- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 20, 2006

Rahm Emanuel, the Illinois representative who heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee , fears that the long-term strategy being pursued by Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean could cost Democrats control of the House of Representatives in the November election. He may be right.

Mr. Emanuel smells blood in the water. According to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll, which reported President Bush’s job-approval rating hitting another new low (31 percent), Americans think the Democratic Party is more likely than the Republican Party to “come closer to sharing [their] moral values” (50-37); “make the right decisions about the war in Iraq” (48-30); “make the right decisions when it comes to dealing with immigration issues” (45-29); “make sure the tax system is fair” (55-27); “improve education” (53-25); “improve the health-care system” (62-19); “make prescription drugs for the elderly more affordable” (61-18); and “see to it that gasoline prices are low” (57-11).

Democrats need to gain only 15 seats to capture control of the House. No wonder Mr. Emanuel is salivating. On the other hand, Mr. Dean, to the utter delight of the Republican Party, seems completely clueless about the opportunities staring his party in the face.

Mr. Emanuel wants Mr. Dean to put his long-term strategy temporarily on hold. Instead, he argues, the DNC should use its scarce financial resources to maximize the help it can give to the Democratic House candidates who will mean the difference between Democratic majority and minority status next January. With Democratic subpoena power and all House chairmanships hanging in the balance, Mr. Dean insists on sending lots of money to Democratic parties in red states like Alabama, South Carolina, Utah and Idaho. Mr. Emanuel convincingly argues that this money could mean the difference between the Democrats’ picking up 13 House seats (and remaining in the minority) or gaining 16 seats and seizing power.

The DNC began the 2005-06 cycle with $6 million in the bank. Under Mr. Dean, the DNC has raised nearly $75 million since the beginning of last year, but had only $10 million on hand at the end of this year’s first quarter. That’s only $4 million more than it had in the bank at the beginning of last year. In other words, the DNC raised $74 million and spent $70 million. It still may not be too late for the DNC to reverse course, but Mr. Dean stubbornly refuses to do so.

Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee started 2005 with $15 million in the bank; raised another $142 million through March; spent $114 million; and still has $43 million in ready cash. That’s more than four times the $10 million cash on hand that the DNC has. In March 2004, the DNC had $28 million in the bank, despite having begun the 2003-2004 cycle with far less cash on hand and having raised less money than it has raised during the current cycle.

Mr. Dean’s long-term, high-cost, party-building strategy may have made sense before Katrina — that is, before Mr. Bush’s free fall. But as November rapidly approaches and as likely voters increasingly vent their frustration at the expense of Republicans, the Dean strategy makes far less sense today. If the Republicans are lucky enough and politically skillful enough to retain control of the House by the slimmest of margins in November, then the Democrats at year end will be just as mortified with Mr. Dean’s strategy as they were over John Kerry’s overflowing coffers after the 2004 presidential election.

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