"RecommendationsIn short, the lessons seem to be that the public has given up on the Bush administration and the Republicans, but they are looking for someone who will fight for what is right to vote for. Using these rules of thumb will position a Democratic challenger to be that fighting opponent of the failed Republicans.
Candidates should run aggressively on accountability and the war in Iraq. Here are six specific `rules of thumb' we recommend you use for planning purposes.
* 1. Iraq must be central in your campaign and you must blame Republicans for it Ignoring Iraq, downplaying its significance, or accepting Bush's framework by not blaming leaders is a sign to voters that you are weak, unlikely to bring change, and not addressing the main issue of the day. Regardless of how you approach the policy going forward in Iraq, the key trait that voters seek is a willingness to hold failed leaders accountable for the debacle. Be willing to uncover the truth, place blame, and demand consequences.
* 2. The debate on whether Bush is a competent, trustworthy President is over. He is considered among Republicans, Democrats, and Independents a leader who makes mistakes and then won't tell the truth about those mistakes. This is not about competence. This is about massive failure of leadership with no end in sight.
* 3. Republicans cannot run against Bush and Iraq. Voters do not think that Republicans are willing to hold Bush or other administration figures accountable for those mistakes, so Republican Congressional dissent on the war is unlikely to help Republicans. But dissent will, in fact, work to Democratic candidates' advantage. It shows strength and, most importantly, principle and personal values.
* 4. `Terrorism' scares only work in the absence of strong accountability messaging, since Republicans are no longer trustworthy on issues of war and peace. Voters know Republicans will let mistakes slide and they want accountability in the face of that.
* 5. Oversight beats withdrawal. Journalists or other messengers who frame politics in terms of a need to have an alternative plan in contrast to Bush are insulting voters, and should be taken to task aggressively for framing false choices and misrepresenting the role of Congress. Congress primarily serves as military oversight, not military policy. Voters know that.
* 6. Pick a fight, any fight. Voters need to be convinced that Democrats can credibly challenge Bush. Whether the fight is over de-funding Cheney's personal staff, attacking John Bolton's confirmation, impeachment hearings, or stopping war profiteering with a new `Truman Commission', Democratic candidates must demonstrate strength through aggressive confrontation where the term "accountability" is more than just an abstraction or corporate lingo. It must be made real through a fight you plan to pick.
When presented with squeals from journalists and Republicans over your fight, a resolute willingness to not back off in the face of criticism is key. Your willingness to hold Bush accountable must be made real. For example, demand that the president and the party in power come to account for having squandered lives, security and treasure while enriching CEOs of major corporations such as Halliburton.
Here's a real-world example of this dynamic from US history: Harry Truman became vice president because as a US Senator, he had the backbone to demand that major figures in the American economy either give back money stolen in the provision of shoddy materiel for World War II, or go to jail for treason.
In sum, whatever fights you pick, whether specific local issues or national ones, our poll shows that accountability regarding Bush, Congressional Republicans and your opponent is crucial to building the credibility you need in order to break through with a majority vote in November. Democrats, Independents and even many Republicans want this to occur. Do it."
2006 is going to be an interesting election. REAL interesting. And it is just the lead-up to the 2008 Presidential election.