March 7, 2006


Democrats Struggle To Seize Opportunity: Amid GOP Troubles, No Unified Message (Shailagh Murray and Charles Babington, March 7, 2006, Washington Post)

Democratic leaders had set a goal of issuing their legislative manifesto by November 2005 to give voters a full year to digest their proposals. But some Democrats protested that the release date was too early, so they put it off until January. The new date slipped twice again, and now House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) says the document will be unveiled in "a matter of weeks."

Some Democrats fear that the hesitant handling is symbolic of larger problems facing the party in trying to seize control of the House and Senate after more than a decade of almost unbroken minority status. Lawmakers and strategists have complained about erratic or uncertain leadership and repeated delays in resolving important issues.

The conflict goes well beyond Capitol Hill. The failure of congressional leaders to deliver a clear message has left some Democratic governors deeply frustrated and at odds with Washington Democrats over strategy. [...]

Also dividing Democratic strategists is the question of what lessons to take from the Republican landslide of 1994, when the GOP won the Senate and picked up 54 House seats, wiping out 40 years of Democratic rule. Some Democrats associate that breakthrough with the House Republicans' "Contract With America," a list of proposals on policy and government.

"We should take a page from their book" and have "an overarching theme" similar to the 1994 contract, said Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.).

Many of his colleagues agree, but not Reid. "We're not going to do a 'Contract With America,' " Reid said in an interview. He noted that the GOP document received scant attention when it was presented a few weeks before the 1994 election, and political historians say it played a minor role in the outcome. "There's a great mythology about the contract," Reid said.

Even the party's five-word 2006 motto has preoccupied congressional Democrats for months. "We had meetings where senators offered suggestions," Reid said. "We had focus groups. We worked hard on that. . . . It's a long, slow, arduous process."

That slogan -- "Together, America Can Do Better" -- was revived from the 2004 presidential campaign of Sen. John F. Kerry.

Taxes, National-Health, Abortion, Sodomy, Appeasement!

The Democrats' Real Problem (E. J. Dionne Jr., March 7, 2006, Washington Post)

The false premise is that oppositions win midterm elections by offering a clear program, such as the Republicans' 1994 Contract With America. I've been testing this idea with such architects of the 1994 "Republican revolution" as former representative Vin Weber and Tony Blankley, who was Newt Gingrich's top communications adviser and now edits the Washington Times editorial page.

Both said the main contribution of the contract was to give inexperienced Republican candidates something to say once the political tide started moving the GOP's way. But both insisted that it was disaffection with Bill Clinton, not the contract, that created the Republicans' opportunity -- something Bob Dole said at the time.

After running to the Right of George HW Bush, Bill Clinton raised taxes, mucked about with nationalizing health care, seemed to be forcing the military to accept gays, and foisted Joycelyn Elders upon the nation. When the GOP nationalized the election it draped this liberalism around Democrats' necks and pulled.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 7, 2006 8:11 AM

Exactly. People aren't going to remember the specific items in the Contract, or even that some of them have "faded" away. But they do know when a politician stands up and says "I'm for this".

The GOP should drape Nancy Pelosi, Mad Murtha (who is rapidly becoming a senile embarrassment), John Conyers, Teddy, the Cabana boy, slimy Dick Durbin, Liz Holtzman (who wants to impeach Bush), and the rest of them and pull hard.

And in those districts where the Dems are running veterans, force the candidates to disavow the national party. After all, if Tammie Duckworth and the rest of the soldier candidates support the troops, they can hardly stand with Murtha, Durbin, Kerry, and Barbara Lee, now can they?

Posted by: jim hamlen at March 7, 2006 8:46 AM

"Taxes, National-Health, Abortion, Sodomy, Appeasement!"

That slogan should do well in the focus groups, but I would suggest perhaps a french phrase like

"Tu es completement debile"

(you are a complete moron), yes that should take them over the top.

Posted by: h-man at March 7, 2006 8:51 AM

"Amid GOP Troubles.." or something similar is the lead of almost every article and TV news story and even on so-called libertarian blogs, even FOX News isn't excempt.

Pork barrel spending, a non-issue about how congress gets things done, the deficit is a minuscule percentage of GNP, loss of what privacy, Republican officials under mickey mouse indictments?

What are all these "troubles" except fabrications, distortions and boldface lies.

It's past time for Bush to start speaking out on media excesses and forcing Democrat politicians to offer evidence for their accusations or to shut up.

Posted by: erp at March 7, 2006 8:54 AM

We have yet to come up with an issue that has enough legs to resonate with the voters for eight months, unless the Republicans decide to stretch out something like the port controversy into November. While the Democrats and the big media outlets will try and hit on some of the current issues throughout the year, what happens in the August-October period will go a lot further towards deciding the results of the election.

Posted by: John at March 7, 2006 9:47 AM

Senator Carper (D, Del.) says we need "an overarching theme"

How's this:

"Together, We Can Lose"

Posted by: John J. Coupal at March 7, 2006 10:12 AM

Most people don't care about Congressional elections until the baseball playoffs start. And let's not forget that there were no playoffs in '94.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at March 7, 2006 10:31 AM

They have a unified message, they just can't tell us cos they'd never win.

Posted by: Sandy P. at March 7, 2006 11:26 AM

h-man - That's good, but it should be "vous etes," because the Democrats aren't familiar with the American people.

Posted by: pj at March 7, 2006 11:47 AM

pj. Touché.

Posted by: erp at March 7, 2006 12:47 PM

The GOP should bribe Jimmy Carter to run for Congress.

Posted by: ratbert at March 7, 2006 12:52 PM

The 40% party??? What on earth are you referring to?

PRINCETON, NJ -- The latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted Feb. 28 to March 1, finds the Democrats holding a substantial lead over the Republicans as the party more registered voters currently support in this fall's elections for Congress. More than half of registered voters (53%) favor the Democratic candidate for the U.S. House in their district; only 39% favor the Republican.

Posted by: Joe Blow at March 7, 2006 4:24 PM

Mr. Blow:

If the election were held today...a lot of people would be surprised.

Posted by: oj at March 7, 2006 4:33 PM


Because the election isn't scheduled for today?

Posted by: Matt Murphy at March 7, 2006 10:07 PM