Democratic congressional leaders aren't happy with the way Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean is spending money. At a private meeting last month, they let him know.In a nutshell, this is the playing out of the fundamental differences in philosophy permeating the Democratic party. On the one hand, party leaders want to strategize elections, optimizing the use of money in close races. On the other hand, Dean and grassrooters want to rebuild the party ... everywhere ... not conceding to the Republicans anywhere. One is a short term approach to politics, the other is a long term approach.
Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) challenged the former Vermont governor during a session in Pelosi's office, according to Democratic sources. The leaders complained about Dean's priorities -- funding organizers for state parties in strongly Republican states such as Mississippi -- rather than targeting states with crucial races this fall.
Neither side was willing to give ground, according to several accounts of the meeting. Dean argued that his strategy is designed to rebuild the party across the country, and that he had pledged to do so when he ran for party chairman. Reid and Pelosi countered that if Democrats squander their opportunities this year, longer-term organizing efforts will not matter much.
Dean has won friends among state party leaders for his efforts to underwrite the hiring of organizers in states where Republicans have been winning in presidential races. Dean campaigned for the DNC chairmanship by pledging to make Democrats competitive in all 50 states, not just in the 16 to 18 presidential battlegrounds. One congressional Democrat responded: "Nobody's suggesting they do 16 states, but not all states are equal."
Pelosi was particularly insistent in pressing Dean to keep focused on 2006, but Dean is reluctant to give congressional colleagues anything approaching a blank check, preferring to stay on the course he began a year ago.
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