Dean can take a bow

DEAN CAN TAKE A BOW…. As is often the case after an election, there are plenty of lists being published noting the various “winners and losers.” If Howard Dean isn’t very high on the list of winners, it’s a dramatic oversight.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) on Wednesday touted its 50-state strategy, which sought to expand the party’s competitiveness deep into red states, as one of the reasons for Democrats’ success on Election Night.

DNC Chairman Howard Dean said at the National Press Club that President-elect Barack Obama “was right in 2004, when he said there are no red states and no blue states; there are only American states, and we all share the same values.”

“You cannot be a national party if you are willing to write off entire parts of our country,” Dean stated. “Based on that pretty straightforward idea, we changed the way our party ran campaigns and reached out to voters.”

In a memo, the DNC touted Dean’s strategy, which was often maligned at its inception. “Through the 50-state strategy the DNC put paid staff on the ground (2-4 per state) in every state from Alaska to Mississippi, New Mexico to Indiana,” the DNC memo said. “When Obama became the nominee there were 183 people on the ground who have been there, been trained, and were working for the nominee. Through the course of this campaign, those staff worked to organize at least 892 field events around McCain-Palin events.”

Now, I wouldn’t necessarily say that Dean’s strategy produced Tuesday’s wins, but I do think it’s fair to credit Dean with coming up with the game plan. He needed a candidate who was committed to “stretching” the map, and capable to taking the Democratic message to areas that usually don’t give Democratic candidates a second look. And Barack Obama fit the bill nicely.

Dean also deserves credit for focusing heavily on the West, which included moving Nevada up in the primary process and choosing Denver as the host city for the convention. The results speak for themselves: Obama won New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada, and Democrats made gains up and down the ballot throughout the region, including Brian Schweitzer’s landslide in Montana and a key victory in a House race in Idaho.

Dean’s 50-state strategy made a lot of this possible. As Time’s Jay Carney recently noted, “It helped that the Republican brand was in the process of imploding. But Dean and Obama put themselves and the Democratic Party in position to exploit their opponents’ failures and maximize their own returns. That took both vision and political guts. And it took the netroots activism of people like [Markos Moulitsas].”

Two weeks ago, J. Patrick Coolican wrote in the Las Vegas Sun, “Dean, who wears an ill-fitting suit I’m pretty sure I’ve seen at Target, also wears a smart smirk, the look of a guy who knows more than he lets on, and more than anyone gives him credit for. He’s usually associated with the loony wing of the party, the MoveOn crowd and the liberal bloggers. But in reality, he had a vision for Democrats capturing the center, and it’s coming to pass.”

Take a bow, gov.