- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 17, 2002

Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe continues to have solid support in the DNC, despite his party's election losses, though some Democrats say it is time for a new leader with a fresh message.
Mr. McAuliffe was still poring over voter-turnout data state by state to "figure out what happened" in key House and Senate races, and has been discussing the results of the midterm election with state chairmen around the country, a top aide said yesterday.
Still, the party chairman, who was President Clinton's fund-raiser and his handpicked choice to run the DNC, has his critics in the party who do not like his hard-line political style nor his connection to the Clinton campaign-finance scandals. There are also party critics who think he deserves some of the blame for the Democrats' losses in the Nov. 5 elections.
"Our chairman, who reminds me of that Mac Davis song that goes, 'It's hard to be humble when you're perfect in every way,' should be given that engraved gold watch and shown the door," Sen. Zell Miller, Georgia Democrat, said after the election.
"I think we should get rid of him immediately," veteran Democratic fund-raiser Toni Goodale told the New York Times on Wednesday. "He's not the image and the spokesman for the Democratic Party. We need strong moral leadership at the top of the party. We don't need somebody who says, 'OK, let's find the next loophole.'"
But that was not the view of Democratic Party state chairmen who praise Mr. McAuliffe as a pre-eminent fund-raiser who has raised $130 million for the party and turned its outdated, woefully inefficient voter identification and outreach system into a new high-tech operation.
"I love Terry McAuliffe," said Phil Johnston, state chairman of the Democratic Party in Massachusetts. "He has been an outstanding national chairman, certainly one of the best we've ever had. I don't think any party chair could have done more for Democratic candidates than Terry did."
A private conference call between Mr. McAuliffe and the party's state chairmen showed "strong support for him. I don't know of a single chair who wants Terry to step down," Mr. Johnston said.
California Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres confirmed that account. "I think we had every chair on that conference call. I raised the issue. I said, 'Don't worry about the conservative press and the Republicans who want you to step down,' and everybody chimed in and expressed their support."
Other Democrats said Mr. McAuliffe was not to blame for the party's losses, which they said were due to factors outside his control.
"What happened was a confluence of events that tipped some Republicans over the top in very close races. It was the equivalent of the perfect storm, where everything comes together," said Kathleen Sullivan, state chairman of the Democratic Party in New Hampshire. "No, I don't think he should step down. I think he's doing a great job."
Some Democratic activists said that if anyone was to blame for the party's failure to craft a clear, popular campaign message, it was the party's congressional leaders, not Mr. McAuliffe.
"You can't blame the groundskeeper when your star batters strike out," said Bob Borosage, a co-chairman of the liberal Campaign for America's Future.
Besides, Mr. Borosage added: "The DNC chairman is not the messenger in a presidential election cycle. The candidates will decide the message. The problem was not McAuliffe but the House and Senate leadership's decision not to have a national message at all."
Even so, Mr McAuliffe has infuriated some Democrats who sometimes find his combative style over the top. They have also criticized him for playing the race card over the Democratic bitterness that followed the 2000 presidential election battle in Florida that was settled in the Supreme Court in George W. Bush's favor.
"We will transform the anger about Florida into energy about politics," Mr. McAuliffe told the DNC after it had elected him chairman. "We will prove there is victory after denial, democracy after Florida justice after the Supreme Court."
His message for President Bush, Mr. McAuliffe said at the time, was "Park the state police cars, take down the roadblocks, stop asking people of color for multiple forms of ID, count all the votes and start practicing democracy in America again."
His remarks drew a stinging rebuke from Mr. Miller at the time in an interview with The Washington Times. "That kind of language is just over the top, and it goes against what most Americans want from us right now," he said.
"I think the Democratic Party could not have made a worse choice in choosing Terry McAuliffe as chairman of the DNC," Mr. Miller said.


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