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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

GOP 50-State Project

I have written about an "iron law of emulation" by which each political party tries to copy the successes of the other. CNN reports that the RNC is planning its own version of Howard Dean's 50-state project.
The RNC’s 50-state project begins with putting new boots on the ground in the two states with gubernatorial elections this fall, Virginia and New Jersey, said party spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski. In both states, the RNC will be testing voter contact efforts with controlled experiments and fine-tuning their engagement efforts with African-American, Asian-American and Hispanic communities who are firmly entrenched in the Democratic camp.
In May, the RNC hired new staffers and opened offices in Virginia, which has a competitive governor’s race, and in New Jersey, the site of a less competitive gubernatorial contest and a special U.S. Senate election.
The committee has also placed “state directors,” who will work alongside existing state party organizations and candidates to coordinate with the national party, in 10 other states with competitive Senate, House and gubernatorial races in 2014.
Republican state directors have already been deployed to Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, Montana, West Virginia, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Ohio. There are currently 125 RNC operatives in the field as of this week, a staff footprint larger than the one at party headquarters on Capitol Hill.
By the end of the year, Kukowski said, the RNC will have “hundreds of staffers” and “nearly 100” offices around the country, all trained in Washington. Not every state will have a state director, she admitted, but every state in the country, including Democratic strongholds, will have at least one paid staffer and possibly more.
The party has also dispatched political staffers – they won’t say how many - to work deep-red Texas and deep-blue California, both mega-states with substantial and growing Hispanic populations that will figure prominently in future election cycles.
At Governing, Louis Jacobson looked back Dean's record:
Before we crunch the numbers, we should note that the patterns below can't be linked exclusively to Dean's 50-state project. After all, the Democrats experienced two of their strongest election cycles during that time. They benefited from a strong congressional tailwind in 2006 and a winning presidential candidacy in 2008. Meanwhile, the numbers began to turn negative during the midterm election of 2010, a Republican rout.
That said, the patterns are suggestive. In the 20 states we looked at -- those that have voted solidly Republican in recent presidential races -- Democratic candidates chalked up modest successes, despite the difficult political terrain. Then, after the project stopped, Democratic success rates cratered.
The 20 states we looked at are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming. We excluded any state that has voted Democratic in recent presidential contests or was considered potentially competitive for the Democrats, even if the state ultimately sided with the GOP (such as Arizona and Missouri).
Here's how the Democrats fared in the reddest of red states between January 2005 and January 2009, the period when the 50-state project was in operation:
  • State House seats: Net gain of 39 seats, a 2 percent increase of all seats in the states analyzed
  • State Senate seats: Net loss of two seats
  • Governorships: Net loss of one
  • Attorney generalships: Net gain of one (elected seats only)
  • U.S. House seats: Net gain of three seats
  • U.S. Senate seats: Net gain of one seat
  • Presidential performance: In 15 of the 20 states, the Democratic nominee saw an increase in vote share between 2004 and 2008. In three other states, the vote share remained constant. It dropped in only two states.
"Where we really made a big difference was in states like Nebraska, where Obama won an electoral vote in 2008," Dean said. "He had a real party to work with."