Monday, May 22, 2006

Wait for it. . . .

Could it be? Was it possible?

As I sat reading the Sunday Times piece on the vulnerability of Republicans in House races this fall, I was expecting the article to tell me that while Democrats should have a chance, they won’t pull it off because—sigh—they’re Democrats. Why was I expecting this? Well, because the article was written by Adam Nagourney, who, as I’ve noted before, kind of has a problem when it comes to the Dems.

But there it was, in black and white, paragraph after paragraph stating, in so many words, “The Republicans are in trouble, the Republicans are in trouble, the Republicans are in trouble”—without so much as a cruel joke or a backhanded compliment.

This being an AdNags piece, I was a little bit in shock—but it was a pleasant sensation. Then, just as I started to let down my guard, over a dozen paragraphs down, there it was:

The Republican National Committee collected $17 million at a Washington fund-raiser last week. The party chairman, Ken Mehlman, said in an interview that most of that money would go to help embattled Republican Congressional candidates, a show of financial force that could frustrate Democrats in their search to win control.

Howard Dean, the Democratic Party chairman, has instead sent money he has raised to state parties for party-building, over the objections of Congressional leaders.

Uh huh, you had to say it, didn’t you, Adam? Bad stuff ‘bout Howard Dean. What’s more, you just say it—without attribution—like it was just common knowledge.

Maybe that’s how you want to see it, Mr. Nagourney, but it’s just not that simple.

First off, AdNags is sort of comparing apples to oranges (and as a seasoned political reporter, he ought to know better). While RNC head Mehlman says that most of the $17 million he raised last weekend will go to help Republican Congressional candidates, he doesn’t say what percentage that is of the whole of the RNC coffers. Perhaps money raised before this was already spent on state party-building. And, while most of this $17 mil will go to races, perhaps the rest will go to something like party-building.

In addition, it obviously goes without saying—for AdNags, anyway—that the RNC has spent a boatload on party-building in the past, and the Democrats, by most accounts, need to play catch-up if they are to enjoy long-term success.

But, on top of all that, as was teased-out in many comments I received last week (on my Begala post), while Dean is allocating more than the DNC has in the past to state party-building activities, it still makes up less than fifteen percent of the money raised.

Peeling back one more layer, while there certainly have been some very vocal objections to Dean’s 50-state strategy, Nagourney’s stating that Congressional leaders (dare I read it as all Congressional leaders?) object to Dean’s ways seems a little unsubtle (to put it nicely). Rahm Emmanuel (D-IL), head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, has made his rift with Dean quite public—and Emmanuel is a Congressional leader, but he is just one. (One, I might add, with his own war chest—as head of the DCCC—and his own priorities.) I am sure there are other Democratic members of Congress who have aired their dissatisfaction in public, too (I’m guessing there’s a Steny Hoyer quote out there somewhere), but the point here is that it is not as simple as Nagourney wants us to believe.

Be it said that Dean is leading the DNC in a different direction than did Terry McAuliffe, who focused on big-money donors and treated the DNC sort of like an ATM. I, for one, think that after 12 years in the Congressional minority, Democrats should welcome a fresh approach, but there does seem to be some sort of establishment media need (no doubt helped by some members of both parties) to continually portray Howard Dean as a guy who doesn’t know what he’s doing. And, it does seem like Emmanuel and others are laying the groundwork for a post-November blame-game should the Democrats fail to meet expectations.

Be that as it may—and much to my surprise—aside from this moment of Dean-bashing, the Nagourney piece does not predict November disasters or post-November recriminations. Indeed, aside from a few paragraphs, the piece is frighteningly sunny.

I say “frighteningly,” not because I subscribe to the theory that it would be better for Democrats not to win back the House in November, a joke given ridiculous amounts of space in last week’s AdNags article, but because, well, this is Adam Nagourney writing, and I keep waiting for the “every Democratic silver lining has a cloud” punch line.


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