Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) has modeled the majority’s revamped policy and messaging shop on the political operation that he built during two successful cycles at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, as Senate Democrats look to re-create lost magic and counter emboldened Congressional Republicans.
Combining the Democrats’ old policy committee with the press operation of Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) into the new Democratic Policy and Communications Center — run mainly by Schumer — has not gone without growing pains. The integration of Reid and Schumer staffers initially generated tension, and Democratic Senators are still adjusting to life under the new leadership regime, despite giving it favorable early reviews.
With Reid’s daily consultation and sign-off, Schumer’s goal has been to better involve rank-and-file Democrats in political and policy strategy with an eye toward winning back middle-class voters in 2012. The DPCC is focused on ensuring that the Democrats’ legislative agenda is designed with this priority in mind and that all floor action is accompanied by complementary and effective messaging.
And rather than point fingers at minority Republicans in their own chamber, a major component of Schumer’s strategy includes fixating on the actions of House Republicans, whom the New Yorker views as a juicier target because of their majority status and potential for political and legislative overreach.
“We need to show [the middle class] that the Republicans who came in, particularly in the House, are not focused on them and are extreme,” Schumer said this week in an interview. “This gives us space to occupy the middle ground.”
“I think the consensus would be that we’ve had a good first month,” the Democratic Conference vice chairman added.
The DPCC outlined short- and long-term plans to the Democratic caucus in three slides during a meeting last week in order to show lawmakers how it intends to measure progress. In the short term, Democrats plan to go on the attack to put Republicans on the defensive, according to a copy of the presentation obtained by Roll Call.
Over the past few weeks, Senate Democrats have zeroed in on the GOP move to repeal the health care reform bill and have highlighted various positive areas of the bill that Democrats say will disappear if Republicans are successful. Developing a “smart and effective” floor strategy was identified as a goal of the DPCC.
One Democratic aide said coordinating messaging with the floor operation is critical to making sure the issues that the DPCC is promoting have a lasting effect. The operation’s long-term goal is to “permanently win over the middle class” — a message that Schumer stressed during his chairmanship of the DSCC.