I'll admit it, Im bored as hell. I'm also concerned watching the polls and watching people run some pretty inept campaigns against Republicans who should be pretty easy to attack. So I decided to do a kind of stream of consciousness post about some ideas floating around my head that maybe could help if anybody would actually listen/read.
First off lets all acknowledge that the GOP by in large runs circles around the Democrats when it comes to ads. I think part of it is that Democrats simply don't believe they can win with ads that strike the same kind of tones that Republicans use. It doesn't make sense since they continue to lose to those same Republicans but never the less it does appear to be a fact.
Another factor seems to be the "we're above that" mindset. I have this mentality. I care about integrity and character in governance, but in campaigning its "by any means necessary". I personally don't do moral victories. If on November 2nd you have less votes than the Republican once against you then you have failed plain and simple.
And then there are some people who are simply still using campaign advisors from the 90s and thus running Dem campaigns from the 90s. Don't know how many people noticed but Dems didn't do so hot during the 90s when it came to campaigning.
So some of these suggestions will be a sort of "if you can't beat them, join them" type situation. Others will be simple but effective contrasts that not many people are using.
First off its time to play offense. Fuck any attacks on you personally or policy wise. Don't even acknowledge them. If anything use every attack on you to turn back and attack your opponent. Right now not many Dems are running on health care reform which is stupid for several reasons. Here is maybe the most important, there are provisions in health care reform that people LOVE. You look at any polling on the issue and yes the numbers are still leaning in favor of the folks who don't like health care reform in general, but whenever different aspects of health care reform are polled people tend to like them quite a bit.
So how do you use that to your advantage? Well you use the old GOP trick of "X voted against tax cuts Y many times". You take the most popular parts of reform and you say "(insert GOP candidate's name here) says they would have (or did) voted against banning health insurance companies from denying coverage because of preexisting conditions, say they would have voted against ending lifetime caps on insurance coverage, says they would have voted against allowing kids to stay on their parents' insurance until age 26" and so on and so forth.
Right now there are high risk pools set up already in a lot of states because of health care reform. Im pretty sure there are numbers available of how many voters have signed up to get insured under those pools. Use those numbers to talk about how your GOP opponent would have or did vote against those folks getting coverage.
And you can use this approach to just about any piece of legislation that passed during the first two years of President Obama's term. With financial regulation reform you can say they voted or would have voted against protections for consumers. With the credit card bill you can say they voted or would have voted against unjustified interest rate increases. If you live in a state where a large part of your constituency cares about the environment you can say they voted oagainst curbing emissions standards.
And so on and so forth.
This puts them in some what of a pickle because now they have to defend those votes or hypothetical votes lest they lose their base. And bigger than that, THEY are stuck having to explain the legislation rather than the Dem candidate having to do so.
Another idea to steal is the demonizing of leaders. We have heard "Reid/Obama/Pelosi" so many times in the last three years that its like elevator music at this point. But the GOP has some pretty scary characters like Jim Demint and James Inhoffe and John Boehner too. Better yet the fact that they have been all voting en masse on all this legislation makes it MUCH easier to define GOP candidates as potential puppets.
The best part is you can show that any Republican who dared step out of line and vote for something the rest of the caucus voted against, even stuff that their constituents supported, got primaried and usually defeated. There are numerous examples of Republicans with solid conservative voting records who got voted out for just this kind of thing. And it didn't take a bunch of votes, it only usually took one or two like TARP. So the message is that if you vote for this person you aren't voting for your self interest, you are voting for another reliable Republican vote. And you can ask them which votes they would have crossed the aisle on.
Trust me, there wont be any. And the added bonus is the media has to cover those kinds of questions.
Speaking of TARP, I know the conventional wisdom is its so toxic that Dems cant use it at all in campaigning but I disagree at least on one substantial point. Senators and Representatives are sent to Washington not for the easy votes but the hard ones. And while voters may be mad about TARP its pretty apparent that it worked. So the appropriate attack is "What would you have done?" Republicans have no answer for this question. Unfortunately Democrats have run from the issue so fast that they can't capitalize on it.
