A Collection Articles on the Dems Chances in 06 & 08

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A Collection Articles on the Dems Chances in 06 & 08

Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Jun 11, 2006 5:25 pm

March 30, 2006
Luntz Focus Groups The Dems....

Luntz Maslansky Strategic Research presented its findings on the '08 Dem field this a.m. to reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast.

Their focus groups tested Dem primary voters in NH and IA. We don't know the size/demographic balance, etc., so don't read too much into the conclusions. (And don't ever confuse focus groups with polls -- we'll let Mark Blumenthal elaborate, if he wants to.)

What do Dems want? Per The Luntz interpretation of said focus groups: "When all is said and done, the Democratic nominee will be the person they believe has the best handle on the future and who can best bring about the change and reform they are desperately seeking." And "perhaps most importantly, they want the anti-Bush" who is not a "Bush basher." The Dems "don't want a grouchy, accusatory, finger-pointing yeller. They want someone smart but with good common sense, a leader with new ideas who believes and practices accountability."

The survey offers "10 Commandments For Democrats." They include: 1. Don't "feel my pain" -- "give me something to alleviate it. 3. Dems "don't want to hear about your church" in the primary. If they "really cared," they'd be Republicans. 6. "Be a Deficit Democrat. Every time a Democratic candidate talked about ending wasteful spending and tackling the deficit, the dials spiked up, as did the approval."

The survey also probed for responses about candidates.

Support for Hillary Clinton "disappeared by the time the night was over, and she won virtually no new converts. Only Edwards faired worse." The problem for Clinton is that she starts with such high expectations. Democrats expect her to be smart, and she delivers. They expect her to be tough, and she delivers. But there are a number of verbal and visual intangibles that clearly undermine her presentation, her image, and eventually her support. As with many women in public life, her looks and presentation account for a disproportionate percentage of the reactions she elicits." More; "The tape of Sen. Clinton that we showed in New Hampshire was not a stump speech but rather a public sit-down interview with Jane Pauley in San Francisco conducted earlier this year. This should have been to her advantage. Maybe it was the interview format that kept her from building momentum, but our primary voter audience was not very impressed. When we showed a stump speech to the group in Iowa their reactions weren't much better. Focusing on the year 2020 was an innovative approach, but she never explained how she plans to get there."

Sen. John Kerry "has a lot to live down. There is no public outcry for a second candidacy, and we heard loud and clear from many pained Democrats still angry by his loss to Bush." Positives: "He doesn't pull his punches. He calls it like he sees it when it comes to the Bush administration's failures."

Ex-Sen. John Edwards: "Of the nine candidates we tested, none began with positives and expectations as high as former Senator John Edwards. And none fell farther as fast. John Edwards has the potential to be the sleeper candidate in 2008. He comes to this race with a lot of good will and fond memories. But he also comes to this race with Democratic opponents who are more engaging, more exciting and more original than he is. And those comparisons combined with the overall desire for something new might mean disaster for him." Sen.

Joe Biden's "stage presence drifts dramatically between all-star and below par. His matter-of-factness and incredible focus of his delivery are clearly his strong points, but voters complain of his propensity to sound like professor giving a lecture. He must do away with his written notes for his speeches. Democrats expressed a clear disconnect when he repeatedly looked down -- which also effected his pacing: another distracting tendency. He has all the pieces, but they're not yet put together."

Ex-VA Gov. Mark Warner starts "with a clean slate." His stump speech "as articulated at the National Press Club earlier this year, is about as good as it gets for Democratic primary voters. He started off with almost no support (or name ID) at both Iowa and New Hampshire sessions. But after the sessions, when all the candidates had been heard for ten minutes and all the positives and negatives of each candidate discussed by the participants, Warner had gained more ground than any other opponent. There is something real happening here."

Gov. Bill Richardson's story "is the complete package. The question is, is that enough? His resume, for those who know it, is perfect. He's an outsider with an insider's knowledge. But despite his stellar credentials and easy speaking style, his presentation is seen to be somewhat unfocused, and his greatest challenge is to prove that what he did in the small state of New Mexico can translate to a national stage. He's got a good message and the right platform, but the delivery isn't quite right -- yet."

Sen. Russ Feingold "may well become the Howard Dean of 2008. No one knows who he is. No one knows what he's done. Primary voters appreciate his principled positions, but they aren't ready to award him their vote."

