Tuesday, November 11th, 2008
James Besser in Washington
Howard Dean is calling it quits as chair of the Democratic National Committee after an election that restored his party to the White House, increased its majorities in both Houses of Congress – and solidified a Jewish vote that analysts once believed was getting soft around the edges.
Numerous factors went into the Democratic landslide among Jewish voters, including mounting economic fears and a Republican vice presidential candidate with a questionable sense of geography, but Washington insiders say Dean’s persistent, wide-ranging Jewish outreach program at the DNC was a big part of it.
After he ran into problems with some Jewish voters during his 2004 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, Dean decided the party couldn’t afford to take Jewish voters for granted; when he became DNC chair, Jewish outreach became an element in his program to solidify and expand the Democratic base.
Matt Dorf, a former JTA reporter in Washington and a Democrat strategist, oversaw an effort that included media contacts, working with an expanded Democratic congressional outreach effort and cultivating relations with Jewish leaders.
That was an important element in the overwhelming Jewish vote for President Elect Barack Obama last week, several analysts said this week.
Dean’s term at the DNC expires in January, when the new administration and Congress come to town, and he plans to keep his promise to serve only a single term.