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Standard-Bearers: Dean and Mehlman, Profiled

Posted on Oct 2, 2006

In the last two weeks, The N.Y. Times has run lengthy, worthwhile profiles of DNC Chair Howard Dean (free today) and RNC Chair Ken Mehlman (need TimesSelect access).

Howard Dean profile:

... The D.N.C. created his job—along with a position for a communications director—last year as part of Dean’s signature program, known as the 50-state strategy. Under this program, the national party is paying for hundreds of new organizers and press aides for the state parties, many of which have been operating on the edge of insolvency. The idea is to hire mostly young, ambitious activists who will go out and build county and precinct organizations to rival Republican machines in every state in the country. “We’re going to be in places where the Democratic Party hasn’t been in 25 years,” Dean likes to say. “If you don’t show up in 60 percent of the country, you don’t win, and that’s not going to happen anymore.”

Ken Mehlman profile:

It is hard to fathom how much Mehlman’s life has changed since he took the chairman’s desk at the Republican National Committee headquarters on Capitol Hill in January 2005, the reward for managing, together with Karl Rove at the White House, what was widely praised as one of the most sophisticated and groundbreaking presidential campaigns in a generation. ‘‘It was an election where they knew more than we did,’’ Joe Lockhart, a senior strategist for John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate, told me.

For the next year, Chairman Mehlman talked big and thought big about the Republican Party: about how he and his allies could fundamentally redraw the political architecture of America, change the way Americans conceptualize the two parties and establish Republicans as the dominant party in America long after George Bush returned to Texas. That meant putting a lock on the White House and Congress, and it meant winning statehouses and governorships, which draw the redistricting maps that are the cement of long-term political realignments. This was nothing short of a campaign to marginalize the Democratic Party and everything that Mehlman, reflecting Bush and Rove, said it stood for: big government, high taxes, liberal judges, a timorous foreign policy.


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