‘Western Strategy’ Gets Thumbs Up from Former Clinton Aide

UPDATED 11-9-2006: Surprising wins in local, state, and federal races by the Democratic Party throughout the intermountain west adds more validity to the “Western Strategy” and its potential influence in the 2008 election cycle.

Political analyst Paul Begala expressed his support for the prevailing Democratic Party’s strategies advanced by netroots and grassroots activists in a turn-around from a previous public statement.Begala, a former top aide to former President Bill Clinton, was in Denver for a fundraiser benefitting CO-7 candidate Ed Perlmutter on Wednesday. Begala shared his thoughts on the current landscape with Colorado Confidential while awaiting the nearly three-hour delay in President Clinton’s arrival at the JW Marriott in Cherry Creek. “This is where the national focus on swing voters is happening,” he said. Begala was confident of the potential for winning one or two Congressional seats in Colorado next week.

Many democrats attribute the expected campaign wins to the “50 State Strategy” of organizing in each state through county-level infrastructure building. The program was developed by DNC chair Howard Dean to the loud consternation of long-time party consultants and donors.

A corollary plan is the “Western Strategy” which focuses partisan organizing efforts on the intermountain western states, including Colorado. It was developed in much the same vein as the Republican Party concentrated its efforts in the 1960s and 70s on the southern states to encourage conservative Democrats to join the GOP.

Begala remarked that it was very exciting to be in Colorado again during a renewed focus on mountain west voters. Fourteen years ago, Begala and his consulting partner James Carville created the vaunted “War Room” of the 1992 Clinton presidential campaign.

Both democratic strategies were embraced early on by grassroots and netroots activists.

Begala was less convinced during a May 11, 2006 interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN:

BLITZER: Very quickly, is Howard Dean in trouble?

BEGALA: He — yes, he’s in trouble, in that campaign managers, candidates, are really angry with him. He has raised $74 million and spent $64 million. He says it’s a long-term strategy. But what he has spent it on, apparently, is just hiring a bunch of staff people to wander around Utah and Mississippi and pick their nose. That’s not how you build a party. You win elections. That’s how you build a party.

Begala was sharply criticized by liberal political bloggers and local activistis energized by Dean’s plan and the greater equalization of power within the party.

Begala still urged caution. “I’m all for the 50 State Strategy but it requires a message. We win on message. Right now, we’re too focused on mechanics.”

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Wendy Norris

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