Thursday, September 21, 2006

Iowa Democrats Looking for Cover

Peggy Noonan, writing in a recent WSJ Online op-ed, drops a few clear thoughts into this year's midterm election muddle.

...my sense of things: They say the election is all about Iraq. It's not. It's about George W. Bush. He dominates the discussion, or rather obsesses the discussers. ...
Noonan captures the essential ambiguity Americans have about GWB, but suggests this ambiguity, when worked over in rabid style by Pelosi & the other obsessives, loses its shape and becomes a dissembled pile of Bush policy with no Democrat alternatives. It’s never a good idea to arrive at November with a campaign built on hammering a soon to be lame duck sans a solid governing agenda.

That said, you can still see Republicans suffering in the polls, which likely has very little to do with the Bush atmospherics and everything to do with the political winds at the state & local level. Republicans are struggling in places with unpopular GOP governors & state leadership, but where leadership is shared equally the Democrats' make-a-wish atmospherics don’t exist.

In Iowa, we have shared leadership; for the last eight years the state has been controlled by a Democrat administration and for at least six of those years a solid Republican majority in the legislature. That generates a mixed political backdrop.

There are motivated voters looking at the past eight years of our insta-policy governor desperate for a slower policy, spend & dole pace, while some voters are frustrated by the few issues that seem to be stuck in the legislature – a tobacco tax increase & smoke free restaurants. There is something for every voter to dislike about Iowa politics.

With a neutral political environment, it’ll be interesting to see if the Democrats keep working their ‘GOP legislature as straw man’ approach. It could end up being similar to what Noonan describes as Pelosi & company's big oops.

…The Democrats' mistake--ironically, in a year all about Mr. Bush--is obsessing on Mr. Bush. They've been sucker-punched by their own animosity.

"The Democrats now are incapable of answering a question on policy without mentioning Bush six times," says pollster Kellyanne Conway. " 'What is your vision on Iraq?' 'Bush lied us into war.' 'Health care? 'Bush hasn't a clue.' They're so obsessed with Bush it impedes them from crafting and communicating a vision all their own." They heighten Bush by hating him.

One of the oldest clichés in politics is, "You can't beat something with nothing." It's a cliché because it's true. You have to have belief, and a program. You have to look away from the big foe and focus instead on the world and philosophy and programs you imagine.

Mr. Bush's White House loves what the Democrats are doing. They want the focus on him. That's why he's out there talking, saying Look at me.

Because familiarity doesn't only breed contempt, it can breed content. Because if you're going to turn away from him, you'd better be turning toward a plan, and the Democrats don't appear to have one.

Which leaves them unlikely to win leadership. And unworthy of it, too.

So go for it Iowa Dems, run against the GOP leaders in the Iowa legislature, I don’t think they mind a bit.


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