The Note: Charlie Brown Holds His Own Football

ByABC News
October 16, 2006, 10:03 AM

— -- WASHINGTON, Oct. 16

President Bush and Karl Rove remain outwardly and inwardly optimistic about the Only Game in Town (keeping control of the House and Senate; see Abramowitz, Michael, "White House Upbeat About GOP Prospects," from Sunday's Washington Post LINK, which is a must-read).

New York Magazine's John Heilemann reflects the Democrats' simultaneous fear of failure and fear of success. LINK

But if you want to know why the Gang of 500 is near-unanimous on "Democrats take the House and maybe the Senate," read these words, written not by Sid Blumenthal, Bill Burton, or some punk liberal blogger -- but by conservative columnist Freddie "The Beadle" Barnes, who normally displays a Baronean Pollyannaishness about Republican prospects:

"Republicans and conservatives, brace yourselves! Strategists and consultants of both parties now believe the House is lost and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi will become speaker. At best, Republicans will cling to control of the Senate by a single seat, two at most. For many election cycles, Republicans have been the boys of October, using paid media and superior campaign skills to make up lost ground and win in November. This year, they were the boys of September, rallying strongly until that fateful day, September 29, when the Mark Foley scandal erupted. October has been a disaster so far. A strong finishing kick for Republicans, minimizing Democratic gains, is possible. They pulled one off brilliantly in President Bush's first midterm election in 2002. But recovery will be harder this time, a lot harder. . ." LINK

"The most overlooked election indicator is the level of voter enthusiasm. In every election from 1994 through 2004, Republicans were more enthusiastic than Democrats. That was a decade of Republican growth. This year Democrats are more excited. And it's measurable. In 2002, 42 percent of Republicans said they were more enthusiastic than usual about the election. Thirty-eight percent of Democrats said the same. In 2006, the numbers have flipped. Republican enthusiasm has dipped to 39 percent and Democratic enthusiasm has jumped to 48 percent. Enthusiasm affects turnout. Gloomy voters are less inclined to vote. . . "

"A veteran Republican consultant says lavish spending on TV commercials in races he's involved in has largely failed to either boost the poll numbers of his Republican candidates or drive down those of Democrats. Worse, in blue states, the Democratic crossover vote on which Republican candidates often rely has dried up. Democrats have gone home in droves."

Those are real passages from a real Fred Barnes column in the Weekly Standard (Note: not the "Weakly Standard"). (And/but Barone himself is trending downbeat. . . LINK)

Below is a fake memo, obtained by The Note when an intern accidentally e-mailed it to us, instead of to Steny Hoyer.
To: Leader Pelosi (a/k/a The Lioness)
From: Begala, Garin, Greenberg, Hoganson, Kupper, Axelrod, Carville, and Ari
Date: 10/15/2006
Re: Winning the last three weeks

The race is about to enter the last critical twenty days. As a party, we have had serious challenges in the last few cycles with closing the deal with voters and putting what seemed like winnable elections away. This cycle should be different -- and it will be different.

The President, while still having the ability to shape the agenda and news cycle, cannot change the fact that there is a strong headwind pushing back against any effort to change voter perceptions -- the simple fact is that people are not happy with the direction of the country and the job he is doing. Bush is spitting into the wind right now.

Republicans, while still having a broad party brand (taxes, security, values) designed to turn out their voters, have diminished the power of the brand -- and its turnout capacity -- because of their failures (and don't let anyone tell you that the Foley scandal has not had a huge impact -- not only did it help stop their September momentum but it has dampened Republican voter intensity by symbolizing -- even to Republicans -- that their party is off track). And security, while still being THE issue of our times, is not the sure GOP winner it once was because of profound concerns about the Administration's basic competence. While we may still have a glass jaw on this issue, they no longer have an effective punch to take advantage of it.

In order to bring this election home, we need to keep it simple. Trust in Rahm; follow President Clinton's lead; position every campaign to benefit from the strong political winds blowing at our backs.

Here are the three keys to the last three weeks for those campaigns and candidates who understandably will not have the time to carefully read The Way to Win; listen to The Way To Win audio book; or track the 50-state national, multi-media, 24/7 roll out of The Way to Win until after the election LINK:

1. Let's keep our candidates focused ("like a laser beam") on the national "meta" narrative of this campaign -- change v. more of the same. Let's not get bogged down in 32-point programs on suburban sprawl; let's not respond or engage to the R efforts to localize these races around local or candidate specific issues; let's not somehow believe that we need to convince voters that we are nicer, smarter or have a better biography than the Republican opponent in the race (for those looking to vote Democratic in this cycle in the districts in play -- the "positive" is the message they will be sending to Bush -- not the particular merits of any individual candidate beyond the fact that your opponent's "bad" character is connected to the bad character of the entire Republican Party). Just focus on change in a very straight-forward, clear, powerful way: we can either change direction or have more of the same . . . more corruption . . . more cover-ups . . . more gross incompetence in Iraq . . . more bad guys getting more nukes . . . more people losing economic ground . . . more Bin Laden videotapes . . .

