A Story Behind Rahm Emanuel's Win

In a 7 page feature article subtitled "A Portrait in Power",The Chicago Tribune examines Rahm Emanuel's role in the Democratic victory on election day.

During the past year, the Tribune had exclusive access to the strategy sessions, private fundraisers and other moments that shaped this victory. The newspaper agreed not to print any of the details until after the election. Now that the votes have been counted, the story of how Emanuel helped end an era of Republican rule can be told.

He did it, in large measure, by remaking the Democratic Party in his own image.

I don't think any one person was responsible for the Democrat's win. I'm sure Howard Dean, Charles Schumer and Rahm Emanuel, as Chairs of the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Demcoratic Congressional Committee, as well as the netroots, all played a part.

The article is a major puff piece for Emanuel. As to his basic strategy:

Emanuel's strategy was to keep the opposition uncomfortable. If a Republican congressman took a vote that he hoped no one in his district would notice, such as supporting a Bush budget cut, Emanuel immediately issued a press release and sent it to the Republican's hometown newspaper. He then sent it to the lawmaker's office to, as he said, "[mess] with their heads."

He had the DCCC designate one Republican as the "rubber stamp of the week" and another as the "crony of the week," a gimmick that generated a surprising amount of local coverage. Republicans who received money from drugmakers or oil companies were ridiculed as lackeys of special interests.

On the 50 state strategy of Howard Dean:

On a late-spring day in 2006, Emanuel and Charles Schumer, the New Yorker in charge of winning the Senate for the Democrats, walked into the office of party Chairman Howard Dean.

Emanuel, once again, was ready for a fight.

For months, he and Schumer had been imploring the iconoclastic former presidential candidate to channel more money into congressional campaigns. Dean had been pushing a "50-state strategy" to build a Democratic operation in every part of the country.

The national party usually spent millions to help House candidates, but Dean was instead using the money to build this far-flung operation, to Emanuel's immense frustration. He felt Dean's strategy wasted money in unwinnable places.

According to Emanuel, the meeting devolved into a confrontation over resources. Emanuel said that the Republicans planned to heavily fund key races and that if Dean refused to do the same, it would amount to unilateral disarmament. Dean replied that he was fielding activists in every corner of every state.

Ridiculing the effort, Emanuel told Dean that he had seen no sign of it. "I know your field plan. It doesn't exist," he recalled saying. "I've gone around the country with these races. I've seen your people. There's no plan, Howard."

The tongue-lashing was another example of how Emanuel took a sledgehammer to intraparty niceties, making plenty of enemies along the way.

I have to disagree. As I've said before, I give major props to Howard Dean and the 50 state strategy.

The thorn in Emanuel's side, according to the article, was the Black Congressional Caucus.

He saw the Black Caucus as one more party faction, like conservative Democrats, that would rather complain than work. Asked about the number of black staffers at the DCCC—two African-Americans were on his senior staff of about 10 people—he waved his hand dismissively. "You know that every [DCCC] chairman has faced the same criticism?" he said. "OK. So I don't give a [expletive]," he added, literally spitting.

Then he began ranting about his conservative party colleagues. "They hate me too, because I'm arrogant and pushy with them. … Because they've never, ever WORKED! NOBODY! NONE OF 'EM!"

Here's one of Emanuel's picks:

All of Emanuel's scolding and cajoling would have meant nothing if he fielded weak candidates. After yet another devastating loss in 2004, he and other Democratic leaders quickly determined that the party needed a machismo implant. Emanuel looked for candidates with strong backgrounds, from sheriffs to soldiers, to counteract a Democratic image of softness.

This is why he badly wanted Heath Shuler, a former football star, to run for Congress as a Democrat in North Carolina. An evangelical Christian who opposes abortion, Shuler couldn't easily have his views caricatured by the GOP.

What were Emanuel's criteria for candidates?

His goal was to recruit 50 credible challengers. He had one criterion: people who could win. That may sound obvious, but it's not. Many Democrats did not believe in recruiting overly conservative candidates, no matter how promising. In the past, those like Shuler who opposed abortion were not welcome in the party.

"We don't have an ideological purity test," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Emanuel's top lieutenant for recruiting. "If you believe in the basic gut principles of the Democratic Party—opportunity, fairness for all—we're not going to hold people to a litmus test."

