Dem party leaders feel as though they are in weak position

The NYTimes is reporting today that some leading Democrats are feeling like they are in a weaker position now than they’d hoped to be, because they haven’t been able to capitalize in any significant way on the various ‘scandals’ that have plagued the Bush administration this past year:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7 — Democrats are heading into this year’s elections in a position weaker than they had hoped for, party leaders say, stirring concern that they are letting pass an opportunity to exploit what they see as widespread Republican vulnerabilities.

In interviews, senior Democrats said they were optimistic about significant gains in Congressional elections this fall, calling this the best political environment they have faced since President Bush took office.

But Democrats described a growing sense that they had failed to take full advantage of the troubles that have plagued Mr. Bush and his party since the middle of last year, driving down the president’s approval ratings, opening divisions among Republicans in Congress over policy and potentially putting control of the House and Senate into play in November.

Asked to describe the health of the Democratic Party, Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said: “A lot worse than it should be. This has not been a very good two months.”

“We seem to be losing our voice when it comes to the basic things people worry about,” Mr. Dodd said.

Democrats said they had not yet figured out how to counter the White House’s long assault on their national security credentials. And they said their opportunities to break through to voters with a coherent message on domestic and foreign policy — should they settle on one — were restricted by the lack of an established, nationally known leader to carry their message this fall.

As a result, some Democrats said, their party could lose its chance to do to Republicans this year what the Republicans did to them in 1994: make the midterm election, normally dominated by regional and local concerns, a national referendum on the party in power.

“I think that two-thirds of the American people think the country is going in the wrong direction,” ” said Senator Barack Obama, the first-term Illinois Democrat who is widely viewed as one of the party’s promising stars. “They’re not sure yet whether Democrats can move it in the right direction.”

Mr. Obama said the Democratic Party had not seized the moment, adding: “We have been in a reactive posture for too long. I think we have been very good at saying no, but not good enough at saying yes.”

I think that being all over the map on Iraq doesn’t help, either – nor does having an ineffective money manager at the helm of the party.

The Democratic party has been struggling since 1994 to gain ground and re-establish prominence on the national stage and – outside of the Clintons – they haven’t made much progress towards that goal. Part of the reason for that, in my opinion – and in addition to what I stated above – is that they party has allowed the McGovern anti-war wing to speak for them and right now, even though a majority of the public is unhappy with what’s happening in Iraq and also feels Bush deliberately ‘misled’ them on the Iraq war rationale, the country realizes that for better or for worse, we are at war. Bush’s positions – some of which I’ll admit have been misguided- have at least been consistent. The American people know where he – and the majority of the Republican party stands – with respect to the war in Iraq as part of the overall global war on terror: we’ll fight it until we win it, both home and abroad. The Democratic position, OTOH, on the war in Iraq is one of pessimism and defeatism.

Given the choice between the two, I can see why Democrats feel they have a lot of work to do before election time. Who was it that said if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything? I think that fits well here.

Also blogging about this: Big Lizards, Macsmind, Captain Ed, Gary Gross at California Conservative, Say Anything, Confederate Yankee

PM Update: Tom Maguire has some fun with this story. Heh. (Hat tip: Anchoress)

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