Thursday, May 26, 2005

Senate Democrats: Back to Basics in 2006

According to the Christian Science Monitor, Senate Democrats in 2006 "plan to rely on a back-to-basics strategy, avoiding internal squabbles and ideological litmus tests and stressing instead the economic issues that are often paramount to voters."

The Monitor interviewed Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chair Sen. Charles Schumer (NY), who said the focus would be on "meat and potatoes: healthcare, education, jobs." The DSCC appears to be dropping the framing approach in favor of a strategy of what I'd call "deliberate priming."

A priming strategy determines which issues are most salient to the voters, identifies those on which the party - or an individual candidate - has a natural advantage (based on voters' perceptions of which party handles which issues better), and emphasizes only those issues.

This is far better than trying to persuade voters to see it your way on issues on which they trust the other side more (i.e., a framing strategy). Try as they might, Democrats just will never convince the average swing voter that they have a better approach to national security than the Republicans. Likewise, President Bush can talk until he's blue in the face about Social Security, but the more he talks the worse he does. That's because voters trust Democrats more to protect and preserve the program.

It's also encouraging (if you're a Democrat) to see the Democrats finally focus on bread-and-butter issues. Beginning in 1968, the only time a Democrat has won the White House (with the exception of Carter's narrow win in 1976, based in large measure on Watergate) is when economic issues, particularly jobs, were paramount (1992 and 1996).


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