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Tilting at Windmills

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September 8, 2010

DNC OFFENSIVE GETS UNDERWAY.... It's hardly a secret that this midterm cycle is going to be extremely difficult for Democrats. A weak economy, an enraged Republican base, and a disillusioned Democratic base combine to create a bleak electoral landscape.

But Democratic leaders hope it's not too late. With 55 days until the first Tuesday in November, the party begins its election-season push in earnest today -- with the hopes that it's not too late.

As part of the offensive, President Obama will be in Cleveland, talking about the economy; Vice President Biden will on "The Colbert Report"; and DNC Chairman Tim Kaine will seemingly be everywhere, leading up to a big speech at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

I got an advance look at Kaine's remarks, and not surprisingly, the party chief has a fairly compelling message to share. He'll tout the benefits of the stimulus ("Up to 3.3 million people employed in June owed their jobs to the Recovery Act"), and highlight the fact that Republicans were on the wrong side of every key policy debate of recent years (fought for insurance companies during the heath care fight, fought for BP during the oil spill, fought for Wall Street during financial reform, etc.)

But the crux of the message is that Republicans will take America backwards, and be even more extreme than the GOP of the Bush/Cheney era. Kaine intends to highlight some of the more unhinged beliefs of Sharron Angle, Ken Buck, Joe Miller, Rand Paul, and Paul Ryan, before turning his attention to the would-be Speaker.

"[L]et's look no further than the man who is already measuring the drapes for the Speaker's office, minority leader John Boehner, for how Republicans would govern and what their priorities would be. Just recently Mr. Boehner led Republican opposition to legislation to help states facing tough times keep teachers, firefighters and police on the job. He said -- now listen here -- he said these people -- those who teach our kids and run into burning buildings and walk the beat in our neighborhoods -- are just a bunch of special interests. Now, if that wasn't bad enough Mr. Boehner and other Republicans also railed against how the bill was paid for which was by closing tax loopholes that encourage American companies to ship jobs overseas.

"So, in Mr. Boehner's world -- teachers, police and firefighters are undeserving special interests but companies which use tax loopholes to ship American jobs overseas deserve some type of special protection. Incredible. [...]

"On Election Day, it will be Americans' turn to choose. They can choose Republicans who drove our country into a ditch. Who have not offered a helping hand to the millions of middle class Americans they left stranded at the bottom. And who have not presented a single idea for how to get America growing again.

"Or they can choose Democrats who are helping us climb out of that ditch. Who have taken the bold actions necessary to repair the damage caused by nearly a decade of failed Republican leadership. And who are committed to doing everything within their power to help American families, workers, and businesses succeed."

I have no idea if this will resonate. An angry electorate, frustrated by the economy, may even believe every word Kaine says, and still vote for a discredited Republican.

But for all the assumptions that the midterms are already over, and Democrats might as well play dead for the next eight weeks, the party clearly believes it has a shot.

Democrats are treating this like a two-month campaign, and it starts today. Stay tuned.

Steve Benen 9:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (29)

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I keep hearing about this "angry electorate". What exactly are they 'angry' about? What has the Democratic majority actually done to make them so angry?

-or is "angry electorate" just another Republican myth?

Posted by: DAY on September 8, 2010 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

What he needs to do and seems to be doing is rallying those who will potentially vote for the Democrats. Now, I guess there's enough in this push to also surmise they are seriously going after independents, too. There's a lot of common sense statements that don't seem to eye just the base, if you will. Nor do they seem aimed at self-identified Republicans, either. Though, you'd hope that the more sensible ones would agree. You'd hope they'd agree that there are unhinged Republicans out there.

But, in saying will it work, well, it is going to have to be about getting people to vote instead of them just accepting that the day after the election is going to result in Next Session's Congress the same congressional balance of this year's Congress. Too many voters, especially newer ones seem to take that for granted.

So, they need to push people to get out and vote. And, I would think somewhere in this picture is some version of the much-vaunted 2008 system that helped elect Obama. Or, am I wrong in that?

Posted by: gus on September 8, 2010 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

If what is described in this post is the Democratic plans for the midterms, it won't work. It's Politics 101 that you have to be proactive and forward-leaning; looking back ain't worth a damn. Dems need a few proposals to push -- e.g., Stimulus 2 (however repackaged rhetorically); a Manhattan-style project to get fusion power in 10 years and energy independence; tax breaks for the middle class and taxes for the rich. And of course Obama has to push them 24/7.