Sen. Evan Byah "is probably the single toughest Democrat to analyze. His impact on primary voters was exactly the opposite of Hillary Clinton's. When she was done, voters either loved her or hated her. After seeing 20 minutes of Evan Bayh, there wasn't much love or hate. It was all ... like. They appreciated his down-to-earth appeal, but they wanted to see more passion. His ideas about tax fairness and reining in Washington's wasteful spending struck a chord -- even as they were complaining about his delivery. They appreciated his success as governor and how that qualified him for the presidency, even as they questioned his ability to win the election."

Gov. Tom Vilsack "is too focused on religion and spirituality for New Hampshire Democrats, and his home state doesn't take him seriously. The Iowa reaction was particularly telling. He should have a hometown advantage, but he doesn't. In fact, after viewing and discussing a Vilsack National Press Club speech, almost all the participants expressed surprise about his humor, intensity and passion. Apparently they don't see it at home."
http://hotlineblog.nationaljournal.com/ ... s_gro.html

Here's the whole report. I notice that Kos would like folks to think that Luntz only comes up with the answers his conservative clients would like to hear. I doubt that seriously since there's no payoff in being wrong but servile. At some point, such skewing of results would render them useless. Focus groups properly executed produce intel.

And considering the Democrats performance, or lack thereof, in last Tuesday's elections, they ought to pay close attention immediately to this from the 10 commandments: Beating up on Republicans will generate applause, but it doesn’t generate votes. Considering that this was written back in March based on focus groups done sometime before then, there's no excuse for their behaving like they don't know or understand the injunction.
Last edited by Corlyss_D on Mon Jun 12, 2006 1:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Jun 11, 2006 6:13 pm

Here's another recent report on Hillary's lackluster performance in Florida and Ohio.

June 05, 2006
Can Hillary Win Florida or Ohio in '08?
By Peter Brown

If Hillary Clinton is such a shoe-in for her party's 2008 presidential nomination, then a new Florida poll is something for Democrats to worry about.

More than 30 months before the 2008 election, Sen. Clinton can't get more than 50 percent of the vote when matched against two unknown Republican candidates?

And, given Florida's key role in the Electoral College, the new survey will almost certainly provide more fodder for one of the most popular parlor games in New York and Washington, D.C. these days - "Can Hillary Win?"

That's because there is almost a consensus developing among many of the Democrats who spend their waking hours thinking about the next election that she is very likely to be their 2008 presidential nominee.

Many Democrats are happy about this -- especially feminists and, except for the really left-wing types who think she doesn't genuflect to their causes enough -- party liberals.

But among those who see themselves as Democratic centrists, especially with roots in the Sun Belt, there is worry her candidacy might be as unsuccessful in November as were those of George McGovern, Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis.

Even though Sen. Clinton has sought to recast herself as a political moderate, the former first lady still has a serious problem in "red state' America," as the new poll results show.

Florida is the most important "red state" and probably the most likely one in the Sun Belt for a Democrat to win in a successful presidential campaign. Remember, Bill Clinton carried it in 1996, and Al Gore essentially tied it in 2000.

A number of public opinion polls have tested Sen. Clinton's strength, both nationally and in some states, against former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. John McCain of Arizona. They are the two potential candidates who lead Republican trial heats, and she generally trails both of them.

Both Giuliani and McCain, like the former first lady, enjoy almost universal name recognition. The results of the polls pitting them against each other reflect public opinion based on roughly equal knowledge of the candidates.

In Quinnipiac University's May Florida survey, for instance, McCain led her 48-42 percent and Giuliani was ahead 49-42 percent.

But neither man's record reflects the views and values of the GOP conservative base, which generally holds sway over the presidential nominating contest.

However, Quinnipiac also matched up Sen. Clinton against two other 2008 potential Republican presidential aspirants, Sen. George Allen of Virginia and Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts. She defeated Allen 46-40 in a survey taken in April and Romney 50-39 percent in a May poll.

Both Romney and Allen are little known outside their own states, and the survey question that asked voters to decide between them and Sen. Clinton supplied only their party label and current or last office held.

There is an oft-quoted axiom in politics that when a well-known candidate is matched against an unknown in a poll far before an election, the better-known is probably at or close to their maximum support level.

