DEAN'S BURN RATE DEJA VU. The Washington Post reports this morning that Rahm Emanuel, head of the DCCC, stormed out of a meeting with DNC head Howard Dean over worries that Dean was spending too much money in too many states in a way that was not geared to winning this fall's congressional elections.

Emanuel's fury, Democratic officials said, was over his concern that Dean's DNC is spending its money too freely and too early in the election cycle -- a "burn rate" that some strategists fear will leave the party unable to help candidates compete on equal terms with Republicans this fall.

That reminded me of this October 2003 controversy over Dean's spending, �Deans Burn Rate Raises Questions.� Basically, the concern in 2003 was that Dean was spending too much money on organizers in too many states (13), and far too early in the cycle, rather than husbanding his resources for use in a targeted fashion come crunch time. That is the exact same concern Emanuel is raising now about Dean's management of the DNC. And, if history is any guide, Emanuel's concerns are ones that ought to be heeded. Most assessments of the failure of Dean's candidacy in 2004, such as this one from Business Week, pointed to Dean's burn rate as one of the reasons his campaign flamed out:

the Dean juggernaut fell victim to its own hubris and gaffes: an unhealthy "burn rate" that depleted its venture capital, a belief that pouring money into advertising would create unstoppable momentum, and an unproven product -- the candidate himself -- that didn't live up to the hype.

Howard Fineman is predicting an onslaught of accusatory nastiness as part of the national Republican campaign strategy this fall. Emanuel is concerned that the Democrats, now so well-poised to make inroads in the House, will find themselves under-funded at that crucial moment. Anyone serious about making the most of Bush's bad poll numbers and the growing dissatisfaction with Congress ought to share his concerns -- especially if they support Dean's 50-state project.

Should Democrats fail to regain power, it�s likely they won�t get as favorable an electoral environment again any time soon, regardless of what's built out on the ground. Stories like the one in the Post suggest that if Dems do fall shy of expectations come fall, it will be Dean's head that will be first to roll. At that point, the long-term rebuilding project could be scuppered, and the only thing the DNC will have to show for the past two years will be blown opportunities and blown cash.

--Garance Franke-Ruta

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