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Friday Morning - the national landscape is changing
As inevitably happens, the national landscape of an election year in the spring gives way to a new and changed landscape by summer and fall. The success of a political party or national campaign often comes from the ability to sense the change and get ahead of the other side. It feels like we are in such a moment now.
In the old landscape the Democrats had the wind at their back. Iraq, Katrina, an economy not working for most, corruption, etc had produced an environment very favorable for Democrats. My sense is that backdrop, that environment, and all the message plans, the polling, the strategies for media is about to change. There is mounting evidence of an economic slow down, possibly making the governing party's economic positioning - always critical - even worse. But how is the security environment going to change? Not entirely clear. But what is clear is it is very possible that the events of the world will make this conversation much more than about our failures in Iraq - the question for both parties is are they ready to adapt, to change, to anticipate, to improvise their way into the final fall messaging wave?
To me it is clear that the centrality of Iraq to the whole progressive enterprise is about to give way to a very different - and more complex - conversation about the Middle East, the use of force and the goals of American foreign policy. Are we ready for this? Intellectually? Politically?
In the summer of 2002 Bush and Rove nationalized the election around Iraq and taxes. It was around this time that they clarified their approach, went on the political offensive and defined the election. The response from Daschle and Gephardt, I believe, cost Democrats the election. They failed to adapt to the redefinition of the race, arguing that all the campaigns would be won on local issues, and did not offer any kind of national engagement on the two issues that defined every race in the country. They held on to their spring plan. The game changed. And Democrats got beat.
4 years ago Bush and Rove ran a national campaign on the two most important issues of every election - peace and prosperity - war and taxes - that came together late in the summer. Are Democrats ready to leave their spring gameplan behind and build a new one as the game is changed, knowing what happened the last time around?
Whether and how Democrats adapt - and how this changes their public stances and paid media strategies - will determine what happens this fall.