The House Party Path to Victory?
There's a really fascinating post over at Kos regarding the Kerry campaign's overreliance on 527's, combined with its inattention to the grassroots community. I know a lot of you don't like this kind of post-game analysis, and think that we're "beating up" on Kerry. But that's simply not the case. This is simply the unenviable yet essential task of looking back to see what mistakes the campaign made, and how they (and we) can learn from it. Here's the key graf, IMO:
Back in February when they hired a direct mail big-donor person to coordinate their grassroots strategy, I realized that the 527 organizations like ACT would be conducting the grassroots GOTV campaign not the Kerry campaign. It worried me that the Bush campaign had one strategic headquarters and the Dems would be relying on various groups who couldn't legally coordinate. (I wrote a Kos diary on this, but the archive search feature isn't working, so I can't find it -- help me out if you know how to search for February or March diaries). Matt Bai's article published in the NYT Magazine today also talks about how the 527s weren't allowed to mention Kerry's plans to improve anything; they could only tell prospective voters what Bush had done wrong. Bai wrote in the NYT Magazine a comprehensive article describing the GOP Amway-style approach back in April; Bai probably is a leading expert now on the pros and cons of these two approaches. Relying on 527s to do the grassroots organizing was a huge strategic error, in my opinion (emphasis in original). I know ACT did a fabulous job, and beat its own goals in terms of numbers. But, given the facts (Bush's low approval ratings, a bungled war and foreign policy, a poor economy with many lost jobs, frustration over health care costs, etc.), we should have done much better. Had the Kerry campaign been able to raise the same total amount (that the campaign + the 527s did) and directly hired folks like Steve Rosenthal and Steve Bouchard, I bet Kerry would now be forming a transition team.
Why did we have 527s in addition to the Kerry/DNC campaign rather than just one entity like the GOP did? Because we hadn't been building our base over the past decade like the GOP had, and we had to rely on large donations from big donors, not just the small donations from a smaller base. The 527s were legally permitted to accept these bigger donations. The two parties had a pretty even playing field when you looked at the total amounts of money raised, but not when you looked at strategy and coordination.
I'm somewhat skeptical as to whether the coordination of Howard Dean-esque "house parties" would have made the difference, as this Kos diarist believes. However, there's no question that we're still working out the kinks between the party leadership in Washington and the grassroots throughout the country. Anyway, it's definitely worth a read.