Posted by: sjw on September 8, 2010 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

I believe they are wise to start serious campaigning close to the election rather than farther out. People have limited tolerance for politicking and by August can feel that they have already heard more about the election than they care to. One way to kill voter enthusiasm for sure is to bore the voters to death. Some days I feel that this campaign must already be the longest in history.

Posted by: gelfling545 on September 8, 2010 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

What exactly are they 'angry' about? What has the Democratic majority actually done to make them so angry?

I'm mad as hell that I live in a country where a negro can be President, my future tax dollars are spent on infrastructure, a great company like BP get's painted as a monster, and government thinks I need to pay for health insurance when I could just go to the ER for free.

Posted by: TeaBaggerSmith on September 8, 2010 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

I realize that at this point both parties are pushing fear. The Republicans will push fear to the end. That is all they have, but Democrats have got to start pushing hope at some point, probably in a couple of weeks.

As usual the national reporters will report that one national party was more successful in its narrative than the other and that is why congressman such and such won or lost, but the truth is elections are local and are one one at a time. The Republican strategy of embracing the hard right might work, but I suspect that the upcoming elections will be won or lost one election at a time, and some of the current crop of Republican candidates are down right scary.

Posted by: Ron Byers on September 8, 2010 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

DAY, I want to think it is part fabrication but it is legitimate enough. I've met folks and have seen gatherings. The thing is that I don't think most of them know what they are angry about or are angry about things which may be based on lies, misunderstandings or something trivial.

For a lot of Republicans, I think it is somewhat fashionable to be mad. Heck, a lot of them were mad about Bush, too, even ones who voted for him and to re-elect him. So, some of those feel that they can just elect other republicans and make things better (as long as they aren't Bush and maybe if Sarah Palin rubberstamps them with a Hillbilly seal of approval.)

But, I am just guessing on the motivations for those voters.

Beyond that, yeah. I think it is inflated. How inflated and how much more real it will be by the election, I don't know. I just wish Democrats would seem to take this more seriously and do the things that are needed to push back on that fringification of political discourse that should be resulting in Republicans and Tea Party people putting their foots in their mouths. I don't hear a lot of Democrats (maybe Biden) saying much.

Posted by: gus on September 8, 2010 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

sjw@9.50a - you're right, of course, in pointing out that the Dems have to push the future projects, but, in the same vein, the future looks a whole lot like the past if the Republicans get back into power right now. That needs to be pointed out, too.

Oh, and DAY@9.45a - that's a damn good question.

Posted by: phoebes-in-santa fe on September 8, 2010 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

Slightly off topic but here is a narrative-busting poll from IL-13 (a seat held by Mark Kirk for 10 years).. Here is the link..http://10thdistrictfordanseals.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/SUMMARY-IL-CD-10-POLL-9-7-101.pdf

New poll: Seals leads by 13 points in IL-10
Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Seals also leading among independents, picking up Kirk voters
DEERFIELD, IL - In one of the most closely-watched Congressional races in the country, Democratic Candidate Dan Seals has a 13-point lead over his opponent, a new poll shows. Seals is also winning among independents and picks up significant crossover support from voters who plan to support Republican Mark Kirk in the 2010 U.S. Senate race.
The attached memo shows Seals besting his opponent in several critical ways:

- DOUBLE-DIGIT LEAD: Seals holds a 13-point lead over Republican Bob Dold, 49% to 36%. This margin is slightly larger than Seals’ 8-point lead in May (46% to 38%).

- WINNING INDEPENDENTS: Seals leads by 5 points among self-identified independent voters, 39% to 34%.

- STRONGER NAME ID: Seals’ name identification remains strong at 74% compared to his opponent, who was recognized by just 47% of respondents. Seals leads in both Cook and Lake Counties and leads with almost every demographic subgroup.

- LARGE CROSSOVER VOTE: In addition to his strong base of Democratic and independent support, Seals is also winning 16% of voters who say they plan to support Mark Kirk in the 2010 U.S. Senate race, pointing to a diverse coalition of bi-partisan support.

Posted by: TT on September 8, 2010 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

It may or may not be too late for the elections, but it's a lot too late not to sound as though they're only willing to reach out even half-way to actual Democratic voters when an election's just a few weeks away.