How did Emanuel decide whom to fund?

Someone asked Emanuel how he planned to spend the money he was raising nationally. He would not distribute funds based on which candidates he liked, he said, nor on who were the most loyal Democrats.

"I'm cutthroat about this," he said. "I don't give a crap where I pick up seats. I plan on winning. There is no emotional attachment."

.... No matter how good candidates were, it meant little if they did not have cash to advertise and pay campaign workers....Emanuel and his staff judged a candidate almost entirely by how much money he or she brought in. If the candidate proved a good fundraiser, the DCCC would provide support, advertising and strategic advice. If not, the committee would shut him or her out.

Emanuel's demands were specific. Democratic challengers, for instance, had to raise $320,000 by March 31. At a staff meeting a year ago, talk turned to a Pennsylvania Democrat named Andy Warren who had raised a meager $38,662 in the previous three months. Emanuel ordered the staff to drop Warren and back his Democratic opponent. "Eliminate him," Emanuel said curtly.

After the election, Emanuel was, of course, gleeful, even jumping on a desk.

But at that moment, Emanuel would not, could not censor his glee, or restrain his distaste for the defeated Republicans.

For weeks they had been boasting that their program for turning out voters in the campaign's final 72 hours would swamp all his work. The voters had made those statements look ridiculous.

"I'll tell you this," Emanuel shouted out to his staff. "The Republicans may have the 72-hour program. But they have not seen the 22-month program!

"Since my kids are gone, I can say it: They can go ---- themselves!"
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    How'd that 3 million dollars for Duckworth (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Nov 12, 2006 at 10:42:36 AM EST
    work out?

    so the image of the Dem Party is that of a short jerk?

    I hope not.

    The funny thing is Rahmbo is losing the spin war. That "puff piece" is going to hurt him a lot.

    This guy is an ass (none / 0) (#1)
    by Key on Sun Nov 12, 2006 at 12:58:14 AM EST
    I'm SHOCKED (no, not really) that this guy would allow a paper to have such access and then write such a favorable article about him.

    Kind of reminds me of embedded journalists in the early days of the Iraq war.  All they saw was what their keepers wanted them to see.

    Perhaps the most important part of this article is his confrontation with Dean.  Note that the Trib wasn't at this meeting.  "According to Emanuel, the meeting devolved into a confrontation over resources."  Yup.  The trib saw what this ass wanted them to see.

    He's definitely a shrewd player.  Someone to really watch closely over the next 2 years.  Guys like this tend to end up being extremely corrupt.    As in Tom Delay.

    Puff Piece? (none / 0) (#2)
    by Donna Darko on Sun Nov 12, 2006 at 01:28:28 AM EST
    You should see his picture which takes up half the front page under the banner "Architect of Victory" or something like that. Underneath is Rummy's picture and "Architect of Failure". Then again this is a conservative paper. Rahm's my friend's rep and she doesn't like him then again she's rad like me.    

    So, Rahm complains (none / 0) (#3)
    by Maggie Mae on Sun Nov 12, 2006 at 02:31:59 AM EST
    that Dean wouldn't give him any money then he turns around and cuts some Dems off at the knees himself?

    Playing nice with Partners (none / 0) (#4)
    by Carolyn in Baltimore on Sun Nov 12, 2006 at 08:28:45 AM EST
    He can't play nice with his partners. What if he had worked WITH Dean to fund great candidates and the state org that would do the campaign. With his strategy we wouldn't have the Congress or the new dem legislatures to grow new candidates from.
    We're lucky we won as well as we did but there were 20 other races that were very close that could have done better with minimal extra funding.
    Dean is stubborn but I don't get the impression he was undercutting other efforts. Rahm does not play nice.

    Different goals (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by Rick B on Sun Nov 12, 2006 at 10:21:18 AM EST
    Look. Winning the immediate election is limited by the resources available. If you strip the funds from long-term institutional building, you can win perhaps as many as a handful of additional races in the immediate election.

    But building long-term infrastructure will permit winning more races in later elections. Failure to spend long-term money now will mean that the number of races that can possibly be won in later elections shrinks, and no short-term money spent during those later elections can go past the limits the party has built for itself.

