Thursday, June 28, 2007

The 144-Seat Strategy: A VAN for Every Campaign

There has been a lot of chatter on various lists recently about what the Louisiana Democratic Party should be doing to help Democratic candidates for Congress in the 2008 election. It's a good topic but this is not the time or place for it.

The top priority for every Louisiana Democrat right now should be the 2007 round of statewide elections. Electing Democrats is the task at hand and, as we see every day in the Legislature, not just any "D" will do. Presidential and congressional politics should wait.

Every Democratic candidate and every Democratic campaign should be pouring over the votes of the current Legislature in legislative session — as well as the regular and special sessions of the previous three years. That is where we will find the ammunition to use against Republicans seeking higher office and those Democrats In Name Only (DINOs) who use the party label to win elections but then, once in office, vote against the interests of communities, against the interests of women, against the interests of the middle class and working poor.

Good Democrats can win these legislative races by showing the gap between the political rhetoric and the votes cast in the Legislature. In many cases, it will be easy enough to show the gap between the rhetoric and common decency.

To run successful campaigns we will need tools. The Louisiana Democratic Party has some of those tools.

They need to make them available to ALL Democratic candidates for the House and Senate — at no charge.

Why? Because we don't have a bunch of fat cats ponying up to to finance smear campaigns win control of the House like the Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority does.

Forming House and Senate Democratic campaign committees was a positive step, but those committees have already let it be known that they are going to invest in "key" races (read that "sure things") and not waste their precious resources on hopeless (read that "grassroots") campaigns that THEY have decided are un-winnable.

That is precisely the strategy that enabled the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to lose a string of national elections that lost control of the White House, lost control of the House of Representatives, and lost control of the United States Senate.

What enabled Democrats to return to majority status in the Congress was the influx of money and energy of grassroots Democrats across the country who made their smaller financial contributions into a collective fist that smashed the corrupt Republican K Street money machine. It was Howard Dean's 50-State Campaign that put resources in the hands of state parties across the country.

It is no small irony that a beneficiary of the 50-State Campaign (the Louisiana Democratic Party) wants to adopt a resource allocation strategy that runs exactly counter to the strategy that put those resources in their hands.

It was the 50-State Campaign Strategy that gave the Louisiana Democratic Party the field staff that they now have.

It was the 50-State Campaign Strategy that gave the Louisiana Democratic Party access, first to Astro and now to VAN — the computerized voter databases that can help make Democrats competitive with Republicans by giving us the tools we need enable to chart a course to victory.

Louisiana Democrats need a 144-Seat Campaign in the Legislature this year. We need to field candidates in EVERY one of the 105 House races and in EVERY one of the 39 Senate races. We need to challenge Republicans where ever they hold a seat and where ever they seek one.

This is how conservatives built the Republican Party. They ran for office. Back in the days before Republicans learned how to win elections, conservatives didn't ask those candidates (as Democratic regulars all to frequently do), "Can you win?" Their question was, "How can I help?"

That's the question the leadership of the Louisiana Democratic Party needs to be asking Democratic House and Senate candidates now: "How can we help?"

Knowing that the party doesn't have deep pockets, what we can legitimately ask the state party to do is to make VAN available to every Democratic candidate for the Legislature.

Word is that it will cost the party $30,000 to update VAN. That's one way of looking at it. But, think about how much more vibrant and real a voter database VAN will be after being used by hundreds of candidates in races in every House and Senate district in the state.

How much is victory worth?

Democrats cannot win this election by trying to out Republican the Republicans — we can't raise more money than them, but we can out work them. With the right tools (and VAN is definitely one of them) combined with good candidates, good issues and hard work, we can prevail in this election.

We've got candidates willing to do their part. Is the party leadership ready to do it's part?

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