That's because of the (generally, but not always true) assumption that such trial heats are almost exclusively about the well-known candidate who is unlikely to do better once the opponent gains more visibility.

The significance of Sen. Clinton not getting a majority, even against two unknowns, is in the eye of the beholder.

But Democratic centrists who think she would take the party down with her if she were the nominee will likely give voice to the results.

As for Republicans, it will probably reinforce the belief among most that although Sen. Clinton would rally the Democratic base, she would have difficulty winning a two-candidate general election.

Of course, Sen. Clinton's supporters will accurately point out that she does not need Florida to win the White House. All she has to do is carry the same states John Kerry did in 2004 and add Ohio.

But over the past three presidential elections, the Democratic vote percentage in Ohio has averaged only 2 percent more than in Florida.

That's why this preliminary data about Sen. Clinton's popularity against two relative unknowns matter.
Peter A. Brown is assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. He can be reached at peter.brown@quinnipiac.edu
Page Printed from: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articl ... nst_a.html
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Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Jun 11, 2006 6:54 pm

How to Reconnect With Voters and Realize Your Dreams of Victory
A Step-by-Step Guide for Democrats

By Michael Grunwald
Sunday, June 11, 2006; B01

These are dark days for the Republican Party. Voters are angry at the government over the war in Iraq, the price of gas, Capitol Hill corruption, out-of-control spending, the Dubai port deal -- and Republicans control the government. They failed to deliver Social Security reform or ethics reform, and now they're failing to deliver immigration reform. After Katrina and Haditha, NSA wiretapping and CIA bungling, President Bush's approval ratings have sunk to Jimmy Carter levels. As the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal spreads, the GOP congressional leadership's ratings are approaching O.J. Simpson levels. And now the Fed is warning that the economy may tank.

So the political pundits, as always, want to know: What's wrong with the Democrats?

It may seem like an odd question, now that polls show voters trust Democrats more than Republicans on every major issue -- including national security. But even Democrats -- especially Democrats -- seem to think their party is uniquely capable of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory this fall. And all around the Beltway and the blogosphere, every self-flagellating Democratic expert seems to know why.

The problem with Democrats is that they're too liberal. Or not liberal enough. They talk too much (or not enough) about abortion or torture or gun control. They're too condescending, too cosmopolitan, too secular, too wonkish, too weak. They've been captured by their interest groups, their contributors, their pollsters, their consultants. They're on the wrong side of a demographic revolution. Joe Sixpack doesn't want to have a beer with them. They should think strategically instead of tactically, or they should forget about strategy and speak from the heart. They aren't catering to values voters, heartland voters, exurban voters. They aren't motivating their base. They don't have a unified national message, or they're too worried about a unified national message. They need to do more than criticize Bush, or stop rolling over for Bush. They're too disconnected to understand what voters want to hear, or too cowardly to say things voters don't want to hear. They should imitate the Republican intellectual infrastructure that produces the conservative movement's big ideas, or imitate the Republican anti-intellectual attitude that doesn't worry about big ideas. Or they should stop imitating Republicans.

It can seem confusing, all this contradictory advice. But most of it reveals more about the biases of the advice-givers than it reveals about the party's prospects of regaining power.

Today's Republican Party is a mishmash of schisms -- between social conservatives and moderates, foreign-policy interventionists and realists, Wall Street and Main Street and K Street. Today's Democratic Party has just one basic schism, between liberals and centrists. But that schism -- reflected in an avalanche of recent books, articles and blogs -- helps explain most of the party's soul-searching: Liberals want the party to be more liberal. Centrists want the party to be more centrist. And those biases tend to translate into diagnoses of the party's ailments, and prescriptions for cures.

For example, liberal analysts usually argue that Democrats need to tack left to fire up their base, instead of blindly following the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. Markos Moulitsas, the proprietor of the Daily Kos blog and coauthor of "Crashing the Gate," is more pragmatic than his critics suggest, but he generally argues that Democrats should do more to distinguish themselves from Republicans, that their core supporters have been discouraged by me-too DLC types who supported Bush's tax cuts and the Iraq war. In "Hostile Takeover," former congressional aide David Sirota goes even further, accusing DLC free-traders of ruining the party by selling out to corporate donors, "even as polls show Americans want Democrats to start standing up for people's economic rights."

