Senate Democrats are planning an aggressive message campaign between now and November focusing on jobs, national security, the immediate impact of health care reform and their party’s efforts to “take on Wall Street.”
Hoping to reverse some of their political setbacks over the past 12 months, the lawmakers emerged Thursday from a closed-door message caucus — the third such meeting the conference has had this year — energized and saying they were pleased with the party’s direction.
“It was a good meeting … about the challenges we have [and] getting our message out” before November’s elections, Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) said.
According to Democrats present at the meeting, consultants and staff laid out specific language Democrats should use when discussing issues
For instance, one consultant provided specific examples of talking points members can use. “Here’s our 30-second message and here’s our 10-second message,” one Democrat said describing the presentation, noting that the language lesson was designed to provide lawmakers with a counter to GOP operative Frank Luntz’s work with linguistics.
A senior aide to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) then ran through the basic mechanisms for moving the Democrats’ message, stressing the need for lawmakers to remain unified and disciplined in how they talk about issues. The main point to lawmakers was “message, discipline and repeat,” a Democratic aide explained.
Democrats between now and November are expected to focus on a number of key issues within each of the broader message themes. For instance, on national security they will stress the Obama administration’s successes in killing a number of high-profile terrorists and the continuing successes in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On jobs, Democrats will use Reid’s rifle-shot approach to legislation to continually have a series of bills moving through the legislative pipeline to tout and will make a special push on green jobs.
Similarly, Democrats will use legislation being developed by Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) to portray themselves as the party “standing up for the little guy,” and on health care Democrats will stress the immediate impacts of the legislation. The goal on health care will be to “push out the immediate deliverables” to the public in order to explain why reform is benefiting them.
Thursday’s meeting was seen by some Democratic insiders as a key test of whether Reid and his operation have the confidence of the conference’s 22 freshman and sophomore members. Those lawmakers, led by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and others have taken an increasingly prominent role in shaping the party’s approach to battling Republicans. And while Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) was an early convert to their more aggressive style — and Reid has long been hesitant to declare open war on the GOP — it appeared following the meeting the upstarts were pleased.