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Monday, December 29, 2008

I think it's safe to say the "Dean the Baptist" meme has taken root. Here's Ari Berman in The Nation:

Indiana is a good example. When Dan Parker became chair of the state party in November 2004, his first order was to slash his staff in half after Democrats lost the governor's mansion. Indiana, like so many states, had been written off by the national party--the last Democratic presidential contender to carry it was Lyndon Johnson. But Dean gave Parker the money to hire three field organizers and a full-time communications director, the first the state had ever had. (When Dean came in, thirty states had no such important position.) In 2006 that staff worked on three competitive Congressional races long before the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) arrived. The party picked up all three seats that year and elected a record number of Democratic mayors in 2007. By the time the Democratic primary rolled around this past May, Hoosier Dems had been revitalized, and Obama--to the surprise of many--invested heavily in the state, visiting forty-nine times. On November 4 Obama won Indiana--a state John Kerry lost by twenty points--by 26,000 votes. "We're a poster child for the fifty-state strategy," Parker says.

If Indiana was ignored by the national party, then a place like Alaska--5,000 miles from Washington--didn't exist. Dean was roundly mocked, including in a New York Times Magazine profile, for visiting and investing in the Last Frontier. "The idea that you're going to put money in a place like Alaska seemed insane," Dean says, "because you could take the same amount of money and maybe win a House seat in California with it. That was the thinking here. The problem is, that's a totally short-term strategy." The DNC's investment increased the size of the Alaska party staff from one to four. More important, "it made Alaskans proud to be Democrats again," says state chair Patti Higgins. When opportunity struck, as Dean predicted, Democrats were ready. "It doesn't look so dumb now that Ted Stevens got indicted [in July] and today we have a Democratic senator from Alaska," Dean says. "But without a voter list and a party that knows what it's doing and is well trained and staffers that are up there for four years, we don't win that seat, plain and simple." Not only did former Anchorage mayor Mark Begich knock off Stevens; Democrats ran their strongest challenge yet to Alaska's lone Congressman, Don Young, who's held the seat for thirty-five years, and polls showed Obama leading in the state before John McCain tapped Sarah Palin as his running mate. Now the party is focused on ousting Palin from the governor's mansion in 2010. When I spoke to Higgins, she was heading to a press conference to denounce Palin, who was campaigning in Georgia that day, as "AWOL from Alaska."
More from Matt Yglesias. That fifty dollars I gave Dean for America? I don't regret it.