Predictably, centrist analysts usually argue that Democrats need to tack right to reach out to swing voters. In their book "Take It Back," James Carville and Paul Begala urge Democrats to moderate or at least play down their support for abortion, gay rights and gun control; they also tell the party's liberal interest groups -- civil rights advocates, labor unions, environmentalists -- to "back off a bit." Jeffrey Goldberg recently suggested similar strategies in a New Yorker article highlighting moderate red-state Democrats complaining about their tone-deaf, anti-gun, pro-abortion party establishment. Karl Rove may win elections with a base strategy, but as Goldberg notes, the Democratic base of liberals, one-fifth of the country, is a lot smaller than the Republican base of conservatives, one-third of the country. A recent DLC study called "Growing the Vote" suggests that as traditionally liberal urban cores lose population, Democrats need to reshape their messages to appeal to fast-growing (and more conservative) exurbs.

Most internal Democratic debates are disguised variations on that center-left theme. On national security, for example, moderate analysts urge Democrats to convince Americans that they're patriotic, that they support the military, that they'll win the fight against terrorism. To the extent that they want to hear about Iraq, they urge Democrats to call for "competence" and "victory," not retreat. "The American electorate will not turn over national leadership to a party it does not trust to defend the country and lead our military," the DLC's think tank warned in "With All Our Might," a series of muscle-flexing essays with a stern-looking Uncle Sam on the cover. The red-state Democrats made similar points to Goldberg, complaining that Democrats sound like they hate America when they attack domestic surveillance or the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. "We make a mistake if we think that just because people are fed up with George Bush they want George McGovern," one centrist said.

But progressives believe McGovern was right about the war in Vietnam, and they point out that most Americans now oppose the war in Iraq, including some of the pundit-hawks who warned that opposing the war would doom Democrats in 2004. (They're especially irked at New Republic columnist Peter Beinart, who admits in "The Good Fight" that he was wrong to support the invasion, but still warns that knee-jerk antiwar sentiment in an age of jihad could doom Democrats.) The left says America is yearning for "straight talk" about the quagmire unfolding in Iraq -- attacks on the war's rationale, and plans for swift withdrawal. They argue that the reluctance of leading Democrats to condemn the war is symptomatic of their general reluctance to say what they really believe, a reluctance that ultimately gets punished at the polls.

Similarly, lefties argue that Democrats should stop soft-pedaling their opposition to conservative Republicans on issues such as gay marriage, school prayer, immigration and especially the economy. They call for a new Democratic populism -- promoted by author Thomas Frank in his best-selling book "What's the Matter With Kansas?" -- that would win back working-class and middle-class voters with unapologetic appeals to their economic interests. They say Democrats have pulled punches to avoid being accused of "class warfare," even though Republicans started the class war by cutting taxes for the rich and showering subsidies on corporations. Democratic consultant Robert Shrum is the best-known purveyor of this theme, famously framing races as clashes of "the people vs. the powerful."

There is something comical about liberal assumptions that centrist Democrats must be hiding their true beliefs for political reasons, but many centrists do see class-war populism as a recipe for political disaster. They argue that Americans respond to optimistic we're-all-in-this-together messages, not old-fashioned rich-bashing. And they don't think anything is wrong with Kansas; their problem is city-slicker Democrats who see evangelicals as rubes, gun owners as Neanderthals and the heartland as flyover country. If Kansans don't like elitist Democrats who don't respect rural values, that's the party's fault.

This is the main conceit of Goldberg's article; it starts with Teresa Heinz Kerry urging a group of Missouri farmers to go organic. "It's a tone thing," Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Claire McCaskill (D) told Goldberg. "It's the 'We know better' thing." Another centrist complained that Democrats try to persuade New Hampshire voters to support income taxes, instead of recognizing that they hate income taxes and campaigning accordingly. Then again, one man's condescension is another man's leadership; centrists loved it when Bill Clinton criticized rapper Sister Souljah in front of a black audience. They didn't attack Clinton for disrespecting black values. And liberals didn't praise his "straight talk."

Democrats don't always provide ideologically self-serving advice; for example, liberal Michael Tomasky's recent American Prospect article urging Democrats to adopt a "common good" philosophy echoed some centrist frustration with single-issue interest groups. But it's usually moderates who want Democrats to be less elitist, less negative, more respectful of red-state values, more . . . moderate. It's usually liberals who want Democrats to be less apologetic, less wishy-washy, more willing to speak truth to power, more . . . liberal.

