George Will

     Frost, who had ancestors in Texas politics a century ago, has been endorsed by former party chairman Robert Strauss, who attended the University of Texas with Frost's parents, and by Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, who ranks second to Pelosi in the Democrats' House leadership. Hoyer says Frost ``reinvented'' the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the four years he ran it after the Democrats lost 52 seats in the 1994 elections.

     Democrats, Frost proudly notes, gained 9 seats in 1996. But how could they not have bounced back a bit? In 1998, Democrats survived the electorate's ``six year itch'' for change: For the first time in a century, the party of a president in the middle of his second term gained seats -- five of them. But Democrats were still at a low base, and were boosted by Republican obsessiveness about Bill Clinton's glandular life.

     Frost wants to reverse the atrophy of many state parties that happens when national Democrats chase the chimera of winning the White House by running the table in the 18 to 20 states they contest. His wife is the highest-ranking woman general on active Army duty, and he supported a general -- Wesley Clark -- for the 2004 presidential nomination. Frost thinks that if Democrats will stop talking about gun control -- he talks about shooting awards he won at age 8 -- and if they can sound more serious about the U.S. military's guns, Democrats can carry some red states.

     Frost says Dean is ``such a lightning rod in various parts of the country.'' But what you might think is Frost's most favorable contrast with Dean -- that Frost is not incandescent -- might be a disadvantage. Some Democrats think that only Dean could slow the party's probable slide from a Northeastern liberal presidential nominee in 2004 to one in 2008 with even less appeal in red states -- Hillary Clinton. Dean might be the only chairman with enough political stature and fermenting personality to prevent Bill Clinton's restless energies from influencing every party and candidate's calculation.

     Granted, the restorative powers of the next Democratic Party chairman are rather less than many of the 447 party luminaries who will select him probably imagine. But as has been said, the consolation of imaginary things is not imaginary consolation.

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
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