2. Play offense every hour of every day for the next three weeks. We have a very target rich environment, with issues piling up every day (sometimes every hour) that we need to seize on and use as hammer to drive the R's into the sea -- Foley e-mails and ongoing ethics committee developments; Ney guilty plea; new Abramoff revelations; nukes in North Korea; book revelation upon book revelation; Iraq bad news followed by Iraq bad news, etc. Each and every one of these issues should be deployed against our opponents in order to (a) continue to frame the race as a national race about change and (b) keep the R's off balance and playing defense on what these individual issues say about their character and the character of their party. The need to stay on the offense is critical -- these races could very well come down to who has the momentum going with them at the end (and we know that the Republicans will throw everything they can at us in the last three weeks as they fight like a drowning swimmer fighting for that last gulp of air).

To switch sports metaphors, right now we are like a boxer who has our opponent in a corner, in a crouch, covering up with blood poring into their eye -- it is IMPERATIVE that we do not let up for even a second. POUND, POUND, POUND. Just look at Kilroy taking the fight to Pryce in Ohio -- and watching Pryce break open like a soft peanut (thank you, Bob Kerrey).

3. Act like winners. Understand that the Republican game plan is to draw even or within the M.O.E. and beat us on turnout. By sticking to our change message and staying on the offensive, we can stop the races from getting this close. But, in addition, we can impact turnout by acting like winners. We need to make clear that D's are the winners in this race -- pump up positive polls; look and act like a winner; talk about winning -- because it will impact turnout and free press coverage. People who will want to vote Democratic in this cycle are doing so because they are not happy and making them feel like Democrats will actually win will give these people the added motivation they need to show up. The media coverage, which is critical in the closing weeks (especially as local TV begins to cover the races on an every day basis), will cover the campaigns through the prism of the polls.

Whatever cash advantage the Republicans may have (and it is not that much of a difference because of the Herculean effort of Rahm and Chuck and their men and women of zeal), can be swamped by the positive tone of local media coverage if Democratic candidates are perceived to be winning. Note that the White House is well aware of the importance of demonstrating confidence -- they are bragging about having more money to spend, rather than employing their usual mantra about how labor money will swamp them.

Let's follow the trajectory of the Detroit Tigers . . . given up for dead last year . . . surprising everyone with a great summer . . . An early fall swoon . . . followed by a late autumn charge to the World Series . . . good pitching beats good hitting . . . let's keep throwing the high heat at their heads.

In the latest manifestation of the high heat, with a must-read headlined, "In Final Weeks, G.O.P. Focuses on Best Bets," the New York Times' Adam Nagourney reports that the Republican leadership has "concluded that Senator Mike DeWine of Ohio. . . is likely to be heading for defeat and are moving to reduce financial support for his race and divert party money to other embattled Republican senators." LINK

Nagourney also Notes, "Republicans are now pinning their hopes of holding the Senate on three states -- Missouri, Tennessee and, with Ohio off the table, probably Virginia -- while trying to hold on to the House by pouring money into districts where Republicans have a strong historical or registration advantage . . . "

Rep. Rodney Alexander's chief of staff, Royal Alexander (no relation), is expected to testify before the House ethics committee in the Foley matter at 10:00 am ET.

President Bush meets with Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore at 10:00 am ET in the Oval office. Tonight, Mr. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush attend a dinner with Ambassadors and Muslim leaders at the White House at 7:00 pm ET. And you can catch the first part of a three-part interview with President Bush on Bill O'Reilly this evening on Fox News. (Per Tony Snow in the morning gaggle, President Bush sits down with O'Reilly at 11:25 am ET.)

VPOTUS Dick Cheney delivers remarks at 3:25 pm ET at a rally for the 101st Airborne Division Air Assault School in Fort Campbell, KY. He then speaks at a reception at 7:10 pm ET for the Davis-Kentucky Victory Committee at a private residence in Prospect, KY.

Lynne Cheney, wife of VPOTUS Dick Cheney, attends an event with the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI) at the Wohlstetter Conference Center at 3:30 pm ET in Washington, DC.