CAMBRIDGE, Md. — House Democratic leaders are returning to the strategy that helped them win the majority in 2006, hoping that a strong message and a catchy slogan will allow them to reconnect with the voters who abandoned them on Nov. 2.
Democratic leaders spent much of their three-day retreat here talking with Members about rebranding and refocusing on jobs and the economy. Democrats say they are determined to make their time in the minority short-lived: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) on Friday unveiled a majority-making campaign slogan for 2012: “Drive for 25,” a reference to the number of seats the party needs to win back control of the House.
DCCC Deputy Executive Director Jennifer Crider described “Drive for 25” as an “integrated grass-roots, communication, research, new media, voter contact strategy to hold Republicans accountable in their districts and persuade independent voters and the Democratic base,” saying the party would roll out more details in the coming weeks and months.
House Democratic leaders largely blame their messaging strategy, particularly on the economy and health care reform, for their 63-seat loss on Nov. 2. But they believe that it will be easier to come up with a communications plan that works this cycle because they aren’t in charge; they say playing offense is easier than playing defense.
“Now that we get to compare and contrast with what Republicans do — not what they say they want to do, not what they say they would have done, but what they do ... I think our story stands up very well for 2012,” Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.) said.
“I think the Republicans, at the same time, are finding now that they have to be responsible, it’s a little more difficult than they thought.”
The leadership of the Caucus is similar to that of House Democrats the last time they were in the minority. In the 109th Congress, Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) served as Minority Leader and Steny Hoyer (Md.) was the Whip. Current Assistant Leader James Clyburn (S.C.) and Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.) were also in the mix.
Pelosi has long believed that a party’s message is central to its success at the ballot box. In the summer of 2006, before Democrats won back control of the House, Pelosi led a campaign effort called “Six for ’06,” which was an outline of six broad legislative goals Democrats vowed to strive for if put in charge.
Now, just a few weeks back in the minority, House Democrats have already introduced their “Drive for 25” initiative and begun a broad assault on Republicans. Among Democrats’ charges: The GOP lacks an agenda to promote jobs and is trying to revert to George W. Bush-era economic policies, which they say caused the economic downturn in the first place.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.