There's a telling example in Joe Klein's new book "Politics Lost," which skewers consultants in general and Shrum in particular. Klein hates the way consultants drain the humanity out of their candidates, forcing them to repeat poll-tested platitudes; Klein, a journalist, assumes voters share his journalistic aversion to hearing the same pablum over and over. He especially hates Shrum's "the people vs. the powerful" riff; the centrist Klein assumes voters share his centrist aversion to class-war politics.

Instead, he yearns for a more spontaneous politics, and he thinks America does, too. His most prominent example is Al Gore's passionate make-out session with his wife before his convention speech in 2000: "It said to the world that maybe Al Gore wasn't such a stiff after all." Klein notes that Gore's poll ratings quickly shot up 12 to 17 points, and quotes a Shrum rival attributing the bounce to the kiss.

It makes sense to be skeptical of Shrum's influence on the Democratic Party; he has an unblemished record of advising failed presidential candidates, and making buckets of money doing so. But though Klein rejects the notion, it's possible that voters may have noticed the content of Gore's speech as well as the smooch that preceded it.

Its main theme: the people vs. the powerful.

It's understandable that moderate pundits want moderate policies, liberal pundits want liberal policies, and Democratic candidates find it hard to choose. In a nation evenly split along partisan lines, anything they do to mobilize their base could alienate the center, and vice versa. But Republicans face the same quandary. And they're the ones in trouble.

So here's a radical thought: Maybe there's nothing wrong with the Democrats, politically speaking.

They've won the popular vote in three of the past four presidential elections. Their one outright loser was Sen. John F. Kerry, who had the liberal voting record that moderates warn about and the inability to take a stand that liberals warn about. Voters -- even his supporters -- told pollsters they didn't like him. But they weren't turned off by his entire party; Democrats won Senate races in red states such as Colorado and Arkansas in 2004, and ran far ahead of Kerry in South Dakota and Kentucky.

So how did Kerry become the party's standard-bearer? Democrats in Iowa and New Hampshire, liberal and moderate, thought a military veteran had the best chance to beat Bush. They analyzed the political landscape, tried to imagine what the American people wanted in a president and voted accordingly. Their analysis just happened to be wrong.

They voted, in other words, like pundits.

Maybe that's what's wrong with the Democrats.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/co ... 01977.html
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Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Jun 11, 2006 6:59 pm

Always the Party of What-Went-Wrong

By Dan Balz
Sunday, June 11, 2006; B04

The Democrats have become too good at losing.

Even now, with the Republicans looking bruised and beatable as the midterm elections approach, the first signs of another period of Democratic discontent are emerging. Memories of past disappointments remain fresh, heightened by last week's Republican victory in a special House election in California. Public squabbles about strategy underscore internal unease. Nervous whispers follow brave talk about November.

All that is nothing compared with what could come if the worst happens in this fall's congressional elections: The Democrats will be plunged into another round of recriminations bordering on therapy. If you doubt any of this, if you believe this time will be different, take a look at what happened after 1984. And 1988. 1994. 2000. 2002. 2004.

A cottage industry now exists to help them through their post-election depression. All the participants know their parts. As Norman Y. Mineta, now the transportation secretary in the Bush administration but in an earlier life a Democratic congressman from California, put it two decades ago when Democrats were in a funk, "Flagellation is part of the program."

Democrats are experienced at assembling learned conferences to debate their future (while spending most of their time looking longingly at their past). They are experts at commissioning papers analyzing their weaknesses. ("Why we can't win with______." Fill in the blank with "white men," "married women," "rural voters," "people of faith," "more Latinos," "the middle class," or whatever group is considered the party's latest demographic debacle.)

Democrats also have a minute understanding of the fault lines in their own coalition (hawks vs. doves; free traders vs. globalization skeptics; establishment vs. netroots) and the competing arguments for winning (base vs. swing; maximize strengths vs. neutralize weaknesses). They even know whom to blame (the last candidate for president; all consultants; the nasty and dishonorable Republicans; voters who ignore their self interest; Howard Dean; Rahm Emanuel).

