Democrats won’t win by running against Bush

Even though he wasn’t on the ballot, Democrats ran against George W. Bush in 2008 and won. This isn’t 2008, and that strategy won’t work again. It’s a historical lesson: we can’t fight the current war with the strategy and technology of the last one. I pound my head against the wall every time I see something like this:

Watching yesterday's forum on "Meet the Press" -- which featuring NRCC Chair Pete Sessions, NRSC Chair John Cornyn, DCCC Chair Chris Van Hollen and DSCC Chair Bob Menendez -- it appeared to be a Bush vs. Obama debate by proxy… Van Hollen: "During the whole eight years of the Bush administration, we actually lost over 600,000 private sector jobs." And Menendez: "It's not just talking about President Bush; it's the policies that they espouse that are in essence Bush's policies. Those led us to a 72% percent increase in the debt from $5.7 trillion to $9.8 trillion when Bush left."

I’m reminded of a discussion between two pundits I heard on public radio last week, though unfortunately I don’t remember which show so there's no link or transcript. One pundit mentioned that Obama has been president for 2 ½ years. A couple minutes later, the other said basically "Wait a minute; you said two and a half when it’s actually one and a half. I don’t blame you for the slip because neither I nor the interviewer caught it, which speaks to the fact that Obama is now an entrenched reality in voters’ minds and that he owns all the problems he faces."

Politicians have to find a way to play to the voters’ mindset rather than patronizing them by trying to change it, and this year it is, “Talk to me about today’s problems, not yesterday’s. You’re in charge now so I will blame you.” It doesn’t matter if there are too many problems to solve in just two years, and it doesn’t matter when the problems started or why. Many voters feel too busy living their lives to educate themselves about the details, or feel that “common sense” means the problem is what it looks like at first blush and don’t tell me otherwise. Hence the new Pew poll that finds most voters think Obama started the bailouts, and hence Republican Senator Bob Bennett’s comment that voters “confused TARP and the stimulus plan. They confused TARP and the omnibus bill. They confused TARP and the president’s budget.”

Unfortunately, Democrats aren’t going to get the chance to correct voters about the Bush policies. A candidate gets just 30 seconds to be quoted in a news story and 30 seconds to shoot an ad, and just three points voters will remember from a fair booth or local speech. Don’t give them a ten minute economic lecture or timeline – find something concise that shares their focus on the now. They won’t even listen if you start with a focus on the yesterday. They’ll walk away muttering, “Typical politician, pointing fingers and making excuses.”

So unless your opponent was a prominent member of Bush’s economic team, a better campaign line than blaming Bush would be, “Thanks to Democratic policies, the private sector has created jobs for six straight months after losing them for every month since 2007. Tea party opponents, however, want to get rid of those policies, as well as Social Security and the Civil Rights Act.” You could add “We could have done even more if the Senate opposition was focused on policy rather than politics,” but that’s starting to get into the procedural weeds about which non-junkies don’t want to spend time learning. When it's time to talk about your opponent, talk about the current opponents - John Boehner's pro-BP and pro-Wall Street comments, the aforementioned Rand Paul and Sharron Angle - not about the past.

The moment you say the magic word Bush, voters will think you’re shirking responsibility and ducking blame. It doesn’t matter if it is indeed Bush’s fault and it doesn’t matter if you’re not to blame – we’re talking about perception and about November, not about policy or truth. So again, Democrats have to share the voters’ focus on today, not waste time trying to get them to think about yesterday. Don’t rerun the 2008 campaign when it’s not 2008.

Idaho Republicans hate the word “fiesta,” demand repeal of the 17th Amendment, and require loyalty oath

Even when ID-01 is in Democratic hands, Repubs still know how to steal the show. Two inane stories the past couple weeks. First, at their state convention, the party voted to enshrine repealing the 17th Amendment (direct election of senators) into their party platform, as well as demand that all Repub candidates sign a party loyalty oath. Second, the Bonner County Republican Party is outraged, OUTRAGED! that their county’s fair has chosen “Fiesta” as this year’s theme. This is America and we speak American, gulldarnit!

Let’s think about that party platform for a second: signing a loyalty oath to support repeal of the 17th Amendment. That means that if you’re pro-life, think Obama is a socialist, want to get rid of social security and the income tax, and can’t wait to drill baby drill but also think that people should have their right to elect their own representatives, then you are not right-wing enough for the Idaho Repub Party. By the way, that 17th Amendment? It was originally co-sponsored and introduced by an Idaho Republican in 1911, Senator William Borah.

From the Idaho Democratic Party:

It is now clear that the "new" Idaho Republican Party is interested not in governing but in ruling our state and its people...

Some of these extremist proposals included disbanding all Idaho public schools, creating a state militia, forbidding closure of poorly run publicly-funded charter schools that are drowning in red ink, and rejecting school-based vaccination clinics (vaccinations were called "unnecessary drugging of our children").

"The Idaho Democratic Party welcomes all well-intentioned voters to join us in finding solutions to the problems this state now faces. We embrace a wide range of views and voters. At the same time, the Idaho Republican Party is quickly moving to the extreme right, far away from its traditional, moderate center," stated [Democratic Chairman Keith] Roark.

To Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID)’s credit, he refuses to sign the loyalty oath.

