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Democratic strategies for 2010

Executive director of MoveOn.org

Democrats have one path to victory in November: Come out swinging, and make sure that every thing they say or do in 2010 is about helping regular folks weather the economic crisis, and taking on the special interests that stand in the way.

This would be a major departure from 2009: Washington stood by while Wall Street firms that had taken hundreds of billions of our tax dollars swiftly returned to practices that led to the meltdown. Pro-bank Democrats killed real mortgage reform; they watered down the financial regulations bill in the House and are poised to gut it in the Senate. Pharma and Big Insurance scored high-profile victories on health care, and while what's left will still help most Americans, this hasn't sunk in yet for voters. Likewise, the stimulus did some good, but it was overshadowed by the Troubled Assets Relief Program and the bailout of the auto companies.

Many good Democrats did their best. But by the time the lobbyists got through with the Democratic agenda, it looked a lot less like change America could believe in.

Why hasn't the party already embraced a full-throated economic populism? Because the Democratic establishment is counting on Wall Street to finance the election. Here's the thing, though: All the corporate cash in the world can't make up for a disillusioned base and a tarnished brand. Instead, Democrats need to get out there and fight for the little guy -- and start enforcing serious party discipline on rank-and-file members who stand in the way. Their own electoral self-interest -- not to mention the public interest -- demands nothing less.

KARL ROVE

White House deputy chief of staff and senior adviser to George W. Bush; columnist for Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal; Fox News contributor

Congressional Democrats pushed through ineffectual legislation such as the stimulus that didn't produce the promised results.

They raised discretionary spending by 24 percent from President George W. Bush's last full-year budget and will run up more debt by October than Bush did in eight years.

They made a priority of the unpopular cap-and-trade energy tax while Americans were worried about jobs and the economy.

They squandered every opportunity for the bipartisanship President Obama promised in his campaign.

Then they ended the year with a pork-filled monstrosity of a health-care bill that's increasingly detested.

The solid support that Democrats enjoyed at the start of 2009 among independents and college-educated voters is gone: They and seniors have propelled the GOP to a nine-point lead in Rasmussen's generic ballot.

Congressional Democrats can't reverse their midterm fortunes by trying to pass itsy-bitsy pieces of insignificant but popular legislation. Voters will stay fixated on their existing mistakes. So Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi should push for big things:: In for a penny, in for a pound. It would be hard to come up with less popular causes than they've already embraced. So find something that might redirect voter anger, especially if Republicans cooperate by failing to offer a positive alternative. Good luck: You made the mess.

ED ROGERS

White House staffer to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush; chairman of BGR Group

Democrats spent most of their time and rhetoric the past year on issues that differed from what voters cared about most. Their urgent challenge in 2010 is to return to the political bull's-eye, which means they must adjust their agenda to true economic circumstances.

While 2010 has to be about creating jobs and controlling spending, everything that was easy to do in Washington has been done. It will be tough to reduce spending after promises have been made and constituencies have been partially bought by the stimulus programs and other giveaways. Even worse for the Democrats, they must produce jobs and create growth when their agenda and philosophy do the opposite. Democrats must be pro-growth and support an agenda that is dictated by labor unions and the trial bar -- supporting energy programs that are designed to raise prices; celebrating a health-care overhaul that produces very few winners (and a lot of confusion); and sounding tough on terror while refusing to treat terrorists as enemies in a war.

What the Dems really want to do is tax and spend and pretend that they can make our enemies love us. In politics, you can fool a lot of the people a lot of the time, and that is usually good enough to win. But voters aren't stupid. It will be hard for the Democrats to reconcile what they really believe with what voters know needs to be done.


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