In 1985, shortly after Ronald Reagan's reelection landslide, House Democrats retreated to the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia to lick their wounds. Richard A. Gephardt, then the leader of the House Democratic caucus, told reporters that weekend, "We're not soul-searching and we're not in the wilderness and we're not without ideas." Ten years later, when he had to hand over the gavel to newly sworn-in Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), none of the above was true.

At that meeting, Democrats heard from adviser-to-multiple-presidents David Gergen and motivational psychologist Ira Weinstein. Weinstein told the Democrats they had to learn from Reagan's success the importance of developing a product and packaging it. "Reagan was sold as a unified product brilliantly," he told them.

Twenty years later, even before losing to President Bush in 2004, Democrats were turning to Berkeley scholar and linguist George Lakoff for similar packaging advice; he offered them such concepts as "frames," "framing" and "branding" in their wars with the Republicans. "If you're a Democrat, you want to really change the frame," Lakoff told the liberal Web site AlterNet.org. "The problem is that there is no existing frame out there. You have to create it."

Not all such advice is welcome or accepted. Weinstein's appearance led to hoots of derision (privately, of course) from many House Democrats at the Greenbrier retreat. Lakoff has detractors, too, who see his prescriptions as peripheral to more fundamental problems that affect the attitudes of ordinary Americans toward the Democratic Party.

Still, envy of Republican campaign techniques is a staple of Democratic soul-searching. After 1984, Democrats complained that Republicans understood the use of modern technology in a way Democrats did not. Then it was exploitation of television to create powerful visual images. "The Republicans have professionalism," The Washington Post quoted an Arizona Democrat as saying after the Reagan landslide. "They buy it and use it. We are losing our capacity to make our party work, and as long as we just sit here and do 1930s politics, we're going to deserve what we get."

After 1988 and 1994, Democrats lamented that they were still behind the curve in exploiting wedge issues and public grievances. After 2004, Democrats discovered (again) the power of technology and databases. "Metrics" and "microtargeting" became the new buzzwords as Democrats struggled to compete with the Republican turnout machine.

"The Republicans were . . . smart," Terence R. McAuliffe, the Democratic National Committee chairman, said after Bush's reelection. "They came into our neighborhoods. They came into Democratic areas with very specific targeted messages to take Democratic voters away from us."

Some things have changed. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) long ago gave up trying to sound like a centrist. But although few people remember it, Kennedy gave a move-to-the-middle speech in March 1985 that would have brought a smile to the face of Al From, founder of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council.

"We cannot and should not depend on higher tax revenues to roll in and redeem every costly program," Kennedy said. "Those of us who care about domestic progress must do more with less." And he added: "The mere existence of a program is no excuse for its perpetuation, whether it is a welfare plan or a weapons system."

That is still useful advice, and Kennedy no doubt stands by every word. But no matter what happens this November, Kennedy will remain the party's standard-bearer on the left, the yardstick by which the liberalism of any Democrat is inevitably measured -- usually by an opponent.

Perhaps Democrats can avoid another wrenching round of soul-searching after November. Given the current climate, it makes sense for Republicans, not Democrats, to brace for bad news and prepare for their own what-went-wrong debates. The last time Republicans faced such a problem -- after their 1998 midterm losses in the House -- they went through the instant implosion of the Gingrich era and rapidly embraced the age of Bush II. This time, the birthing of a new, post-Bush era will be far more difficult.

Democrats would be delighted to see Republicans go through their own public agony. But there are good reasons for party leaders and rank-and-file activists to fret. Maybe Bush will have rebounded significantly by November and will once again spoil their celebration. Maybe there really aren't enough good competitive House districts or attractive challengers to retake control. Maybe the Bush-Rove magic will work again. Or maybe the Democrats will find just one more way to blow it themselves.

If that happens and the Democrats fall short on Nov. 7, they will ask, "If we can't win under these conditions, when can we?" The first panel will convene at 9 a.m. on Nov. 8 at the Press Club. Live on C-SPAN. The topic: "Paradise Lost: How the GOP's Midterm Victories Demonstrate the Enduring Power of the Democratic Message."


Dan Balz covers national politics for

The Washington Post.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/co ... 02001.html
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Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Jun 11, 2006 7:13 pm

Another precinct heard from.

