longer collecting six- and seven-figure fees from the DNC and the candidates.


rocktivity
This is the DU member formerly known as rocktivity.

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Response to rocktivity (Reply #33)

Sun Feb 5, 2012, 02:37 AM

36. It's an insurgency strategy.

And yes, it undoubtedly works. Sometimes the best defense is a good offense...

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Sun Feb 5, 2012, 03:13 AM

37. Given the screwed up nature of apportionment, a 50 State strategy can't work.

I highly respect Dr. Dean and wish he was the 2004 nomination, and I think that he had great intentions with the strategy, but in the end, it is basically impossible to have a 50 state strategy with apportionment so screwed up. We would also benefit from having 3 or more odd numbered Senators per state (this way a state's Senators don't cancel each other out).

I think it might be able to work, if we can get out the vote, we have the demographics, but it's still quite fubar'd how the system is set up (I don't think it was really designed to handle 300 million people). It makes it darn near impossible with how few Americans are registered to vote and how even fewer actually vote (and this tends to hit minorities and the poor harder, thus making it even more difficult for the Democratic Party to achieve it).

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Sun Feb 5, 2012, 10:12 AM

39. Yes a 50 state strategy works

It takes more planning and more resources but yes in the end a 50 state strategy works because it forces the other side to compete even where they did not plan to compete. Plus in some instances you end up winning where you thought you did not stand a chance.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Sun Feb 5, 2012, 10:13 AM

40. Yes, not necessarily for Obama's re-election campaign, but for Congress.

 

As other DUers have pointed out, Obama didn't really run a "50-state strategy" in 2008, it was more like a 30-35 state strategy. He won 28 states plus DC and had invested time and money in a few more.

However, in the 2006 and 2008 congressional elections, Democrats were able to pick up House and Senate seats in places like Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.

All of these states are generally considered "red" and Obama only won three of them in 2008.

I even remember Wyoming's at-large House seat was up for grabs in 2006, and Democrat Gary Trauner very nearly defeated Republican Barbara Cubin.

So as far as presidential races go, no, I don't believe in a 50-state strategy, more like a 35-state strategy. It's very rare that we have an election like 1936, 1964, 1972 or 1984 where the incumbent wins about 60% of the vote and the challenger receives less than 100 Electoral Votes.

In all of these examples, the incumbent president was popular, people generally thought the country was heading in the right direction, and the challenger was incredibly weak. And in all these examples, the incumbent was not deliberately running a 50-state strategy either. FDR even quipped, "I wish I had visited Maine and Vermont" shortly after the 1936 election.

When it comes to down-ballot races though, the 50-state strategy is definitely the way to go.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Sun Feb 5, 2012, 11:06 AM

42. At the very least...

...we should make a commitment to ensuring we field a candidate in every race at all levels. It infuriates me when I see Republicans running unopposed.

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