The rest of the time they dismiss us as "the Professional Left", ask for far too little, give away far too much before they even start negotiating, and generally act like throwing us a life preserver if we were drowning can't be thought of because it might muss their hair and because who else are we going to vote for anyway.

I can only speak for myself, but when someone asks "what are voters angry about," it would be along those lines.

Posted by: Fleas correct the era on September 8, 2010 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

TeaBaggerSmith@9.56 - ka chink, you're the winner already of best post on a thread today. You, too, Ron and gus. Good responses.

Posted by: phoebes-in-santa fe on September 8, 2010 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

Someone once said - will Boehner and the repubs have a signing ceremony with Lily Ledbetter present when they revoke the Ledbetter act?
Will they have some sick children in attendance when they revoke the health care act?
I'm sure they will have Wall Street execs and bankers in attendence when they revoke the reform act.They will surely have Bolton & friends there when they revoke the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Posted by: joan on September 8, 2010 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

Sounds good. Now he needs to go out and repeat it over and over, every single day. I'd like to offer a few adjectives to spice it up: radical; crazy; irresponsible; and -- what the hell -- un-American.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on September 8, 2010 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

Daily Kos has a commentary - Why I became a Republican! It is priceless.

Posted by: JS on September 8, 2010 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

DNC Chairman Tim Kaine will seemingly be everywhere

Hahahaha ... the great invisible chair of the DNC.

The Democrats would have been hard pressed to find a more useless and "insidery" head for its national organization than Tim Kaine.

Posted by: kmn@gis.net on September 8, 2010 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks to the Republicans the US voters really have a very simple choice in November. Do you want to take America backwards? Or do you want to move forward?

The easy messages for Democrats are these:

Do you really want to "take America back" to the beginning of the current economic crisis?

Do you really want to "take America back" to the beginning of the war on terror?

Do you really want to "take America back" to a time when only the rich get richer?

Do you really want to "take America back" when we were losing millions of jobs each month?

Etc., etc., etc.

Churchill said it best: "When you're going through hell, keep going."

Posted by: chrenson on September 8, 2010 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

The country needs a new slogan. How about,
AMERICA: Dumber by the Day, and Damn Proud of It!
Or maybe,
AMERICA: Dumber Than Dog Shit Cover in Vomit!
Or possibly,
AMERICA: Because A Two Digit I.Q. is Still Smarter Than Most Farm Animals!
Or even,
AMERICA: Fat, Lazy, Stupid, and We'll Suck off anything You Name Jesus!

Posted by: Hope the World Ends Tomorrow on September 8, 2010 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

Good post. Progressives should not just "stay tuned," however. We should get out there and fight to win this in November. Phone bank, canvass, write letters to the editor, talk with your friends and neighbors. President Obama and the Democrats have a great track record of helping the American people - let's make sure that message gets out.


Posted by: Winning Progressive on September 8, 2010 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

Well said kmn. Kaine will drain the life out of that speech.

By now it's a cliche about how the Obama admin needlessly dissed the progressives in the party, but here it is again. Taking a winning strategy at the DNC and replacing it with a loser. Under Howard Dean, the flaming liberal, the DNC helped to flip a bunch of House and Senate seats in the interior west, midwest,and South. Under Kaine, the sunbelt moderate, they are poised to lose most of those, starting with Kaine's old job, Gov. of Va, which they already lost.

Still, expect the DNC to blame any failures on the insufficient clapping of its left flank. Scolding is their strong suit, winning, not so much.

Posted by: angler on September 8, 2010 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

I do not see why the Democrats cannot do OK, if they make their case well. The key is that they need to go for the jugular and not even think of playing defense. The Republican party has behaved like caricature the past two years. Keep pointing that out.

Democrats should try to pass a bill extending the Bush tax cuts for the middle class before the election. Let the Republicans explain why they won't allow middle class voters to have tax cuts unless the rich have tax cuts.

Posted by: david1234 on September 8, 2010 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

'...A weak economy, an enraged Republican base, and a disillusioned Democratic base...'

And a WEAK President, channeling Michael Dukakkis
Where have these people been ?
Anybody heard of Tim Kaine these past 18 months ?
Anybody heard President Obama fighting back these past 18 months ?

Obama WILL SURRENDER on tax cuts for the rich
a disillusioned Democratic base
Gee, I wonder why ?