From the Los Angeles Times
San Diego Vote Shows Few Cross the Political Divide
Ronald Brownstein
Washington Outlook

June 11, 2006

It's the rare election that offers both parties more reason for concern than optimism, but that may be exactly the verdict from last week's congressional special election in San Diego County.

The result highlighted the GOP's continuing vulnerability in this year's battle for control of Congress. But it also suggested that Democrats are not yet positioned to squeeze the maximum benefit from that vulnerability.

Above all, Republican Brian Bilbray's victory over Democrat Francine Busby demonstrated that this deeply polarized era is resistant to dramatic shifts in voter sentiment. The results showed that today's voters generally stick with their party more reliably than their parents did a generation ago. That means changes in the balance of power are more likely to come incrementally than through the kind of sudden, seismic shift last seen when Republicans captured both the House and Senate in their 1994 landslide.

If there was ever a set of circumstances that might shake the loyalty of GOP voters, the Bilbray-Busby contest seemed to provide it. The two were vying to succeed disgraced Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, a Republican convicted in a bribery scandal. Bilbray holds more moderate positions on social issues than many Republicans. And voters in the district weren't immune to the general dissatisfaction with the nation's direction that has spread almost everywhere during President Bush's second term: Even Republican polls found that 70% of local voters believed the country was on the wrong track.

Yet even in such an adverse climate, the evidence indicates that virtually all Republicans stuck with Bilbray. There were no exit polls to measure how individual groups voted. But another set of numbers tells the story. The special election decided who would fill the remainder of Cunningham's term this year. Voters on the same day also cast ballots in primaries to choose the two parties' nominees for the November election that will determine who holds the seat for the term beginning next January.

Comparing the results between the primaries and the special election is revealing. In that Republican primary (which Bilbray also won), 59,195 people voted. In the special election, Bilbray won 60,319 votes. The close parallel suggests that even though many Republicans were unhappy, they stuck with Bilbray in the special election rather than expressing their discontent with a vote for Busby. "In a partisan era like this one," notes political scientist Gary Jacobson of UC San Diego, "it is hard to squeeze votes from the other side."

That's promising for Republicans because under Bush, their formula for political success has revolved around consolidating support among GOP partisans. Boosting Republican turnout was the key to the party's gains in both the 2002 and 2004 elections. And in the Bilbray-Busby face-off, the Republican National Committee launched a mammoth turnout effort — relying on 60 full-time staffers and 160 full-time volunteers, the party made 185,000 voter contacts in just the last week before the vote.

Even with Bush's approval rating among GOP partisans drooping, the results show that the RNC can fire up its turnout machine this fall without fear that many Republicans will defect to vote for Democrats.

Other numbers from the race, though, were more ominous for Republicans. Independent voters appeared to break overwhelmingly for Busby. Remember that Bilbray's total in the special election exceeded the votes cast in the Republican primary only by about 1,100. Busby's total in the special election exceeded the votes cast in the Democratic primary (which she won) by almost 10,000. That suggests she attracted the vast majority of independent voters who did not participate in either party primary.

Bilbray survived his meager showing with independents because the district leans so heavily Republican. But if independents bend nearly that much toward Democrats in other parts of the nation, plenty of Republican representatives from more moderate districts — Rob Simmons in Connecticut, Heather A. Wilson in New Mexico, Jim Gerlach in Pennsylvania — could be looking for work after November.

Busby's strength with independents was the best news for Democrats from the race. But her overall performance should trouble them. Despite all the tailwinds behind her, she won just 45% of the vote, not much more than the 44% that Democrat John F. Kerry captured in the district in the 2004 presidential race. Based on the primary results, turnout among Democratic partisans was higher than among Republicans, but it wasn't nearly as high as Democrats might have hoped for, given Bush's low poll numbers and the fact that a Democratic gubernatorial race was also on the ballot. And though Busby ran well among independents, few of them turned out, either.

All of that indicates that although Busby benefited from discontent with the Republicans, she "didn't provide the kind of agenda around which people can rally in a positive way," as Jacobson says. Democrats may be in the same situation nationally: In a new memo, veteran Democratic strategists Stanley B. Greenberg and James Carville warn that in recent months voters' perceptions of the Democrats have deteriorated — even as the share of Americans dissatisfied with Bush's policies has increased. The party, they write, is at risk of "underperforming" in November if it does not provide a more compelling alternative.

