It is a truism in politics that around 40 percent of Republicans will always vote for a Republican presidential candidate and about the same percentage of Democrats will vote for their party's candidate. The battle is for the middle 20 percent.
According to a new poll commissioned by the "moderate" Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), the group with which Bill Clinton successfully aligned himself, Democrats risk losing next year's presidential election because of dramatic erosion in support among white males.
Another truism is that when the nation is at peace and secure, the mushy middle tends to favor Democrats. But when it is threatened by enemies - foreign or domestic - it tends to side with Republicans. The DLC poll found that is precisely the case now. Democrats, the poll says, would do well in attacking President Bush over the economy if it weren't for the security issue.
Mark Penn, who conducted the poll, said that since Clinton left office more Americans see Democrats as the party of big government and higher taxes. Penn said the way President Bush is handling the war on terrorism has opened a large gap with Democrats on who is to be trusted on national security issues.
"If Democrats can't close the security gap, then they can't be competitive in the next election," said Penn, which is a polite way of saying that the current crop of candidates is all losers, except Joe Lieberman, who is the only one defending the toppling of Saddam Hussein and who remains far behind in the polls.
Democrats have not learned from Clinton. In 1992, faced with three straight crushing defeats by Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, who ran against ultra-left candidates, Democrats decided to go with a candidate who positioned himself as a centrist. And Clinton won - twice. But just as Clinton found it difficult to resist temptation when it came to matters of the flesh, so do Democrats easily succumb to the lure of liberalism, even though it takes them down to defeat every time.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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