- The Washington Times - Monday, November 11, 2002

From combined dispatches
The nation's top elected Democrat said yesterday that the 2002 election results were not a mandate for a Republican government and that his party needs neither a major rethinking of its message nor a house-cleaning among its leaders.
In an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press," outgoing Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle played down the importance of the Democratic defeat and disagreed with a clip from former Vice President Al Gore in which Mr. Gore said, "There has to be a major regrouping."
In Tuesday's elections, Republicans bucked the history of midterm elections for the party in the White House by picking up several House seats and taking control of the Senate.
"The Republicans had 50 senators in the election in 2000. They have 51 today," Mr. Daschle said, pointing out that "78 million votes were cast; 44,000 in three states would have made us the majority party. So I don't think that there's any mandate here. There isn't any seismic shift in direction. We still have a 50-50 breakdown in our country's voters."
While Mr. Daschle agreed that Democrats should "get involved with a good discussion, a good analysis of how we can more effectively communicate our message," he added that "I think that to somehow recognize this as a mandate for the Republicans or some condemnation of the Democratic approach is wrong."
Earlier this week, House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, stepped down from his post, but Mr. Daschle said yesterday that he expects to be minority leader in the 108th Congress and knows of no Democrat who will challenge him.
"I don't believe so," he said when asked by interviewer Tim Russert, "Will you be challenged as minority leader?"
Mr. Daschle also defended Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, a friend of Bill Clinton and prolific fund-raiser, whom some Democrats have blamed for their party's defeat.
Mr. Daschle told NBC that he hoped Mr. McAuliffe was secure as party chairman after having done an "outstanding job."
"That is a thankless job," Mr. Daschle said. "He deserves credit for all that he's done to help us, to help the party and to do what we need to be competitive."
Sen. Evan Bayh, Indiana Democrat, echoed Mr. Daschle's words in an appearance yesterday on "Fox News Sunday."
Although Mr. Bayh, chairman of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, said the party had not delivered a coherent and popular message to voters, he refused to blame Mr. McAuliffe when asked to comment on calls for his resignation by Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia and other Democrats.
"I'm not going to get into all that," he said. "Victory has many parents. Defeat is an orphan."
Also yesterday Mr. Bayh blamed the Democratic loss on issues, saying his party shot itself in the foot by fostering the perception that it was weak on national security and favored higher taxes.
"It was a combination of Iraq, national security and taxes," Mr. Bayh said. "I think those three issues played to the Republican base, gave them the advantage with swing voters, and we really didn't have a message that either energized our base or appealed to independents."
"The fact that our party was divided on what to do about Iraq and the perception that we were weak on the Department of Homeland Defense, although the differences [with Republicans in Congress] were very narrow, I think hurt us," Mr. Bayh said. "Those issues that we tried to emphasize in this campaign, Social Security and Medicare, the Republicans were very good at blurring the distinctions."
Mr. Bayh said a blurred message on taxes and the economy was especially damaging.
"I don't think Democrats should stand for higher taxes," he said. "I think we should stand for fiscally responsible tax cuts, tax cuts that will actually help get the economy going: things like a payroll-tax cut, investment tax credits for businesses, a tuition tax credit."

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