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First Thoughts: The death of the DLC

The death of the DLC… The Dean way triumphed over the Clinton/From/Lieberman way… What the “Draft Jeb” movement means… And what the GOP excitement over its VP field says… Scott, Kasich, and Walker vs. Jeb, W., Thompson, and Engler… Wadhams drops re-election bid to head CO GOP.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** The death of the DLC: Just five years ago, a handful of Democratic presidential hopefuls -- including Hillary Clinton -- gathered at a high-profile Democratic Leadership Council confab in Denver. Yesterday, however, Politico’s Ben Smith broke the news that the centrist DLC, which helped Bill Clinton win the White House in 1992, is on the verge of closing its doors. In recent years, a few things particularly hurt the group: its founder, Al From, endorsed Joe Lieberman in the ’06 general election in Connecticut; its current chairman, Harold Ford Jr., mulled New York Senate primary challenge against Kirsten Gillibrand -- from the right; and CEO Bruce Reed left the group twice to pursue jobs in the Obama administration. But what hurt the DLC more than anything else was that it never figured out how to survive when Bill Clinton was no longer the Democratic Party’s center of gravity.

*** The Dean way triumphs over the Clinton/From/Lieberman way: The DLC was a Bill Clinton organization, pure and simple. Al From and Bill Clinton were attached at the hip in the run up to 1992, and at times it was a rough ride. Then-DNC Chair Ron Brown and then DLC Chair Bill Clinton were known to trade a barb or two. But Clinton prevailed and essentially took over the Democratic Party for over a decade, sometimes with the DLC and From in the passenger seat -- and sometimes in the trailer attached to the fender. The DLC tried to survive without Clinton or at least survive UNTIL another Clinton. But when Hillary didn’t win the Democratic nomination in ’08 -- and when Joe Lieberman became its ideological standard bearer -- the organization lost its relevancy. What's more, the DLC struggled to be relevant once IN power. It's an easy path to preach when the Democrats were out of power, but once in power or when the country became disaffected with the right (like 2006 and 2008), the Howard Dean way (begun in 2004 and mastered by Team Obama in 2008) triumphed over the Clinton/From/Lieberman way. By the way, is it a coincidence that the same day we learn the DLC is about to close its doors we also find out that centrist California Rep. Jane Harman (D) is leaving Congress to head the Woodrow Wilson Center? Harman will sit down for an exclusive interview on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” in the 1:00 pm ET hour.

*** Conservative split on Egypt: Bill Kristol, in the Weekly Standard, pens an essay pushing back on other skeptical conservatives (and even calls out Glenn Beck by name) for fear-mongering over what's happening in Egypt. The issue, of course, for many concerned Middle Eastern foreign policy activists is the fear of the unknown in Egypt and what it means for Israel in particular. Here's Kristol's lecture: "Let’s hope that as talk radio hosts find time for reflection, and commentators step back to take a deep breath, they will recall that one of the most hopeful aspects of the current conservative revival is its reclamation of the American constitutionalist tradition. … An American conservatism that looks back to 1776 cannot turn its back on the Egyptian people. We should wish them well -- and we should work to help them achieve as good an outcome as possible."

*** What the “Draft Jeb” movement means: Last week, we noted how the potential 2012 GOP field reminds us of the 2004 Dem field -- Romney = Kerry, Thune = Edwards, Gingrich = Gephardt, etc. And we made one other comparison: that Jeb Bush would probably be Hillary Clinton, circa '03-'04, as the candidate whom some activists want but probably won't get (at least this cycle). Lo and behold, National Review’s Rich Lowry listed eight reasons why Jeb should run for president in 2012. The question we have about a Jeb Bush candidacy: After conservatives used the Tea Party movement to re-brand conservatism and the GOP after George W. Bush's candidacy, how eager are Republicans to returning to the Bush brand? But more than anything else, this “Draft Jeb” movement may say less about Jeb and more about the GOP’s frustration with its ACTUAL potential presidential field.

*** And what the GOP excitement about its VP field says: Another sign that the GOP is unhappy with its field is when there’s more excitement around potential VP possibilities. Per Politico, “It’s almost as if there is more excitement over the deep pool of vice presidential prospects than over the emerging roster of presidential candidates, which is largely composed of white, male, former and soon-to-be-former governors, none of them from the biggest battleground states. On the vice presidential level, Republicans are already gushing over the sheer diversity of the candidates—unprecedented in terms of race, gender, geography and political experience—who could fill out the 2012 ticket.” Of course, not since 1960 has a VP nominee directly helped a candidate win the presidency. By the way, this excitement over "who's No. 2" might also be a compelling reason to push Jeb to run now. Rubio, Ryan, N. Haley, S. Martinez, Christie, etc. will all be "ready" to go national on their own in 2016.

*** Scott, Kasich, and Walker vs. Jeb, W., Thompson, and Engler: Speaking of the Tea Party and Florida governors, it was striking -- though not surprising in retrospect -- that Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) yesterday unveiled his budget to Tea Party groups instead of state lawmakers. As one of us pointed out yesterday, it was yet another sign how ideologically conservative the new crop of GOP governors is (Scott, John Kasich, Scott Walker). In fact, they're more conservative than the prominent GOP governors of the '90s like Jeb Bush, George W. Bush, Tommy Thompson, and John Engler. The conservative movement's ideological warriors were in the House in the '90s; now they’re in the governor's mansions (and sitting in the attorney general posts as well). In the '90s, the governors were the pragmatic conservatives; these days those GOP pragmatists are in the Senate (think Graham and Lamar, an ex-governor, by the way). 

*** Wadhams out in CO: The Denver Post reports, “Dick Wadhams on Monday unexpectedly dropped his bid for re-election as chair of the Colorado Republican Party, warning GOP leaders that their chances in 2012 could be ‘severely undermined’ by a strategy aimed solely at uniting conservatives.” More Wadhams: “‘The ability of Colorado Republicans to win and retain the votes of hundreds of thousands of unaffiliated swing voters in 2012 will be severely undermined,’ he said. Wadhams on Monday added that [the front-runner to replace him, Ted] Harvey ‘sees everything through the lens of a safe Republican district in Douglas County, and Colorado is more diverse than that.’”

Countdown Chicago’s mayoral election: 14 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 273 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 363 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up

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