Discuss as:

Settling Carville vs. Dean

Special to First Read from Hotline
James Carville has been generating a wave of publicity in criticizing DNC Chair Howard Dean for not sufficiently funding competitive House races. He's claimed the Democrats could have won another dozen seats if the DNC allocated more money in the campaign's final weeks. The DNC has pushed back on Carville's charges. Who's right?

Fourteen Democratic candidates lost by two points or less, but many of the campaigns were funded to the hilt by the Democratic House campaign committee (DCCC). Lois Murphy certainly can't blame her loss in PA 06 on inadequate funding; the DCCC spent over $3 million on her behalf. Patricia Madrid (NM 01) also had plenty of money – her razor-thin loss came because of an embarrassing gaffe at a debate. Mary Jo Kilroy (OH 15), Darcy Burner (WA 08), Phil Kellam (VA 02), Christine Jennings, and Tammy Duckworth (IL 06) were all among the top-funded candidates by the DCCC. (In Jennings' case, the money was funneled through the Florida Democratic party.)

And in some conservative districts, the DCCC strategically declined to spend money because they felt national advertising from Democrats would hurt their candidates. Gary Trauner, who narrowly lost to Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-WY AL), was the "victim" of such thinking.

That leaves six other races where more money could potentially have made a difference. Larry Kissell, who lost by less than 1 percent to GOP Rep. Robin Hayes (R-NC 08), certainly would have benefited from some cash; the DCCC didn't give his campaign a dime. But it wasn't a lack of DCCC funds, it was a lack of strategic foresight in this case.

Linda Stender did better-than-expected against GOP Rep. Mike Ferguson (R-NJ 07), but the DCCC would have had to enter the extremely-costly New York media market. Without the benefit of Monday morning quarterbacking, would that have been a worthwhile investment?

The losing Democratic candidates that legitimately could have a beef are: Tessa Hafen (NV 03), Dan Maffei (NY 25), Victoria Wulsin (OH 02) and Eric Massa (NY 29). These candidates ran in the type of third-tier races where the DCCC was only able to fund late. The New York environment was uniquely favorable this year, and another week of attack ads against Rep. Jim Walsh (R) perhaps could have brought him down.

Tessa Hafen was a late-emerging candidate who benefited from a mini-scandal surrounding Rep. Jon Porter (R-NV 03). An earlier investment here could have helped take Porter down. And, because of her historically Republican district, GOP Rep. Jean Schmidt managed to avoid the September attacks that her Republican counterparts received at the hands of the DCCC.

There's realistically only four -- certainly no more than six seats -- that perhaps could have been won with extra cash. Extra money could have made a small difference, but certainly not to the degree that Carville has been suggesting. Dean may have made strategic blunders in the past, but his fiscal responsibility here seems like the wiser course.