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We are working on a project that begins with two simple observations about the current state of party politics. The first is that the political arena is now dominated by what one of us has called “shadow parties”—nominally independent groups that are run by major party insiders and that perform functions that in the past were performed directly by the parties. We’re talking about groups like Organizing For Action (OFA), once run by Jim Messina, or the American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS groups run by Karl Rove. These groups are doing a lot more than buying a few independent ads. They’re also doing voter mobilization, maintaining comprehensive partisan voter databases, employing long-term campaign workers, testing messages, and strategizing about the party’s pitch and message in individual campaigns and across multiple races.

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