Memo: Let's Get Ready to Run

Monday , September 12, 2005

By Martin Frost


MEMO TO: Rep. Rahm Emanuel, Sen. Chuck Schumer, Howard Dean

I am writing you in your capacities as chairman of the Democratic Party’s top three national political committees: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

It’s time to throw out the traditional playbook and be bold as you plan for the 2006 elections. There is a real possibility that next year’s contest will be a landslide for Democrats and you need to be prepared to win.

Specifically, Emanuel and Schumer should file candidates for every single Congressional seat and ever single Senatorial seat in the country, even those that have traditionally been Republican. And the DNC should be encouraging state legislative leaders throughout the country to take similar action on the state house and senate levels.

In 1964, Democrats picked up 37 House seats. Republicans picked up 54 House seats, in 1994. At the depths of the Great Depression in 1932, Democrats picked up 90 House seats. History could repeat itself in 2006, but only if Democrats expand the playing field.

Why do I think big Democratic gains loom? The public is rapidly coming around to the view that Republicans lack the ability to handle the big issues facing our country. It’s one thing to be right-wing ideologues, but it's quite another to not be able to put one foot in front of another.

First, you have the Iraq War, which was undertaken on the false premise of weapons of mass destruction and then conducted in a shabby way after the initial successful phase of fighting. Troops were not sent in adequate numbers and were not given adequate body armor or sufficiently armored vehicles. In short, there was no coherent plan for how to occupy the country and rebuild the nation.

Then, the Bush administration undertook an ill-conceived plan to privatize Social Security — something the public didn’t support and something that would have done nothing to help the long-term solvency of system.

And now, the administration has demonstrated significant incompetence in the handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It was slow off the mark and placed FEMA in the hands of political cronies rather than experienced veterans of disaster relief.

Now back to the strategy of the 2006 election. Ever since losing the House and Senate in 1994, Democrats have narrowed rather than expanded the playing field. The theory was to concentrate resources in those races where we had the best chance to win. That strategy was successful for House Democrats in 1996 and 1998 when we picked up a total of 14 seats despite being badly outspent by Republicans. But it didn’t get us back into the majority and it led to a stalemate in the next three elections. Senate Democrats picked up a few seats last time around, but ultimately were dealt a significant loss in 2004.

It’s now time to shoot the moon. Recruit and file everywhere and then late in the cycle decide which races present the best opportunities. Be prepared to win some seats that you don’t deserve because the “force is with you.”

If necessary, the Party should pay the filing fees to encourage some candidates to enter the fray. Remember that the Republicans elected some “accidental Congressmen” in 1994 that only lasted one term — like those who defeated Dan Rostenkowski and Jack Brooks — but were there when they took control.

It is important to step up recruiting now because some states like Illinois, Texas and California have early filing deadlines in December and January

It would be great poetic justice to make the Republicans defend everywhere rather than just concentrating their resources in certain races. Even if Republicans have more money, they won’t have enough to fund candidates everywhere and may leave some races short.

Let the games begin.

Martin Frost served in Congress from 1979 to 2005, representing a diverse district in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. He served two terms as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, the third-ranking leadership position for House Democrats and two terms as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Frost serves as a regular contributor to FOX News Channel. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a law degree from the Georgetown Law Center.

Respond to the Writer