    This is a classic issue in corporate strategy. The guy running marketting always needs more money to sell the product on hand, and will usually work with production to get an expansion of assembly lines to match the grandiose sales possibilities. The best place to get that is from R&D because R&D is an overhead expenditure. The results of a dollar spent on R&D cannot be traced to any current sales. So it is a place to get more resources for short-term marketing needs. Marketting managers tend to scream that too much is being spent on R&D and the funds are being wasted because most of the R&D funds are spent on things that have no use at all. But the few big winners can often make up for that, and when spending the money, it is impossible to determine which R&D effort will be the one that pays off.

    Dean is operating long-term and Emmanuel is operating short-term. Both are esential, and they will conflict. Fortunately, Dean is raising his own money and has the self-confidence not to be stampeded by Emmanuel.

    Out here in the boondocks our function is to understand the differences and then enjoy the show.


    I learned all that in B-school. The point is that a really dynamic organization can coordinate the long and short term goals and get even more mileage.
    Rahm seems unable to do that while Dean (from what I have seen) is not fighting Rahm so much as standing up for the longterm and building the infrastructure.

    Quickie vs. marriage (none / 0) (#10)
    by Donna Darko on Sun Nov 12, 2006 at 01:01:25 PM EST
    Long-term infrastructure is a better strategy than the quick fix. The US has operated on the "quickie" over "marriage" model until now and we've suffered domestically and environmentally.

    overhead (none / 0) (#14)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Nov 13, 2006 at 09:42:26 AM EST
    Rick - R&D and marketing costs are both overhead.

    And I may be biased because my background was telecom, but R&D spending was a definite issue in marketing and sales because the customer wanted to do business with a technology leader. Dollars spent on R&D was in every presentation.

    As for Dean, he was handed a "blue bird" by the Repubs.


    Impeach Bush & Cheney--make Pelosi President (none / 0) (#6)
    by vmiskell on Sun Nov 12, 2006 at 10:32:17 AM EST
    An Open Letter to the Democratic Leadership

    What Would Senator McCain Do?

    Let's start with what Senator McCain did:

    On February 12, 1999, Senator John McCain, AZ, voted twice to convict President Bill Clinton--once on the count of perjury and again on obstruction of justice.  

    After the House of Representatives voted 228-206 on the perjury charge and 221-212 on obstruction of justice (largely along party lines) to impeach, it was the duty of the United States Senate to determine Bill Clinton's guilt.

    And moderate John McCain went along with the Republican right-wing zealots to remove from office lame duck President Bill Clinton.  

    Clinton's extramarital sexual behavior was no doubt shameful, but Congress's actions were much more shameful--using the serious Constitutional mechanism of impeachment (which is supposed to be reserved for dealing with bribery, acts of treason, and high crimes and misdemeanors) to remove a popular President solely because he tried to cover up an inappropriate sexual liaison.  

    At no point was the U.S. government, its military personnel, its laws, its international treaties, or the safety of its people harmed or put in jeopardy by Clinton's lying about his sexual affair with Monica Lewinsky.  Neither the country nor the Constitution was undermined by his lying about inappropriate personal behavior.  Yet, moderate Senator John McCain voted to remove Bill Clinton from the office of the Presidency.

    Now power has shifted away from the Republican Party, toward the Democratic Party in the House and Senate.  Should the House impeach and then the Senate remove from office a lame duck President and Vice President?  

    Many Democrats and Independents (and perhaps some Republicans too) have been outraged by the actions of Bush, Cheney, and other civil officials of the Executive--and are calling on Congress to protect the Constitution and the integrity of the United States government by impeaching Bush and Cheney.

    But aren't Democrats, Independents, and Libertarians being vindictive just as the Republicans had been by impeaching and trying Bill Clinton during late 1998 and early 1999?

     No. Clinton's alleged perjury and obstruction of justice did not harm America's national interests--and in the end, the Senate acquitted him because his crimes related to reprehensible private behavior--not appalling governance, widespread bribery, or the undermining of the Constitution.  They were not high crimes and misdemeanors as understood by the framers of the Constitution.

