Think back to 1993 and 1994 after President Clinton took office. Under the very able leadership of David Wilhelm, the DNC was better organized, better run, and better funded than it had been in many years. However, in the 1994 elections Democrats lost 54 House seats, eight Senate seats, and control of Congress. Flash forward to 2005 and 2006. In Ken Mehlman, the RNC had one of its best chairmen in recent history. Under his strong leadership, the RNC was well-organized, well-funded, and extremely disciplined. Yet in the 2006 elections, Republicans lost badly and found themselves the minority party once again.
What this suggests is that effective national parties are more a function of recent electoral success rather than a predictor of future electoral success.
These results raise a larger question that has been debated by political scientists and operatives for decades. Do campaigns and political tactics matter? The short answer, in my opinion, is absolutely. But their importance is very small relative to the importance of the overall political conditions and the governing position of each party (incumbent vs. challenger).
In real estate, it’s location, location, location. In politics, it’s conditions, conditions, conditions. And after conditions, the second most important factor is the candidate. And then, in a distant third, the campaign and its tactics. These are what one of my friends calls “the 3 Cs of elections” and they don’t include the national committees.)
What about 2008?