- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Democrats will roll out their long-delayed campaign agenda in June when Americans will be heading into the summer vacation season, but party advisers warn no one will be listening except Beltway insiders.

A more detailed election year agenda, parts of which have been released piecemeal in the last several months, will be announced next month in a joint House and Senate Democratic effort to show voters the party is prepared to pass legislative reforms if it regains majority control of Congress in November, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said yesterday.

“We’re still working on it,” said spokesman Brendan Daly.

But Democratic strategists, who questioned the wisdom of putting out the party’s policy plans at that time, urged leaders to wait until after Labor Day.

“The majority of voters are not paying attention right now. They are paying attention to what the Republicans are doing, not the Democrats,” said Donna Brazile who managed Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign.

“People will be focusing on their summer vacations and their kids out of school. This would only benefit the Beltway insiders and the Republican right who have an ax to grind.”

Jim Kessler, vice president for policy at centrist Democratic think tank the Third Way, said voters have an “intuitive sense about when it’s time to pay attention to what politicians are saying about their future.”

Mr. Daly said House Democratic leaders have heard similar complaints about the timing of their agenda, but insisted, “Whatever we do now, the voters will know about it and we’ll make sure to roll it out again in the fall.”

Another debate was taking place within the party about what the Democrats’ message was and, some pollsters asked, whether they even had a clear, politically saleable message.

“Democrats do not have a message for swing voters who are going to make the difference in this election,” said independent pollster John Zogby. “If the Democrats don’t offer Mr. and Mrs. Middle America something that matters, that means something to them, the Democrats can blow a huge opportunity.”

But the public debate over what Democrats should stand for in this election year, especially on national security and the war in Iraq, is still a matter of disagreement within the party’s rank and file.

The centrist Democratic Leadership Council’s policy arm this week released a book calling for a tougher Democratic military posture, warning that voters still did not trust Democrats on national security matters. A CBS News poll of 1,241 Americans underscored that view Tuesday, reporting that Republicans led Democrats by 40 percent to 35 percent on fighting terrorism and by 55 percent to 29 percent on keeping the military strong.

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