As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Accidental 50-State Strategy

I've seen nothing intelligent about the potential outcome of tomorrow's Wyoming Democratic caucuses, but this is a really cool story about Wyoming's Democrats, and why this extended primary that will touch perhaps every state in the Union is a good thing for the party.

But this time, Democrats here say, it feels different. In contrast to all the dismally attended, demoralized Democratic presidential caucuses of past years, the outnumbered Democrats of Wyoming might actually have something to roar about.

Some Democrats here say they have never seen a political mood swing so overwhelming or so fast — from the status quo of irrelevance to full kiss-kiss campaign embrace, in nothing flat.

“I have never had a period of compressed political intensity like these last 48 hours,” Kathleen M. Karpan, a longtime Democratic activist and former Wyoming secretary of state, said Thursday. Ms. Karpan, who supports Mrs. Clinton, of New York, took a week off from her law practice to help with last minute details before Saturday.

Around the state, caucus locations are being moved from living rooms to meeting halls. Here in Laramie County, the most populous, Democrats reserved the Cheyenne Civic Center, which will seat up to 1,500 people for an event that in the past has drawn maybe 250.

“People are excited that it would actually matter,” said Margaret Whited, the party chairwoman in Park County in the state’s northwest corner. Ms. Whited said all the energy and attention swirling around the caucuses could help in the fight against her biggest enemy: apathy among Democrats who think their voices do not count.

This is particularly true considering that Gary Trauner almost won the at-large Congressional seat here in 2006, and is running again in an open seat in 2008. Suddenly thousands of Democrats who've never been to a party meeting, who've never volunteered or phone banked or stuffed envelopes, are getting a taste of that aspect of civic participation.

I'm sure it was not Howard Dean's goal to have a primary season drag on until June. But in a perverse way, it's an extension of his 50-state strategy. I've now been completely turned around on this and think it will pay plenty of dividends in November, especially downticket, barring some kind of disaster in Denver. But as long as the conclusion is amicable, and I think it still can be, we're going to be in good shape in this general election and for years to come. And the biggest proof of that is right here.

More people say they are Democrats than said so before voting started in this year's presidential contests while the number of Republicans has remained flat, a survey showed Thursday.

The Associated Press-Ipsos poll had additional bad news for the GOP: The number of independents and moderates satisfied with President Bush and the country's direction has dipped to record or near-record lows.

John McCain, who has wrapped up the Republican presidential nomination, appeals to many independents. But the high levels of unhappiness among centrist voters, who can tip national campaigns, will present him with a challenge for the November election...

Just 22 percent in the AP-Ipsos poll said the country is moving in the right direction, about even with the 21 percent record low last June. Only 11 percent of independents and 23 percent of moderates said things were going well — the lowest ever in the poll for independents, and near bottom for moderates.

Thirty percent overall said they approve of the job Bush is doing, tying his worst showing last month.

When you have excitement and activism and weeks upon weeks of commercials and rallies and speeches promoting progressive principles and values, there's an impact. Even in Wyoming. Republicans now trail Democrats on practically every major issue, including immigration, taxes, reforming government, foreign policy, and morality. We have some rough waters to negotiate as the Clinton-Obama battle hits a fever pitch. But if they are traversed, this could be a really fun election year.

(As for a prediction, there are only 59,000 or so registered Democrats in the state, so this will be a small set of caucuses - if 30,000 come out that would be amazing. If you look at the other states in the region you'd have to say Obama is favored. There is a history of electing women in Wyoming, however, so you never know.)

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