To woo voters, Democrats plan to cast selves as party of results

By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 28, 2010; 6:57 PM

Democrats plan to run in the November midterm elections as the party of "results" after passing a health-care overhaul and will cast Republicans as political obstructionists, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine said Wednesday.

"We think Americans will reward results rather than obstruction, and we think we have a capacity to do much better in these midterm elections than a lot of people think," said Kaine. He is confident his party would retain majorities in the Senate and House in November, but declined to be specific about the number of seats.

Kaine said the party learned valuable lessons from Republican Scott Brown's surprise victory in January, taking the Massachusetts seat long held by the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D). Kaine said the race gave the Democratic Party a "10-month advance" on what the November midterms could be like and that President Obama would be more aggressive in appealing to his supporters for his party's candidates on the fall ballot.

"The Massachusetts race was the ghost-of-Christmas-future experience for us," Kaine said at a Wednesday luncheon with reporters hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. "As painful as it was, better to have it in January 2010 than November. And we did a lot of assessment at the DNC, and at the White House, too, about how we can be better and stronger."

Although the country remains deeply divided about the health-care changes, Kaine said Democratic candidates would use the passage of the historic bill in their campaigns as an example of achieving results. "This is up on the mantel as something that we can always be proud of," he said.

Republicans say the "results" strategy may backfire with voters who do not agree with the administration's policies. "Washington Democrats are the party of 'results' that the American people oppose," House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement. "On spending, on health care, on energy -- they have built a record of 'results' that fly in the face of what Americans are asking for, because they're just not listening."

The rollout of the DNC's $50 million national campaign strategy began Monday with a video by Obama to supporters.

In his video, Obama says Democrats hope to persuade the roughly 15 million people who voted for the first time in 2008 to return to the polls this fall. "It will be up to each of you to make sure that young people, African Americans, Latinos and women who powered our victory in 2008 stand together once again," Obama says in the video.

Kaine held a town-hall style meeting Wednesday with several dozen such voters, including many from Virginia and Maryland. Kaine highlighted the importance of "neighbor-by-neighbor" and "person-to-person" grass-roots campaigning to reach other new voters.

Republicans shot back against a report in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that Democratic leaders were accusing opponents of preparing to suppress the votes of minorities. National Republican Campaign Committee spokesman Ken Spain said the Democrats' strategy was to "play the race card from the bottom of the deck."

"After promising to transcend the political debate in this country, President Obama and his hand-picked party boss plan to shamelessly engage in race-baiting," Spain wrote in an e-mail to reporters Wednesday morning.

A few hours later, at the luncheon, Kaine responded by calling the accusation "ridiculous."

"I think it's ridiculous," Kaine said. "You know, just a week ago, the chairman of the Republican Party said we need to do more to attract minority voters. And that was not a race war or a race card. He was just stating an obvious fact about something that the party needed to do. And I'm stating a fact about who are the 2008 first-time voters. And we know who they are."

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele issued a statement Wednesday saying that Kaine's strategy to turn out the minority voters who helped surge Obama to victory in 2008 "smacks of desperation."

"At what point will Chairman Kaine and the Democrats realize that polarizing this country on the lines of race is not only passe, it's wrong and ineffective?" Steele asked.

Steele went on to say the strategy "is nothing but a blatant ploy to re-engage their disenchanted base and it won't work. But in doing so, Chairman Kaine and the Democrats have shown just how desperate they have become."

Asked later about Steele's statement, Kaine told reporters: "Why would they have a problem with us encouraging people to participate in elections? They may try to throw some label at it, but I think the real problem is they don't want us to participate in elections. We want people to participate."

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