Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean tried it as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and now Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is modeling his campaign on a 50-state strategy rejected by other Democrats as a waste of time.
While candidates like Hillary Clinton are building a plan to compete in so-called blue and purple states to collect enough electoral votes to win the presidency, Sanders said the party must follow Dean's model and build inside conservative red states.
Sen. Bernie Sanders campaigning. AP Photo
"I think it is insane that the Democrats do not have a 50-state strategy," Sanders told the Nation magazine in an interview published Monday.
"How is it that, if you are the party of working people, supposedly, you abdicate your responsibility in some of the poorest states of America? Where are you in Mississippi? Where are you in South Carolina? Where are you in Alabama? Where are you in other low-income states? If you don't get started now, you will never advance. So I intend in this campaign to go to states that many Democratic candidates don't usually visit," he told the Nation's John Nichols.
Dean's plan worked, helping his party in congressional elections. But on the presidential stage, Democrats typically stay on the coasts and upper Midwest, ignoring Southern states.
Howard Dean pushed a 50-state election strategy as DNC chairman. AP Photo
What's more, Sanders wants red states to host presidential primary debates, even some between Democrats and Republicans, which would be history-making.
"I would like as many debates as possible, and I would also like to break new ground and have debates with Republicans and Democrats. I think that will be very positive for the American people in that we'll be able to focus on issues. Let the Republicans defend why they want to give tax breaks to the billionaires and make massive cuts in Medicare. I would love to hear it," he told the magazine.
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.