But that’s not even half as crazy as one of the county parties. Just north of my home in Kootenai County, Repubs are furious that a Spanish word - "fiesta" - was chosen (way back in January) as the theme for this year’s Bonner County Fair. In protest, they have declared that the theme of their booth will be "celebrate," and they have written to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to ask if she has any Arizona license plates she could spare for them to decorate their booth.

The Twin Falls Times-News titled their responding editorial, “A bigot is a bigot, in any language” and said that Repubs should “avoid insulting 10 percent of your political constituency.” But my favorite line from this whole affair comes from Fair Board Chairman Tim Cary, who asked of the food court, "Are we supposed to change the name of a burrito to something in English?"

Small wonder that CQ just upgraded ID-01, once the national Repubs’ top target, from "toss-up" to 'leans Dem."

Update 3:49 EDT: Per Boise Weekly, the Bonner County Democrats have responded to the fiesta flap. Chairwoman Laura Bry says they will have donkey piñatas at their booth.

I should also point out that Sarah Palin was born in Bonner County.

Angle joins long list of BP-defending Republicans

Nevada Repub Senate nominee Sharron Angle agreed with Joe Barton on a call-in radio show yesterday, echoing his claim that its escrow fund for spill victims is a government “slush fund.”

A caller said that Obama had "basically extorted $20 billion from a private company," and asked Angle what she thought of "the $20 billion slush fund."

"Government shouldn't be doing that to a private company," Angle replied. "And I think you named it clearly: It's a slush fund… They're actually using this crisis if you will, because they never waste one -- Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals -- they are using this crisis now to get in cap and trade, and every crime and penalty, and slush fund.”

Angle tried to clarify herself today, claiming that her actual position on the issue is the complete opposite of yesterday’s remarks. She’s been doing a lot of that lately. She just doesn’t get that voters can sense authenticity. A candidate who makes a gaffe can pull a 30 or even a 45, but they can’t pull a 180. This flap isn’t going to end well for Angle.

And yet boy does she ever have friends. Let’s review which Republicans have claimed either that BP shouldn’t have to set up a fund for its victims or shouldn’t pay for the Gulf clean-up:

Yup. This is definitely turning into a party philosophy and mindset.

Montana Repubs attack firefighters - again

Just saw on MSNBC that Rep. Danny Rehberg is attacking Montana forest firefighters for burning trees on his property. The sub for Ratigan rightly criticized Rehberg's greed and praised heroic firefighters, but didn't point out that this is par the course for Montana Repubs. Then-Senator Conrad Burns called firefighters lazy in 2006 - and lost to Jon Tester, giving Dems control of the Senate. From Butte's KXLF:

The lawsuit filed last Friday contends property and equipment was damaged at Rehberg Ranch Estates because the fire department breached its duty during a wildfire. The July 2008 fire burned more than 1,100 acres in the subdivision just north of the Billings Rimrocks.

Monday Democratic Congressional nominee Dennis McDonald said Rehberg's lawsuit will have a chilling effect on fire departments and volunteer firefighters. 

"As a volunteer firefighter in Melville, I don't want to have to worry about being sued, when I'm asked to help fight a fire," said McDonald. "The Billings Fire Department and the heroes who work there should not have to worry about the Rehbergs suing them while they are putting everything they have into doing what's right," McDonald said in a campaign press release.

McDonald says Rehberg's lawsuit is reminiscent of former Senator Conrad Burns' outburst when he called firefighters lazy during the 2006 summer wildfire season.  Burns later apologized for his remarks... 

"Congressman Rehberg, who has a net worth of $63 million, is now after the citizens of Billings for another million dollars," said McDonald. McDonald says he believes the firefighters who worked the Rehberg ranch fire two years ago deserve a "thank you" not a Rehberg lawsuit.

McDonald is one of the candidates on the online ballot for Democracy For America's next round of Grassroots All-Stars. I voted for him yesterday, along with Tom White and Anne McLane Kuster, before seeing this story. I sure don't regret that vote today.

Does Rand Paul Want To Abandon NATO?

A new Rasmussen poll shows Democrat Jack Conway just seven points behind Repub Rand Paul in KY-SEN, 49-42. The news of this flimsy lead comes on the heels of a failed money bomb attempt where Paul raised far less than he had been able to do before his comments regarding the Civil Rights Act and the BP oil slick.

Paul just doesn’t know when to stop digging. From the Louisville Courier-Journal:

Republican U.S. Senate nominee Rand Paul said Wednesday that the United States needs to continue rolling back its defenses in Europe and allow counties there to foot the cost of defending the continent.

"You know, it's been 70 years since World War II and I think that the expense for defending Europe really should be borne by Europeans and there should probably be changes as to how many troops" are deployed there, Paul said in response to a question on Germany on WHAS radio's Mandy Connell show.

First of all, though we haven’t “defended” Europe in decades, doing so would be part of our NATO treaty obligations, and asking NATO to step up its commitment to our defense in Afghanistan makes this the wrong time to criticize our role in the organization. Second, many if not most of our installations in Europe are about deployment and logistics, not European defense. As the Courier-Journal article goes on to point out, Germany is home to “Landsthul Regional Medical Center, the largest American hospital outside the United States and the destination of seriously injured soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Either Rand Paul is suggesting we abandon NATO, which would make sense given his father’s criticism of the UN, or he doesn’t know a thing about policy but is still willing to run off his mouth, which would make sense given Sarah Palin’s endorsement of her.

Paul’s opponent, Jack Conway, has been a part of our Act Blue page since before the primaries. It’s almost as easy to support him as it is to oppose Paul.

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