Posted by: friscoSF on September 8, 2010 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

"Democrats are treating this like a two-month campaign, and it starts today."

And that is exactly why they will get their heads handed to them. Republicans treated this like a two-year campaign and it started the day after the last election.

Posted by: somethingblue on September 8, 2010 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK
I keep hearing about this "angry electorate". What exactly are they 'angry' about?

Mostly, the economic conditions they are experiencing in the country since ~2007 (and, to a lesser extent, since ~2001; most of the country has been hurting since then, which is evident when you look at distributional figures rather than just aggregate top-line figures.)

What has the Democratic majority actually done to make them so angry?

Failed to take effective action to correct the things that the electorate is angry about -- the same things that helped bring the Democratic majority and Democratic President to office.

or is "angry electorate" just another Republican myth?

No, its not. And its obviously helping the Republicans electoral prospects, as irrational as that may seem. The electorate is--at least with the information they've been given so far--a lot better at figuring out that the people in charge aren't getting the job done than they are at evaluating why or what the best way of changing that is. The challenge for the Democrats is, having failed to deliver so far in ways that are sufficiently tangible for the electorate, to communicate during the remainder of the election campaign that they will be more inclined and able to do so if returned to office than the Republicans seeking to replace them would be.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 8, 2010 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

This one was always going to be an endgame election. It was always going to be tough -- midterms usually go against the President's party and the unemployment rate rules all. (Look at the counterfactual: a situation in which employment was a little better now, and therefore interest rates start to skyrocket so the Republicans start complaining that the even larger deficits you created were never necessary to begin with, and now the interest rates will choke the recovery.) In addition, there are Democrats from the last big wave who are sitting in districts which are entirely Republican. But we also have a strange condition where polling consistently shows that the public still prefers the Democrats to the Republicans, and the problem is enthusiasm -- the Republican voters are far more enthusiastic and the independents want gridlock. In this scenario the strategy is to limit the losses in the endgame by reminding your supporters what we are really up against. And keep hammering on it.

Posted by: Lee A. Arnold on September 8, 2010 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Great quote from Jim Geraghty today:
"After a stimulus that spent a bunch but didn’t create many jobs, passage of a massive and Byzantine health care law that a majority of Americans opposed, bailouts of every troubled industry down to AIG bonus checks, one expensive failed housing rescue effort after another, broken promises on tax hikes, runaway deficits, lawsuits against Arizona, applause for Mexican President Calderon denouncing one of our states, a retracted defense of the Ground Zero mosque and then a retraction of the retraction… doesn’t a “do-nothing” party sound pretty good right now?

By the way, it’s pretty striking to see a party chairman, whose side has 59 seats in the Senate and 253 seats in the House, complain that the opposition isn’t getting enough done."

Posted by: Kevin H on September 8, 2010 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

One distinction that should be made is the difference between being a friend of business, as we Dems are, and being businesses' bitch, as the Reeps are. It might resonate, and it has the added benefit of being true.

Posted by: Patriotic Liberal on September 8, 2010 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

An angry electorate, frustrated by the economy, may even believe every word Kaine says, but after seeing tepid half measures and cowering to the GOP, and still vote for a discredited Republican.

There, I fixed it.

It's not that voters are a bunch of angry idiots - they are seeing that actions are not matching the words.

Posted by: Ohioan on September 8, 2010 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

"2 month campaign" is exactly the problem. The Dems need a 10 year campaign to undo 30 years of false Republican memes.

They are always short term tactical rather than long term strategic.

I would suggest progressive populism. But I have zero percent belief that it will happen.

Posted by: justsomeguy on September 8, 2010 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

Regarding "angry electorate", Yes many are angry, and even more SCARED.

They are correct that the middle class is dying, their jobs are insecure, small businesses are hanging on by a thread, they are behind on their mortgage, one health problem could destroy them.

Unfortunately the Dems do not counter tea party myths.
Guess what, you can not "cut taxes", "reduce the deficit" and only "cut spending" on 2% of government programs.
Guess what, the post office and social security are far more cost-effective than privatized alternatives.
Guess what, corporations should NOT be "legal persons".

Virtually all tea party beliefs derive from fear and ignorance.
The dems need to say "your fear is legitamate and real, but your solutions are incorrect .. for the following reasons".

Posted by: justsomeguy on September 8, 2010 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK



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