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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Will DNC Chair Howard Dean Survive Until the Convention?

Howard Dean has a not so glowing history with his experience in national democratic politics. In 2004 he rose from obscurity as a former Governor of Vermont to being the front runner in the democratic party primary prior to the caucuses in Iowa.

He ran an insurgent campaign relying heavily on the use of the Internet and a campaign strategy similar to what former President Carter used in his successful 1976 election. Carter pinned his hopes on winning Iowa, the traditional first state to kick off the democratic party primary schedule.

His campaign hoped that by winning there, he would gain the national exposure that was necessary and additional wins would follow. Fortunately for him, his strategy worked and he would go on to win the democratic party nomination and ultimately, the presidency.

For Howard Dean, the strategy of putting all your eggs in one basket failed as Senator John Kerry (Mass.) who ran a stronger field campaign in Iowa finished first and would go on to become the nominee. Not only did the unfair media coverage of Dean's scream at a rally with supporters the night of the Iowa caucuses do him in, his campaign was broke, having spent 50 million prior to Iowa.

After John Kerry lost to incumbent President George W. Bush in the 2004 election, Howard Dean effectively used his grass roots network to help him become chair of the Democratic National Committee. As an outsider to national politics and an insurgent, his time as chair has been filled with mixed results.

Dean has had significant battles with democratic congressional leaders over the strategy to be implemented by the DNC. He has stuck to his position of a 50 state strategy of building a presence in each state and not conceding any seat in congress.

This has led to battles with representative Rahm Emanuel who is presently caucus chair of the democratic congressional campaign committee. Emanuel's and others argue it is better to spend resources on candidates and campaigns in which there is a reasonable measure of success.

In 2006 the congressional elections resulted in a democratic majority and the first woman speaker, Nancy Pelosi. In 2008, it is important for the democrats to increase their majority in the House and the Senate and most important to win the Presidency. President Bush has clearly shown that the ability to issue a veto that is unable to be overridden by congress gives the executive branch tremendous power.

Howard Dean as chair of the DNC was unable to reach consensus in the adding of several states to the traditional two states (Iowa and New Hampshire) in the month of January of the democratic primary schedule. Only Nevada (for western exposure) and South Carolina (for southern exposure) were added and the earliest next primary date in the schedule was the 5th of February, the new super Tuesday.

This is what led to the Michigan and Florida debacle with both states wanting to receive more exposure by moving up their primary and the DNC issuing sanctions stripping the states of their delegates. This essentially made these primaries meaningless as all the candidates did not campaign in the states and many did not even appear on the ballot.

The failure of the DNC to handle this issue in an appropriate manner which did not disenfranchise their voters has come back to haunt them in a close primary election. In addition, Dean is saying he wants the nominee to be chosen by July 1st to avoid a broker-ed convention.

The convoluted manner (delegates awarded by proportion of total vote, proportional vote by district along with superdelegates) in which the democratic party conducts their primary schedule with some states holding caucuses and some states having traditional votes has also led many to wonder if their vote really does count.

Adding to all these woes for the DNC is they have little cash on hand. The fate of Howard Dean depends a lot on how these many issues facing the democratic party play out.

Stay Tuned.

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