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Democratic strategies for 2010

Political analyst for ABC News; chief strategist for George W. Bush's 2004 presidential campaign

Midterm elections historically bring a wave against the party in power in Washington. To strengthen their seawall, Democrats must do three things:

-- Demonstrate substantive bipartisanship. This has to include authentic attempts at compromise. Invite Republicans to meetings every day and keep pushing for joint policies. Make the Republicans not show up, reject real overtures and turn their backs on sincere offers to work together. President Obama needs to decide if he is head of the country or head of his party, because in today's polarized environment, you can't be both. He should take on parts of his Democratic constituency on domestic concerns -- supporting an unpopular war in Afghanistan doesn't bolster bipartisan credentials to the public.

-- On jobs and the economy, show that they care more about Main Street problems than Wall Street profits. This cannot be empty threats. If a New York investment house is teetering, let it fail. If General Motors can't show a profit very soon, don't throw more good money after bad. And come up with some non-federal-government-based solutions to create jobs. Government is the only sector that has increased employment levels the past year, which is not economically or politically sustainable.

-- Show real fiscal responsibility. Cut inefficient programs and end ineffective bureaucracies -- by the billions, not just in the millions of dollars of waste. They can't rely on promises of future deficit reduction to be accomplished in five or 10 years. The country is tired of this empty talk from both sides. Bring in someone like Jack Welch and say you are going to reorganize government to fit the needs of the 21st century.

Doing this would significantly minimize the losses Democrats are (still) likely to suffer. As Bill Clinton saw in 1994, losing at some point is sometimes the best route to victory two years later. I predict that Republicans will do very well this year and then will misread what the country is saying and push unpopular policies -- setting up President Obama to run against them in 2012.

STEVE ROSENTHAL

President of the Organizing Group, a D.C. consulting firm; former political director of the AFL-CIO

Democrats must push even harder in 2010 for the progressive agenda. Voters are frustrated and angry -- they voted for change in '08 and feel like they haven't gotten it. Some Democratic pros are saying, "We have to hope the economy turns around before November." Hope was the key word in '08, but action is key in 2010.

First, pass health care -- without taxing working families. Don't give the Republicans an issue to run on. They have no ideas or credibility. Then, do as Candidate Obama said: Create jobs by putting people to work immediately to fix our schools, rebuild our transportation and communications infrastructure, and invest in "green" technology and energy efficiency. That's what independents, Democratic base voters and the Obama surge voters turned out for in record numbers in 2008. They want to know their elected officials are fighting for them -- and they want the change they voted for.

A September poll by Hart Research for the Economic Policy Institute found that a staggering 81 percent of voters said the Obama administration wasn't doing enough to combat unemployment. Make the investment huge -- do not scale back jobs programs for fear of increasing the deficit. Bill Clinton taught us that putting people to work expands the economy and balances the budget. Finally, pass the Employee Free Choice Act to ensure that the jobs created are good jobs with good benefits that will bolster the middle class.

JUSTIN RUBEN


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