"Red State" Democrats Dispute Clinton's Spin

"Red State" Democrats Dispute Clinton's Spin

Officials at several state Democratic Parties are taking exception and disagreed with statements by Sen. Hillary Clinton that seemingly write off the electoral relevance of their states.

In the wake of loses to Barack Obama in last weekend's slew of primaries, Clinton sought to minimize the political fallout by noting that several of the victories came from traditionally Republican-leaning states.

"It is highly unlikely we will win Alaska or North Dakota or Idaho or Nebraska," she told reporters. "But we have to win Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Florida, Michigan ... And we've got to be competitive in places like Texas, Missouri and Oklahoma."

On Monday, the former first lady went a step further saying that it would take a "tsunami change in America," for Democrats to carry some of Obama's red states. "It's just not going to happen," she told ABC7 and Politico.

The premise of the argument was disputed by Democratic officials from several of those states, who say the landscape is ripe for the party to make inroads, and see the strategy of writing off the "red states" as antiquated.

"Their campaign has to work on where they are right now," said Matt Connealy, Executive Director of the Nebraska Democratic Party. "I don't think even Clinton should leave these predominantly red states alone. I think that is a recipe that has not proven to be effective in the past."

Indeed, the current argument over how and where Democrats should concentrate their resources mirrors similar disagreements that arose when Howard Dean took over as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Then and now the questions were: Is the party best served securing victories in voter-rich swing states? Or can it build up enough support (and drain GOP money in the process) by nationalizing its operation?

"I think a lot of folks here have seen the failed policies of the Bush administration time and again and they are getting tired of this country not moving in a positive direction," said Rick Gion, communications director of the North Dakota Democratic Party. "If there was a year that North Dakotans would go for Democrats this would be one of the best ones."

"We've had Democratic governors over the years. We've had Democratic legislatures. We've had a number of Democratic leaders elected to office," said Kay Brown, communications director for the Alaska Democratic Party. "Certainly it is possible [for a Democratic presidential candidate to win]. I think the Alaska is more closely divide then what you see in Congress."

The reality, of course, is far more daunting than these party officials let on. While Democrats in Alaska have been aided by ethics scandals of high-ranking GOP officials, the state is still predominantly Republican: 61 percent of the populace voted for George Bush in 2004. In North Dakota that number was 63 percent. And in Nebraska it was 66 percent.

But the same holds true in Texas and Oklahoma -- two states cited by Clinton as places where Democrats have to be "competitive" -- where Bush won 61 percent and 66 percent of the vote respectively. Clinton's campaign has trumpeted her win in Oklahoma's Democratic primary.

And yet, officials say, the benefits are worth the costs. Campaigning in the traditionally GOP states, Connealy notes "will get the base motivated and force the Republicans to spend resources."

And, he adds, you might be surprised: "If we make the ask in red states, people are willing to respond."

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