Friday :: Jan 14, 2005

To Counter White House Campaign On Social Security, Democrats Need Their Own Campaign


by Steve

I have said in the past that Bush will return to campaign mode to sell his Social Security plans. We have proof in todayís Washington Post that in fact Rove and Ken Mehlman at the RNC will roll out a new campaign nationwide as an extension of the presidential campaign, to go district by district in pressuring House members to go along with his plans.

White House allies are launching a market-research project to figure out how to sell the plan in the most comprehensible and appealing way, and Republican marketing and public relations gurus are building teams of consultants to promote it, the strategists said.

The campaign will use Bush's campaign-honed techniques of mass repetition, never deviating from the script and using the politics of fear to build support -- contending that a Social Security financial crisis is imminent when even Republican figures show it is decades away.

With resistance hardening among congressional Republicans, the White House is escalating efforts to get Social Security restructured this year. There will be campaign-style events to win support and precision targeting of districts where lawmakers could face reelection difficulties. As Republicans signaled earlier, they have begun hard-hitting television ads to discredit opponents and prop up the Bush plan.

The same architects of Bush's political victories will be masterminding the new campaign, led by political strategists Karl Rove at the White House and Ken Mehlman at the Republican National Committee.

"There are a lot of tools we used in the '04 campaign, from regional media to research to rapid response to having surrogates on television," he said. "That whole effort will be focused on the legislative agenda."

So we are going to move to a permanent campaign. Fine. Letís go toe to toe. Itís time to operationalize the Truth Squad concept. This time however, the DNC, working closely with the DSCC and DCCC need to ramp up quickly on this. Democrats can go to school on what Rove and Mehlman did in the 2004 campaign in targeting voters, employing rapid response tactics, and using surrogates. Just because the Kerry campaign ignored our requests for a Tier One/Tier Two campaign using surrogates and an attack strategy doesnít mean that Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and the new DNC chair need to repeat that mistake again. The lessons learned in this effort can be used by the party and the committees to go after House Republicans in next yearís midterm elections, as I proposed earlier this week.

The campaign used by the Democrats should have a proactive and reactive element, through the targeting of states and districts with vulnerable GOP representatives and senators, local organization and media activities coordinated by the DSCC and DCCC jointly now in those areas, to be followed by an effort that follows the administration wherever it goes, to counterattack and provide a fact-check and counterargument in the same news cycle. It could work something like this.

First, the DCCC and DSCC should work together to develop their lists of 2006 targeted GOP representatives and senators so that state-by-state campaigns can be planned now. In those districts or states, the two committees should start organizational activities with the local and state parties and with Democratic governors, to build a presence through press conferences and media events that will pressure GOP representatives and senators by calling attention to the false claims on Social Security and the GOP incumbentís past record of support for other Bush deceptions (Iraq and the tax cuts). These activities need to start now in advance of any Bush or Cheney road shows so that our message is local and seeded before Bush or Cheney or the surrogates get to these districts.

Second, both committees, working with the DNC should make defending and improving Social Security one of the major initiatives of the next two years by expediting the creation of a Truth Squad concept as we proposed almost two years ago here at the Left Coaster. Using a quick response team at each committee and at the DNC, all administration utterances on Social Security would be immediately responded to in the media by the committees and the DNC in the same news cycle.

Third, traveling Truth Squad teams would travel the country, going to the same places that Bush and Cheney will be going to. They would be comprised of tech savvy Social Security experts who can trot out facts and figures quickly and would be coupled with our own PR firms under contract to handle marketing and media (why not Ketchum?). This operation will be support for press conferences and media events that the DNC, DSCC, and DCCC will do with local and up and coming Democratic officeholders or national big name Democrats, academicians, everyday beneficiaries, the AARP and other interest groups and advocates to rebut the Bush/Cheney lies and to put out the facts on Social Security. These events will take place in the same news cycle as the administrationís appearances in those districts or states, taking advantage of the national and local media already there to cover the administrationís events so that there is a competing message for the media to cover in the same news cycle. Again, our effort will have to work the media very well in advance of the administrationís local visits so that the counterarguments we make in following the administrationís road show around the country get full coverage with both the local and national media. In this way, the education campaign is local and not only builds pressure on the GOP incumbents but also seeds our own candidates for 2006 and in future efforts.

And fourth, since the RNC and White House have already started their TV commercials invoking FDR to support their plans, Democrats need to develop their own TV campaigns both nationally at locally through proven entities like the Media Fund or other outfits. And this will cost money, so the calls to George Soros and others can't start soon enough.

What we are talking about here is a real campaign effort using the Tier Two concepts and the Truth Squad concepts we have been talking about for months if not years here at the Left Coaster. The lessons learned and the successes achieved will not only serve to pressure GOP House and Senate members on Social Security, and seed Democratic opponents for next yearís midterms, but also help develop the national campaign for our own version of a Contract with America for the midterms and assist the 2008 Democratic candidates in their races.

Letís take the White House campaign effort, learn from it, and turn it against them to our benefit.

Steve :: 8:56 AM :: Comments (36) :: Digg It!