- The Washington Times - Friday, November 5, 2004

As John Kerry basked Wednesday in the final applause of his failed campaign, at a packed gathering in Boston that was nothing short of funereal, supporters shivered in the cold outside and wondered what went wrong.

One distraught man with long hair lofted a sign that read, “Democracy doesn’t work!”

A woman wearing pink tennis shoes carried a poster that read, “Time to secede, not concede.”

Democrats across the country are assessing the damage of Tuesday’s election and trying desperately to figure out how they lost ground in both the House and the Senate, and failed to capture the White House.

“When you feel that the issues are on your side and you don’t win, you have to look at what happened,” said John McCormally, a spokesman for the Iowa Democratic Party, whose state Mr. Bush appears to have carried — the first Republican to do so in 20 years.

“I’m convinced that our side is right on the issues,” he said. “But maybe we’re selling it the wrong way.”

Many other Democrats agreed that Democrats didn’t flub the issues; they flubbed the marketing.

“This election was not about issues,” Democratic strategist Chris Cooper said. “If it were, clearly we would have won.”

Matt Farrauto of the New Mexico Democratic Party blamed the loss on deceptive Republicans.

“When it comes to having a moral compass, our values are more in line with the American people,” he said. “But it’s very difficult to combat the deceptions of the GOP. They don’t seem to have any compunction for honesty.”

Mr. Farrauto said it was “ironic and disingenuous” to portray Mr. Kerry as weak on defense.

Asked whether Democrats were guilty of any such similar attacks, he replied: “We launched attacks, yes. But our attacks were based on fundamental truth. Our attacks were not out of context 100 percent of the time.”

Not all Democrats are downbeat.

Though Mr. Bush won his state, Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Christopher T. Gates said the election of a Democratic senator and a congressman to spots formerly held by Republicans, as well as capturing the state legislature, meant a good night.

“We don’t have to do any soul-searching here in Colorado. We had a huge victory for the Democratic Party,” he said.

He said Democrats should look at what Colorado Democrats did right, including choosing a Senate candidate, Ken Salazar, who ran toward the political center.

“This is not a blame game or looking for someone to point the finger at,” Mr. Gates said. “We need to sit down in Florida and see what worked and what did not work.”

Don Morabito, executive director of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, said Democrats must come to grips with losing the values issues in this election.

“The Republicans don’t have any more authority on moral values than we do. But if they have laid claim to that with voters, we have to deal with it, and find a way to counteract it,” he said.

Still, he found a silver lining in Pennsylvania, even though Republican Sen. Arlen Specter was re-elected, pointing to the 100,000 new registered Democratic voters, which gives his party a 600,000 voter edge over Republicans. He also saw hope in the youth vote.

“Nationally, I’m not ready to make any conclusions. But one positive is that the demographic cohort of voters that we won were young voters, 18 to 35,” he said. “We cleaned up there, but we obviously have a lot of work to do with voters 40 and over.”

Steve Jarding, who has run successful Democratic campaigns in Republican-leaning states such as Virginia, said party leaders may need to “moderate” the platform on some issues. But primarily, he said, Democrats must start campaigning in states they have largely written off.

“You can’t keep trying to win elections in 15 states,” he said, referring to the Democratic West Coast and Northeast. “America is more than just 15 states.”

Mr. Jarding has long been critical of fellow Democrats who write off largely rural Southern, Midwestern and Western states, where such issues as gun rights are important.

“If you want voters to support you, you should probably go where they live,” he said. “You can’t every four years hold a gun up and say, ‘Look. I’m with you.’”

Mr. McCormally said his fellow party members have been asking themselves many tough questions since Tuesday night.

Asked whether Mr. Kerry was the “ideal candidate,” he replied: “I think John Kerry ran a very good campaign. The winds just weren’t blowing our way.”

Arnie Arnesen, a New Hampshire political talk radio host said, “The fundamentalists won on Tuesday.”

“I think the fundamentalists now want George Bush to deliver, and I think if George Bush starts delivering in spades for the fundamentalists, the Republican Party is going to have its own come-to-Jesus meeting to decide whether the moderate, economically focused conservatives can live with the fundamentalist base of Pat Robertson and now George Bush,” she said.

“It may be a winning strategy to win an election, but I’m not sure that a group of independents and Republicans can live with the reality of a possible theocracy,” she added.

Boston voter Robyn Miller, who held the sign urging secession, said American democracy needs to be revamped. Her recommended changes include making Election Day a national holiday and abolishing the two-party system.

Of the more than 59 million voters who voted for Mr. Bush, she said they’re “misinformed.”

“They are faith-based rather that reality-based,” Ms. Miller said. “They’re focused too much on sports and possessions rather than the issues.”

Charles Hurt reported from Boston. Brian DeBose reported from Orlando, Fla.

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