Monday :: Jan 31, 2005

Bush Hits Road After SOTU To Sell Privatization - Will Dems Be Ready?


by Steve

As I have said for well over a month now, the White House will go into permanent campaign mode to sell its agenda this year, leading off with Social Security. We get word in this morning’s Washington Post that the details and battle plan to be used by the White House and RNC have been finalized and leaked to the Post by a participant at Friday’s meeting with the president and his staff at a retreat. As you might have guessed, for a White House that claims they don’t use polls to drive policy, they in fact used polls to drive the policy and in typical Luntzspeak/Rovian fashion, polls were used to identify the best words and phrases to be used on citizens to sell them the benefits of privatization.

And as we knew, after the State of the Union speech Wednesday night, Bush will barnstorm the country to sell privatization, focusing his travels on vulnerable Democratic senators. GOP representatives have already been given their binders and PowerPoint presentations (courtesy of DailyKos) on how to conduct community meetings in their districts to sell their constituents, again with the soothing words that don’t mention "privatization" or "private" (because it would sound too corporate), and instead as Josh Marshall has been hammering all last week, the word "personal" will be used instead.

The congressional Republicans' confidential plan was developed with the advice of pollsters, marketing experts and communication consultants, and was provided to The Washington Post by a Republican official. The blueprint urges lawmakers to promote the "personalization" of Social Security, suggesting ownership and control, rather than "privatization," which "connotes the total corporate takeover of Social Security." Democratic strategists said they intend to continue fighting the Republican plan by branding it privatization, and assert that depiction is already set in people's minds.
The Republican's book, with a golden nest egg on the cover, urges the GOP to "talk in simple language," "keep the numbers small," "avoid percentages; your audience will try to calculate them in their head" and "acknowledge risks," because listeners "know they can lose their investments."
Party leaders said the gathering marked a change from debating how gingerly to take on Social Security, to beginning to work aggressively on doing it while trying to minimize the political risk. During the three-day gathering at the Greenbrier resort, Republicans resolved to devote hundreds of town meetings and PowerPoint presentations to Social Security in their states and districts.
Bush will kick off the offensive by using his State of the Union address on Wednesday to build a sense of urgency, then will embark on a flurry of travel that begins with trips on Thursday and Friday to the home states of six senators that Republican strategists have targeted as possible supporters of a Social Security overhaul. The president carried all five states in 2004.
The senators are Bill Nelson (Fla.), Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Kent Conrad (N.D.), who are all up for reelection; Max Baucus (Mont.), the top Democrat on the Finance Committee, who supported Bush's 2001 tax cut, along with Ben Nelson; and Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) and Mark Pryor (Ark.), potential swing votes. Lincoln supported Bush's first tax cut.

In fact, here is Bush’s tentative schedule for Thursday and Friday after the SOTU, and as you can see, it is all Social Security, all of the time:

Thursday, February 3, 2005

*NEW: BUSH in Fargo, ND at 11:35 AM: The President will participate in
a conversation on Social Security reform in Fargo, North Dakota. North
Dakota State University, Fargo, North Dakota. [White House, 1/30/05]

*NEW: BUSH in Great Falls, MT at 4:10 PM: Bush participates in a
Conversation on Social Security Reform. Montana ExpoPark, Great Falls,
Montana. [White House, 1/30/05]

*NEW: BUSH in Omaha, NE: Bush will overnight in Omaha, Nebraska. [White
House, 1/30/05]

Friday, February 4, 2005

*NEW: BUSH in Omaha, NE at 8:30 AM: On Friday, the President will
participate in a conversation on Social Security at the Qwest Convention
Center, Omaha, Nebraska. [White House, 1/30/05]

*NEW: BUSH in Little Rock, AR at 12:45 PM: Bush will participate in a
conversation on Social Security. Robinson Center Auditorium, Little
Rock, Arkansas. [White House, 1/30/05]

*NEW: BUSH in Tampa, FL at 6:05 PM: Bush will participate in a
conversation on Social Security reform at the Tampa Convention Center,
Tampa, Florida, before returning back to Washington. [White House,
1/30/05]

I have argued for weeks that the Social Security initiative offers Democrats the perfect opportunity to merge the Truth Squad concept with a district-by-district pressure campaign against vulnerable GOP House members. We now know where Bush is going between Thursday and Friday of this week. Will the DNC, the DSCC, and the DCCC be ready with press conferences of their own in these cities in the same media cycle to counter Bush’s message? Will these entities roll out their own campaigns in numerous vulnerable GOP House districts over the months ahead to counter these GOP PowerPoint presentations in advance, or will the blogosphere have to lead once again and have the politicians catch up?

Update: MoveOn.org will be following Bush around by rolling out TV commercials in key congressional districts this week. They need $500,000 to do it. Folks, this is one way to fight back. This is the Truth Squad concept on the air. Let's do this.

Steve :: 8:10 AM :: Comments (26) :: Digg It!