Over the past year, the Democrats fixed on what they thought was a devastating four-word slogan to defeat Republicans in 2010: "The Party of No." Unlike many campaign slogans, it was fair enough. After all, the Republicans had opposed almost unanimously all of President Obama's major bills (socialized health care, stimulus, nationalization of GM and Chrysler, "cap and trade," financial overregulation, multitrillion-dollar yearly deficits, tax increases, etc.)
But the Democrats seem to have stopped using that phrase in the past several weeks as, apparently, White House strategists have come to appreciate that the only people screaming "no" louder than the Grand Old Party are the American people. (The president is now opposed by more than 60 percent of independents, 60 percent of whites, almost 40 percent of Hispanics and a full 19 percent of registered Democrats -- all historic worst numbers for the president.)
Instead, for the past few weeks, the president has been publicly testing a new message: Remember, you would not only be voting against Democrats in November, you would be voting for Republicans.
In other words, the public seems to have made the Democrats the issue in this election, and the Democrats would like the election to be a vote on the Republicans. This is a plausible strategy. If Mr. Obama can persuade the public to vote up or down on the Republican Party, it probably would be down. But of course, in midterm elections, the public usually (and seemingly overwhelmingly in 2010) plans to vote up or down (in this case, down) on the president's party -- not the opposition party.
Nonetheless, there is an overwrought debate on whether the GOP should simply ride the public's negative passion or present a positive agenda to the public to support the election of Republicans. My suspicion is that the wave of hostility to Mr. Obama's policies is so powerful that Republicans probably can win without going positive in many specific ways.
The technical arguments against a positive agenda are: (1) Midterm elections -- and particularly this one -- are overwhelmingly an up-or-down vote on the governing party, so focus your message where the voters' minds are; and (2) there is only so much time and opportunity to communicate with the voters. It is a mistake to waste those precious campaign assets on issues that divide the electorate.
The technical arguments in favor of devoting considerable campaign assets to a positive message are: (1) A party or candidate ought to stand for something; (2) the country has big problems, and a campaign is the chance to gain a mandate for policy; and (3) a positive agenda is very useful as a basis for actually organizing your government's legislative agenda when you are in power.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.