Senior Republican strategists recently calculated that turnout this year is down for both parties, relative to the average over the last 20 years, in almost all of the states that have held primaries. That pattern, Greenberg's poll and, above all, the San Diego results send a clear message:

Discontent with Republicans in Washington is widespread, but it isn't yet translating into consistent support for Democrats.

Ronald Brownstein's column appears every Sunday. Read current and past Brownstein columns on The Times' website at latimes.com/brownstein.

Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times
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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Jun 12, 2006 1:17 pm

June 12, 2006
Democrats Are Winning... Except at the Polls
By Michael Barone

"This is just to cover Bush's (rear) so he doesn't have to answer questions" about things in Iraq, said Rep. Pete Stark, second ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee. "This insurgency is such a confused mess that one person, dead or alive at this point, is hardly significant today," said Rep. Jim McDermott, formerly the lead Democrat on the House ethics committee. The deceased, said Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a candidate for the 2004 presidential nomination, was a small part of "a growing anti-American insurgency." He said the United States should get out of Iraq. "We're there for all the wrong reasons."

Such was the reaction of the left wing of the Democratic Party to the killing of al-Qaida terrorist Abu Masab Zarqawi in Iraq. It was not the dominant note sounded by Democrats. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and 2004 presidential nominee John Kerry all hailed the death of Zarqawi in unequivocal terms. And if Democrats also made the point that his death probably won't end the violence in Iraq, they were only echoing what George W. Bush said.

Nevertheless the Stark-McDermott-Kucinich reaction, echoed and amplified, often scatologically, by dozens of commenters on the popular dailykos.com and myDD.com left-wing Websites, tells us something disturbing about the Democratic Party -- and provides a clue why Democrats were unable to eke out a win in last week's special congressional election in the 50th congressional district of California.

It comes down to this: A substantial part of the Democratic Party, some of its politicians and many of its loudest supporters do not want America to succeed in Iraq. So vitriolic and all-consuming is their hatred for George W. Bush that they skip right over the worthy goals we have been, with some considerable success, seeking there -- a democratic government, with guaranteed liberties for all, a vibrant free economy, respect for women -- and call this a war for oil, or for Halliburton.

Successes are discounted, setbacks are trumpeted, the level of American casualties is treated as if it were comparable to those in Vietnam or World War II. Allegations of American misdeeds are repeated over and over; the work of reconstruction and aid of American military personnel and civilians is ignored.

In all this they have been aided and abetted by large elements of the press. The struggle in Iraq has been portrayed as a story of endless and increasing violence. Stories of success and heroism tend to go unreported. Reporters in Iraq deserve respect for their courage -- this has been an unusually deadly war for journalists, largely because they have been targeted by the terrorists. But unfortunately they and the Bush administration have not done a good job of letting us know that last pertinent fact.

We are in an asymmetrical struggle with vicious enemies who slaughter civilians and bystanders and journalists without any regard for the laws of war. But too often we and our enemies are portrayed as moral equivalents. One or two instances of American misconduct are found equal in the balance to a consistent and premeditated campaign of barbarism.

All of this does not go unnoticed by America's voters. The persistence of violence in Iraq has done grave damage to George W. Bush's job rating, and polls show that his fellow Republicans are in trouble. Yet when people actually vote, those numbers don't seem to translate into gains for the Democrats. In 2004, John Kerry got 44 percent of the votes in the 50th district of California. In the April 2006 special primary, Democrat Francine Busby got 44 percent of the votes there. In the runoff last week, she got 45 percent and lost to Republican Brian Bilbray.

The angry Democratic left set the tone for the 2003-04 campaign for the party's presidential nomination, and John Kerry hoped that it would produce a surge in turnout in November 2004. It did: Kerry got 16 percent more popular votes than Al Gore. But George W. Bush got 23 percent more popular votes in 2004 than in 2000.

In California's 50th, both parties made mammoth turnout efforts, but the balance of turnout and of opinion seems to have remained the same, even though Democrats had a seriously contested primary for governor and Republicans didn't. The angry Democratic left and its aiders and abettors in the press seem to have succeeded in souring public opinion, but they haven't succeeded in producing victory margins for the Democrats. Maybe they're doing just the opposite.

Copyright 2006 Creators Syndicate
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