So I'm saying talk about TARP, acknowledge it was unpopular, but also acknowledge it worked. And then ask your opponent either in an ad or a debate what they would have done to preserve the banking system? How would they have protected people's retirements? How would they have kept people from losing everything since they would have voted no or did vote no against TARP?
Remember, they key is to not get distracted by defending your own vote or hypothetical vote. The key is to stay on the attack at all times and keep coming back to "Ok, what would you have done?" The voters deserve to know after all.
And then you have all these contrasts to be played up, one in particular that would appeal to seniors is so obvious as to be ridiculous that it isn't being used more.
When Republicans held Congress and the Presidency they passed the Medicare Drug Benefit bill which created the donut hole which has been a nightmare for seniors. When Dems had the same they passed the health care reform bill which closes the donut hole and in the mean time sends out checks to help seniors afford their medications. Its really simple. Do you want people who create problems or the people who fix them?
And you can do this with all manner of legislation. Dems want to pass the Dream Act to address immigration, Republicans want to pass "papers please" laws like Arizona. Republicans literally have already tried to privatize Social Security while Dems want to preserve it. And the list goes on and on.
The records are obvious and Republicans have not changed their stances on any of this stuff. Again, make THEM answer the hard questions while you keep firing them off.
And then there is the Tea Party.
Here is the easiest way to deal with "Tea Party" candidates. Take the most extreme, scariest stances of the Tea Party and hang your opponent with them. Guys like Marco Rubio have to answer for the Tea Party when they want to repeal the 17th amendment taking away voters right to vote in their Senators. Every single crazy idea that the Tea Partiers have ever advocated should now be tattooed to every GOP candidate claiming their mantle. If they disagree with the Tea Party let THEM say so and then watch the fall out. If they say they want a balanced budget amendment then ask where they specifically will cut spending to balance the budget and what the federal government should do in catastrophic events like Katrina or if a state is about to shut down its public services because of budget shortfalls. Do they want police officers taken off the streets? Maybe no fire fighters either?
Make THEM answer for it.
Oh and finally because they are going to be voting in lockstep use Paul Ryan's road map to once again put Republicans on the defensive. Right now it appears to implement his plan, which happens to be the ONLY Republican plan floating around, would mean about a 23% budget cut to stuff like education and cancer research. Are GOP candidates willing to cut that much from those areas? Well there is one way to find out.
These last 15 days or so should be all about attack attack attack. Not personal attacks because most of them aren't really effective. The best attacks in my opinion are the ones where the candidate can not answer or can't give a good answer to what they have done or what they will do. I know many will avoid the press like the plague this last half a month trying to ride out the storm with as little opportunity to make gaffes as possible. Well that's good, it gives Democrats more room to just keep throwing out statements and questions about them that will go unanswered and create uneasiness with the electorate. And as long as its grounded in something real like actual legislation and or issues important to their district or state then it WILL resonate with voters. Hell right now Marco Rubio should be having to answer every day why he supports deep water drilling off the coast of Florida but honestly Kendrick Meek while talking up his own bona fides on the environment hasn't done enough to push the media to question Rubio on the issue. Hell every ad should be from here on out should be focused on hitting him on some far right stance he himself has taken personally or that his caucus has taken in the last two years. Does he believe climate change is man made? Hell lets find out!
President Obama kind of fucked the message up yesterday by saying he thinks Republicans will cooperate with him after the midterms. No way to unring that bell so just ignore it. Instead the focus should be scaring voters into believing (probably truthfully) that a vote for any Republican this year is a vote against getting anything done. Its a vote for going back to all the fuckups they had before Dems took over. Its a vote for another puppet that will never vote against their own caucus even when the issue directly affects their constituents back home.
Its a vote for another DeMint puppet.
A few weeks out the prospects for Dems holding the house look pretty bleak and the hold on the Senate looks to be weaker. There's really only one thing to do this point and that is radically change the focus of these elections. The only folks who can do this are the individual Dems running and their campaign folks. If these elections about what Dems have done over the last two years solely then we probably lose. If the elections are however about what Republicans have done and will do going forward then the bleeding won't be that bad.
That's where we are at and I hope some of these Democrats start to realize that.