    President Bush and Vice President Cheney (along with cabinet members and others) violated at least several international and federal laws, including Geneva Accords and the U.S. War Crimes Act.  Against Iraq, they unnecessarily launched an aggressive war before exhausting reasonable alternatives, causing the deaths of civilians and U.S. troops.  They illegally authorized wiretapping American citizens without obtaining warrants (even within the 72-hour FISA grace period), essentially bypassing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.  Detainees (declared "enemy combatants") were denied basic human rights, such as access to attorneys, courts, and the Red Cross.  Those captured or abducted were often rendered to secret prisons and tortured without the opportunity to challenge their accusers or dispute the charges against them.  Suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus was done illegally and then signed into law by President Bush in the name of national security.

    Whether enumerated by John Conyers or John Dean or others, the various lists of impeachable crimes are both serious and extensive.  The Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate cannot just ignore these charges in some "forgive and forget" gesture.  Our future as a democratic republic depends on enforcing federal and international laws covering war crimes and human rights violations.  Americans cannot just allow these horrific crimes, involving the deaths of American troops, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians, and the torture of perhaps thousands of both innocent and guilty detainees, to go unpunished and unacknowledged.

    It is the duty of Congress to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of such serious crimes and violations.

    And it is John McCain's duty as a United States Senator to vote for conviction and removal from office of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney when extensive evidence (a good deal of it now public) almost certainly demonstrates their guilt.

    If the Democratic majority of the Congress will not enforce the Constitution and federal statues, such as the U.S. War Crimes Act, against a blatantly unchecked Executive, who will?

    --Vincent Miskell
    Pembroke Pines, FL

    Balance (none / 0) (#9)
    by Deconstructionist on Sun Nov 12, 2006 at 11:03:37 AM EST
      We need strong  advocates of both approaches because both have a lot of merit and neither is the entire answer. When strong advocates of party-building must work with and compromise with strong advocates of tactical prioritizing we are most likely to succeed in achieving the necessary balance.

    I'm not black, but (none / 0) (#11)
    by aw on Sun Nov 12, 2006 at 07:18:38 PM EST
    He saw the Black Caucus as one more party faction,

    I'm disappointed.  Yes, I know, politics is all about the margins.  But everyone is in some faction.  I wish we had more proportional representation.  Where do I belong?  I'm a middle-aged hearing impaired unemployed woman, a divorced single mother who had an abortion who at some pont might benefit from stem cell research who has no health insurance . Who represents me?  Not Scott Garrett (my supposed rep).  Nobody.

    Rahm didn't win at home (none / 0) (#12)
    by fafnir on Sun Nov 12, 2006 at 08:29:01 PM EST
    I think Rahm claims too much credit for a guy who couldn't convert two contested Republican seats in his own back yard. Tammy Duckworth (D) lost to state senator Peter Roskam (R) for Henry Hyde's (R) seat in the heavily Republican 6th District. Despite her military service and heroism, she wasn't a strong political candidate even with Rahm's much overrated "campaign-in-a-box" strategy.

    Progressive businessman Daniel Seals (D), a biracial candidate blessed with Obama's oratory skills, lost his attempt to unseat Mark Kirk (R) in the blue and heavily Jewish 10th District. Kirk, a friend of Rahm and a staunch supporter of Israel, voted for Bush's agenda 91 percent of the time. The word is that Seals would have easily won that seat had Rahm simply stood next to him during the campaign.

    Sure, Rahm deserves some credit, but his inability to fight and win in his own house leaves some doubt about his efficacy away from home.

    Ruthless closers and Carville (none / 0) (#13)
    by Donna Darko on Sun Nov 12, 2006 at 10:38:40 PM EST
    I was very disappointed in Seals' and Duckworth's losses. My rep Kirk is a yes man for Bush.

    "You've got to have a thirst for winning," he said. "You know what our party thinks? 'We're good people with good ideas. That's just enough, isn't it?' Being tough enough, mean enough and vicious enough is just not what they want. ... They just want to be patted on the back for the noble effort. No."

    Unfortunately, the Democratic Party needs alot more of these "ruthless closers like Karl Rove, Tom DeLay and Lee Atwater."

    "As the campaign drew to a close, Lapp and his deputy, Ali Wade, were signing off on dozens of advertisements each day in an office across the street from the DCCC. The office was filled with chaotic activity--phones ringing, staffers charging in, ads playing on computers. A board on the wall listed districts where the DCCC was airing TV spots. One day in October, another call from James Carville prompted Wade to say in exasperation: "Can we change our number so he doesn't keep calling?"

    I'll bet Carville called Emanuel last month to screw us over.