CBS's Greenfield Offers Step-by-Step Campaign Advice to Dems
Touting "faint signs of hope" for Democrats in November, on Monday's CBS Evening News, political correspondent Jeff Greenfield outlined a strategy the DNC could use to stave off major Republican gains in Congress: "So how could Democrats prevent, or at least minimize, their losses? There are three keys."
Greenfield began by encouraging efforts to re-energize the left: "First, turn out the base....That's why President Obama is out trying to persuade his core backers - blacks, Hispanics, the young - not to stay home in November." He then urged marginalizing the GOP: "Second, convince the voters that this election is a choice. With ads that argue the Republicans are just too extreme." Finally, Greenfield recommended that vulnerable Democrats run from their liberal records: "Third, declare your independence. Across the country, many incumbent Democrats are stressing how they oppose the President and House Speakier Nancy Pelosi."
Greenfield did acknowledge problems with some of his advice. On the suggestion that Democrats paint the GOP as "too extreme," he brought in Republican strategist David Winston, who explained: "Ultimately, when you're talking about your opponent, it's because you don't have anything to say about yourself, and the electorate gets that."
Wrapping up the segment, Greenfield admitted: "But it is still uphill for Democrats. Independents were the key to the Republican takeover of Congress in '94 and the Democratic takeover in '06. Right now they are leaning heavily Republican....in this climate, less bad seems to be about the best Democrats can hope for."
Tuesday's CBS Early Show followed a similar theme to that of Greenfield's report. Congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes declared: "...there are a few recent developments that lead Democrats to hope that their losses this election season may not be as bad as they had feared." She then proceeded to focus exclusively on the hand full of races in which Republicans are on the defensive:
CORDES: Republicans are pouring $2 million into the California Senate race.
CAMPAIGN AD: Killing jobs. Crushing hopes.
CORDES: After polls showed Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer reclaiming her lead.
BARBARA BOXER: The pundits have already decided that the Democrats are losers. We're going to lose, lose, lose. There's only one problem with that. The voters haven't voted yet.
CORDES: Democratic Senator Patty Murray has also seen a rebound in her numbers. As have Democratic candidates for governor in Illinois, Ohio, and California.
JAMAL SIMMONS: You're starting to see that around the country, because a lot of Democrats held their advertising money until the last couple of months of the election, when people are paying attention the most.
CORDES: Democrats used their fund-raising advantage to dominate the airwaves in September. Mostly with negative, personal ads.
CAMPAIGN AD: Things turned bad for Vitter when he appeared on the DC madam's phone list.
CORDES: And at least one Republican, tea party-backed Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell, has a new ad that directly challenges her negative press.
CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: I'm not a witch. I'm nothing you've heard. I'm you. None of us are perfect.
Cordes touted how: "Even the President is entering the ad wars....Mr. Obama taped his first spot of this election season for a Democratic candidate in New Orleans....one of only about eight districts around the country where Democrats have a realistic shot of winning a seat currently held by the GOP."
Following the report, co-host Harry Smith picked up on Cordes's optimistic appraisal of Democratic chances as he spoke with political analyst John Dickerson: "Republicans wanted this election to happen today, yesterday, two weeks ago, because there really does seem to be some of the mojo that they had built up over the last month or two, seems to be eroding a little bit." Dickerson replied: "...that's right. Democrats are coming home."
Smith and Dickerson did discuss a number of contested Democratic seats that would normally be safe. On the Connecticut senate race, Dickerson observed: "Richard Blumenthal is the attorney general, longtime politician in Connecticut, quite popular. Was supposed to have this race in the bag." Smith added: "And this was a seat that was supposed to be so safe." On the Nevada senate race, Dickerson noted: "Harry Reid is the biggest target out there....He's in trouble." On the West Virginia senate race, Smith remarked how even the "very popular" Governor Joe Manchin was "in the race of his life."
Here is a full transcript of Greenfield's October 4 report:
KATIE COURIC: Turning now to politics and Campaign 2010. There are 29 days until the midterm elections. Control of Congress will be determined by dozens of critical contests that could go either way. In the Senate, Republicans need 10 seats to take control. According to the latest analysis by our CBS News election team they have the edge or are likely to win four seats now held by the Democrats. And the Republicans have at least a chance at eight other Democratic seats that are still in play. But taking back control of the Senate is a long shot at best. The Republicans have a better chance in the House. They need a net gain of 39 seats there. And our CBS News analysis finds 77 seats now held by Democrats could go Republican. And while the odds seem to favor the GOP in the House, the Democrats, from Speaker Nancy Pelosi on down, still believe they can hold on. Here's senior political correspondent Jeff Greenfield.
JEFF GREENFIELD: After months of pessimism about their chances this fall, beleaguered Dems are detecting faint signs of hope. Some polls show that Democrats have drawn even with Republicans among registered voters. Improved prospects for Senate candidates in California and Washington state, in governor races in Illinois, Ohio, and California.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Have a good day, everybody.
GREENFIELD: So how could Democrats prevent, or at least minimize, their losses? There are three keys. First, turn out the base.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Turn out the Base]
Polls still show Republicans much more enthusiastic about voting than Democrats. That's why President Obama is out trying to persuade his core backers - blacks, Hispanics, the young - not to stay home in November.
BARACK OBAMA: We need you to pledge to vote! We need you to knock on doors! We need you to talk to neighbors!
JAMAL SIMMONS: If they can get an uptick among those constituencies, you could see some candidates survive who are looking a little bit more in trouble right now.
GREENFIELD: Second, convince the voters that this election is a choice.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: A choice - not a referendum]
With ads that argue the Republicans are just too extreme.
CAMPAIGN AD: Sharron Angle and she's just too extreme.
GREENFIELD: Says Republican strategist David Winston, 'that's what we tried four years ago and it didn't work.'
DAVID WINSTON: Ultimately, when you're talking about your opponent, it's because you don't have anything to say about yourself, and the electorate gets that.
GREENFIELD: Third, declare your independence.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Declare your independence]
Across the country, many incumbent Democrats are stressing how they oppose the President and House Speakier Nancy Pelosi.
MIKE MCINTYRE: I don't work for Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid.
GREENFIELD: But it is still uphill for Democrats. Independents were the key to the Republican takeover of Congress in '94 and the Democratic takeover in '06. Right now they are leaning heavily Republican.
WINSTON: If Republicans are going to get a majority that's where it's going to occur.
SIMMONS: Nobody's saying we're going to pick up seats. People are saying let's just hold down as many Democrats as we can.
GREENFIELD: And in this climate, less bad seems to be about the best Democrats can hope for. Katie.
COURIC: Alright, Jeff Greenfield. Jeff, thanks.
-Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.