It's Not the Message, It's the Messenger

I've worked on many political campaigns and supported many more. Often, I lose. It's on the day after that I look back and reflect on why we lost and what it all means. Actually, I'm pretty hung over the actual day after. Then I'm angry. Then I throw things. Then I like to rent some great action films like “Ronin” or “Die Hard” and “Die Hard 3” to forget everything. But then, on the metaphorical if not actual day after, I reflect.

My conservative friends are in the weeds right now. It's been rough. They bear the familiar signs of late-night benders fueled by rage, whiskey-and-cokes and editorials from The New Republic. As a survivor of what I'll generously term a "down cycle" I was going to dedicate this column to helping those poor souls by sharing a few things they should avoid doing. Then I realized I wanted them to lose. So here are a few steps they should take if they want to continue to take it on the chin during the next few election cycles:

With Daschle Out, Dean Should Be In

Tom Daschle's withdrawal leaves an opening at Health and Human Services. Howard Dean is the man for that job.

Dean isn't given enough credit for his expert chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee. His "50 State Strategy" is as responsible for Obama's large victory in 2008 as any other factor. Not to mention the 2006 congressional gains. He rebuilt the grass roots of the Democratic Party from the ground up, organizing a whole generation of young leaders.

His record as a five-term governor of Vermont is strong, including providing near-universal heath coverage. During his gubernatorial reelection bid, he had to wear a bulletproof vest because of death threats he'd received due to his support for gay civil unions.

Now the Hard Work Begins

The Republican Party took a small step last Friday toward climbing out of the deep chasm it has dug for itself during the past eight to 10 years with the selection of Michael Steele as its next chairman. I know Mr. Steele to be a man of great character — hungry and with vision for the party. I know he will serve that institution well.

His task is certainly daunting, and fraught with distractions from well-intentioned but misguided and stale power players in the organization’s structure.

On the RNC Chairmanship Race

By Friday afternoon, the preliminaries will be over and members of the Republican National Committee (RNC) gathered at the Capitol Hilton here in Washington will choose a new party chairman.

If history is any guide, it will be a long and perhaps brutal session as six candidates seek the GOP chairmanship. Most expect multiple ballots and some are predicting that the likely winner may not even emerge until the third or fourth ballot. When Jim Nicholson was elected chairman back in 1997, he didn't even take the lead in the voting until the fourth ballot and then "backed in" on the next ballot as the early favorites cut deals or left knowing that their moment had come and gone.

Paterson’s Transparent Machinations

While Caroline Kennedy's withdrawal from contention to replace Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Senate remains murky and confusing, the fact that New York Gov. David Paterson (D) bungled the entire process mightily is all too clear.

As New Yorkers urged Paterson to get going and make an announcement these past months, he refused to bow to the pressure yet was content to keep on talking. He didn't want the media pushing him around, he didn't want the guessing game, and he was happy to let us know that Kennedy had something like a 50-50 shot, with pluses and minuses, he said.

The Ground Shifted Beneath Them

“What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.”

That was the most significant line from the Obama speech yesterday for Republicans.

The ground has shifted beneath them.

Five years ago, when I first heard about an ambitious legislator from the Illinois state Senate who wanted to be president, a guy with a strange name whose father was from Africa, I scoffed. No way that was going to happen, I said.

The Power of Lincoln

Our new president has successfully purloined our nation’s greatest president for his own political party with nary a peep from the GOP.

By consciously patterning himself after Abraham Lincoln — his first presidential campaign speech given in Springfield, Ill.; his team of rivals; his train trip; his event at the Lincoln Memorial — President-elect Obama has claimed America’s 16th president for the Democrats.

It seems like Republicans are happy to give Lincoln up.

RNC Chairman Race: Experience? Or Results?

If you are hoping this is an endorsement of your favorite candidate, it's not. I am, however, hoping to provide some food for thought for Republican National Committee members who will soon choose the next chairman of the RNC.

Stop treating this like some beauty pageant. The new RNC chief can automatically become a star if he uses the post well, and for the good of the party. If he is not currently a regular on the political TV and radio shows, he will instantly have a seat at those tables when he is elected. He can also help create other Republican communicators who can help build the party in the national media and in local media all across the country. In fact, building that team should be a priority.

The Franken Facts

Al Franken is about to be elevated to the U.S. Senate as a result of funny business.

Twenty-five precincts in Minnesota have recorded more votes cast than there were voters on Election Day. Ramsey County alone has 177 more ballots than people who voted. The vast majority of these over-votes have gone to Franken.

Kennedy’s Ever-Expanding Laundry List of Political Faux Pas

Perhaps I lost the holiday spirit too soon, but let's just admit it — Caroline Kennedy is blowing it.

A new national poll shows the country split down the middle on whether Kennedy should be appointed by the governor of New York to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate. Literally the angel of the Kennedy clan, all Camelot and no courtrooms. Influential endorser of popular President-elect Barack Obama. Still the public is split — and it's no surprise.

Kennedy has insisted she is not campaigning for an appointment, but went public to say she wanted it, hired a staff and went on a tour of upstate New York. There she tried dodging the press, eventually relenting to take questions and say pretty much nothing. After avoiding interviews and getting criticized for it, she sat down with The New York Times and some other outlets last weekend to declare, "I wouldn't be here if I didn't think I would be the best."