New Carville/Greenberg Battle Plan For Democrats In 2006 - Go After Perot Voters As Reformers
As the Democrats head into 2006 in a good position despite failing to lay out a concrete set of reasons why voters should toss out Republicans after 12 years, Carville and Greenberg’s Democracy Corps came out with a new poll and strategy memo this morning on that very subject. Some of the observations from that strategy paper:
Democrats have already moved into a significant lead, but they are underperforming. Many more voters are open to supporting the Democrats but are holding back; indeed twice as many voters are open to switching to the Democrats as are open to switching to the Republicans. While 48 percent are voting Democratic (next year), 55 to 60 percent want to vote for change.
Democrats can push beyond the 48 percent ceiling if they become the party of change, but that is more than a word. To become the agent of change in the year ahead, the Democrats will have to be reformist, populist, and nationalist, armed with new ideas for renewing the country. The public is angry at Bush and the Republicans for neglecting the country and the American people, for working their heart out for the few rather than for everyone, and for losing control on problem after problem facing the country. It is a powerful indictment, but until now, voters feel they have been making the critique on their own.
This last point is at the center of our concerns that the Beltway Democrats have been absent in taking the fight directly at the Bush Administration, and have been lacking in showing voters what is wrong with the direction of our country and what Democrats could offer if they were put back in charge. And the suggestion that the Democrats run as the party of reform has been made here over and over again months ago.
How specifically do Carville and Greenberg suggest Democrats do this? As you might expect, coming from Carville, he suggests that Democrats go after the Perot voters and to appeal to white, noncollege educated voters in an effort to build a coalition that wouldn’t only win more House and Senate seats, but would also give the Democrats a chance to head back towards supermajority status of 60-plus percent support.
2006 will only produce an upheaval if the Democrats make a break with the forces that have put them just short of a majority in the country.
The Democrats should revisit the Perot voters and their concerns, even in Perot himself has faded from view. His voters were the most anti-political and anti-elitist, anti-big government and big corporations, anti-free trade and anti-immigration. They were pro-military but anti-foreign entanglements. They were libertarian and secular, pro-gun and pro-choice. The Perot voters were younger, more blue collar and rural, and economically pressed and uneasy in the new economy. They were also angry with the political and economic elites that failed to represent them.
To realize their potential vote and create an earthquake, Democrats need to step back and make a break with the past that enables them to speak to these voters once again. There are now a whole new set of issues that push these issues into play – including income stagnation, gas and health care prices, Iraq war spending, and Washington corruption and elitism. To maximize these issues and reach these voters, Democrats have to run as outsiders and reformers, against the government of the few and as champions of the many, and for a program that puts the American people first.
So exactly what issues may work? Carville and Greenberg put forward several of them and asked respondents to name the two most resonant. In order of which were most popular, these were:
-Require Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices and create universal health care within 10 years;
-A new lifetime effort on education, including preschool and making college tuition tax deductible;
-Raise fuel efficiency standards, invest in renewable fuels and create tax credits for hybrids to slash our dependence on oil;
-Cancel new tax cuts for those earning over $200,000 so we can address problems at home;
-Increase funding for homeland security to inspect all containers and rebuild the National Guard.
Respondents were provided with an alternate Republican agenda and asked to rate which one they supported.
We tested a similar package for the Republicans, which included protecting Social Security, tax cuts, tight immigration control and protecting borders, limiting lawsuits to reduce health care costs and Katrina rebuilding. By 54 to 38 percent, voters said they were more interested in the Democratic agenda.
Carville and Greenberg offer a formulation for Democrats to use in pushing this agenda that is couched in the budget choices offered by the two parties. Their polling indicates that tax fairness and deficits matter to voters. The Democrats they argue should structure their arguments as follows:
Cancel any new tax cuts for those earning over $200,000, so that we can fund rebuilding after Katrina, so we can fund our education and health care needs, while keeping the federal deficit down. And when voters were presenting with this formulation, what did they think?
Voters prefer the Democratic approach to the budget by 59 to 36 percent – a 23 point margin. But all elements are important: canceling the tax cut, Katrina rebuilding, education and health care, and deficits. Without inclusion of the deficit concern, the Democratic budget position weakens to a 14-point margin (55 to 41 percent) – still a significant advantage but lower.
We also tested a Democratic budget position without the Democrats mentioning the cancellation of the tax cut, focusing instead on attacking Republicans in Washington for refusing “to make tough choices,” and with rising commitments to Katrina and Iraq, they are losing control of the budget and deficits exploding. But that critique only runs even with the Republican budget statement. By emphasizing the canceling of the top-end tax cuts, Democrats gain the credibility and space to defend domestic investments and their interest in controlling deficits. That is a position supported by almost percent of the country.
What is special about this period is the fact that between 55 and 60 percent of the country is rallying to the Democratic plans and direction, most clearly articulated in the budget debate. The focus on Democratic ideas and priorities is very much at the center of our opportunity to break through the 48 percent ceiling.
Are Carville and Greenberg correct? Can an appeal that mixes tax fairness, controlling deficits, and turning our attention homeward to focus on energy independence, health care, and education help the Democrats reach Perot voters and establish a supermajority?